Ireland coach Joe Schmidt plays down England counterpart Eddie Jones' comments of his side ahead of Saturday's Grand Slam showdown

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The Ireland coach has chosen to ignore Jones' negative comments.

Joe Schmidt has sought to defuse tensions over Eddie Jones branding his team the “scummy Irish” ahead of Saturday’s Grand Slam showdown with England at Twickenham.

Jones apologised on Wednesday after footage emerged of him referring to Joe Schmidt’s team as the “scummy Irish” and Wales as a “little s*** place”.

Ireland will chase just a third-ever 6 Nations clean sweep with victory over England in London on Saturday – but head coach Schmidt insisted his players will not be distracted by the fuss.

“I’m not exactly sure what they were,” said Schmidt, when asked about Jones comments in the Fuso video that had caused some offence.

“They are not directly relevant to us to be honest.

“Those words don’t impact on how we play or how his team plays and that’s our focus.”

A Youtube video surfaced on Wednesday of Jones delivering a talk on leadership for Fuso, the Japanese parent company of England sponsors Mitsubishi.

Jones insisted he was “very sorry” in a statement on Wednesday evening, shortly after the video came to light.

And a spokesman has confirmed that the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) had received a phone call and apology from their English counterparts.

Asked if Jones’ comments could hinder Ireland’s preparation for their tilt at a Grand Slam to add to the triumphs of 1948 and 2009, Schmidt said: “I don’t think so to be honest.

“I know it’s probably at the stage of being boring, which we don’t want to be described as, but the bubble we have here allows us to focus on the task in hand.”

Jones had issued an apology on Wednesday for his statements.

Jones had issued an apology on Wednesday for his statements.

Iain Henderson has dislodged Devin Toner to start Saturday’s Grand Slam decider. Peter O’Mahony, Rob Kearney and Cian Healy have been passed fit for Ireland’s all-out assault on just a third-ever NatWest 6 Nations clean sweep.

British and Irish Lions lock Henderson’s selection represents the sole change from Ireland’s 28-8 win over Scotland, that sealed their third Six Nations title in five years.

Flanker O’Mahony and full-back Kearney sat out training on Tuesday, but have since proved their fitness to start the St Patrick’s Day clash. Prop Healy appeared unsteady on his feet against Scotland, but Ireland insisted he suffered a shoulder “stinger”, not a head injury.

Ireland boss Schmidt has also insisted he remains unfazed by assistant referee Marius Van der Westhuizen acting as an official during England’s training session on Tuesday.

Schmidt admitted Ireland were taken aback by the move, but still moved to back Van der Westhuizen’s ability to officiate with full neutrality on Saturday.

“That is a bit of a surprise,” said Schmidt, of Van der Westhuizen helping out at England training this week.

“I’m sure in retrospect people are probably thinking it’s not the best thing to do.

“I know Marius and I would have no hesitation in standing by his integrity.

“I don’t think it will affect his decision making and we’ll stand by him as an official on Saturday.”

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Eddie Jones rings in the changes by dropping Danny Care and George Ford for England's Six Nations clash against Ireland

David Cooper 15/03/2018
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Danny Care has been dropped for the Ireland game

England coach Eddie Jones has dropped half-backs Danny Care and George Ford for Saturday’s Six Nations finale against Ireland at Twickenham.

Saracens scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth starts in place of Care and will resume his club partnership with Owen Farrell, normally a centre for England but now at fly-half instead of childhood friend Ford.

These were just two of the most eye-catching of several changes made by Jones following England’s 22-16 loss to France in Paris last weekend – a defeat that ended their hopes of a third successive Six Nations title under the Australian coach.

Ben Te’o filled the inside centre position vacated by Farrell and forms a midfield duo with Jonathan Joseph after both men had been competing for the same place for most of this tournament.

Meanwhile wing Elliot Daly was passed fit following a foot problem.

Up front, fit-again hooker Dylan Hartley returns as captain after missing the defeat in Paris.

He was one of five changes to England’s pack announced Thursday, with Jones reshaping the back-row following tournament-ending injuries to Nathan Hughes and Courtney Lawes.

Their places were taken by Sam Simmonds and James Haskell, while prop Kyle Sinckler started in place of Dan Cole.

England are bidding to avoid losing three Tests in a row for the first time under Jones against an Ireland side bidding to win a Grand Slam.

England team:
Anthony Watson, Jonny May, Jonathan Joseph, Ben Te’O, Elliot Daly; Owen Farrell, Richard Wigglesworth; Sam Simmonds, James Haskell, Chris Robshaw; George Kruis, Maro Itoje; Kyle Sinckler, Dylan Hartley (capt), Mako Vunipola

Replacements: Jamie George, Joe Marler, Dan Cole, Joe Launchbury, Don Armand), Danny Care George Ford, Mike Brown

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Captain Alun Wyn Jones returns as Warren Gatland makes seven changes for Wales ahead of Six Nations showdown with France

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The Welsh skipper returns to the starting lineup.

Wales coach Warren Gatland has recalled captain Alun Wyn Jones in one of seven changes to the team to play France in their final Six Nations outing of the season on Saturday.

The Welsh team are set on the Six Nations runners-up spot, knowing a bonus-point victory against France will guarantee them second place behind champions Ireland.

“Saturday is a huge opportunity for us to finish the campaign well, at home in front of our fans,” Gatland said, predicting a French team in fine spirits after their 22-16 win over England.

“France will be coming to Cardiff in good spirits after their victory over England last weekend so it is set to be a huge encounter.”

Lock Jones returns to captain the Welsh team, having been rested for last week’s Italy match that Wales won 38-14.

Jones, who will be partnered by Cory Hill with Bradley Davies on the bench, comes back into the pack along with Scarlets front rowers Rob Evans and Ken Owens and flanker Josh Navidi.

Flanker Josh Navidi is another who returns to the side for the clash.

Flanker Josh Navidi is another who returns to the side for the clash.

Navidi lines up alongside British and Irish Lions Justin Tipuric and Taulupe Faletau at six and eight respectively, meaning Aaron Shingler will have to do with a place on the replacements bench.

Prop Tomas Francis is retained from the victory over Italy to start alongside Evans and hooker Owens.

Looking to lead Wales, unbeaten at home against France since 2010, around the park will be Dan Biggar, preferred at fly-half with Gareth Anscombe dropping to the bench.

Gareth Davies, yellow carded for a deliberate knock-on against Italy, starts at half-back with Hadleigh Parkes and Scott Williams in the midfield.

Liam Williams, George North and Leigh Halfpenny form an all Lions back-three.

“There have been some tough selection calls, but that is exactly what we want, we want to be in a position where there are selections and decisions to be made and we have had to make some tough ones this weekend,” said Gatland.

“We have picked a team and a squad we believe can deliver this weekend against France.”

Elliot Dee, Nicky Smith and Samson Lee are named as the front-row replacements with Davies and Shingler completing the forward contingent. Aled Davies, Anscombe and Steff Evans provide the backline cover.

Team (15-1)

Leigh Halfpenny; George North, Scott Williams, Hadleigh Parkes, Liam Williams; Dan Biggar, Gareth Davies; Taulupe Faletau, Josh Navidi, Justin Tipuric; Alun Wyn Jones (capt), Cory Hill; Tomas Francis, Ken Owens, Rob Evans

Replacements: Elliot Dee, Nicky Smith, Samson Lee, Bradley Davies, Aaron Shingler, Aled Davies, Gareth Anscombe, Steff Evans

Coach: Warren Gatland (NZL)

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