Ireland have hit back at Eddie Jones’s “games” after the England coach took aim at their scrum and described their squad as the “United Nations”. Jones was referencing the five southern hemisphere-born players in Ireland’s starting lineup at Twickenham on Saturday and raised Andrew Porter’s “unusual” scrummaging technique.
Andy Farrell has selected three New Zealand-born players – Bundee Aki, James Lowe and Jamison Gibson-Park – and two from South Africa – CJ Stander and Quinn Roux – in his starting XV. All five are eligible to play for Ireland having qualified via World Rugby’s residency rules. Jones has taken advantage of those regulations himself but when it was put to him that Farrell’s side had been labelled the “Irish Barbarians”, Jones replied: “I heard someone calling them the United Nations, so I had a little chuckle. I can understand how Irish people would be upset about Irish-born players missing out, but they are the laws and regulations of international rugby. They are just sticking by the regulations.”
The Ireland kicking coach, Richie Murphy, responded: “We’ve a group of players obviously who are all eligible to play for Ireland. We think of all of our players as being Irish. They’ve been in the country, they are members of their local communities, and we just get on with it from there. There’s no ‘us and them’. It’s Ireland as a team, as a squad, including the management.”
When addressing Porter’s technique, Jones had said: “He’s taken to Test rugby well, scrums in a fairly unusual way, which may need some referee intervention there.”
The tighthead prop was impressive for Ireland in their 32-9 win over Wales, with the opposition loosehead Rhys Carré replaced before half-time. In response to Jones’s scrummaging comments, Murphy added: “I think Eddie Jones is just playing games in that situation. He obviously thinks Porter is a very good player, which he is. No one has ever come to us and made any comments about Ports’ scrum technique. So, we have no issues. It’s just one of those games.”
Meanwhile, Billy Vunipola is braced for Farrell’s “hurt arena”, with the No 8 challenging his England teammates to push through the pain barrier and dominate Ireland. Farrell famously pledged: “We’re taking them to the hurt arena,” when on British & Irish Lions duty in Australia in 2013, and Vunipola is expecting more motivational talk from the former England and Saracens defence coach. Farrell has picked a monstrous Ireland pack, with Jones following suit, and Vunipola is relishing the challenge in what is poised to be the decisive match in their Autumn Nations Cup pool.
“We want to go out there and test Ireland and test ourselves and [see] whether we want to push through that pain barrier,” said Vunipola. “Everyone here has seen [Andy’s] motivational speeches with the Lions, and how pumped up he’ll get the boys, especially his Irish lads. We know they’re going to come out firing.
“They’ve gone big up front. It’s important for us to make sure our intentions are in the right place. We want to dominate. It’s important for us as forwards especially to kickstart that battle and win it, because it goes a long way to winning the game.”
The England defence coach, John Mitchell, said Fiji’s Autumn Nations Cup plight had served as a reminder of the need to follow strict Covid protocols. All three of Fiji’s pool matches have now been cancelled, with 29 positive cases recorded earlier this week. Mitchell said: “It is unfortunate for Fiji, clearly, obviously not having a base like we have, their base is probably provided for them, so like anything when you are in these sort of situations you have to be very vigilant and thorough about how you go about things. You also have to be very clear on what the right behaviours are as well.”