Eddie Jones eager to renew rivalry with "street-fighter" Michael Cheika

Duncan Bech 19/11/2018
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Eddie Jones is eager to renew his rivalry with “street-fighter” Michael Cheika when England and Australia clash at Twickenham on Saturday.

Jones will celebrate a successful month if the Wallabies are dispatched in the final autumn international with wins over South Africa and Japan so far offset only by a controversial defeat to New Zealand.

Australia have won a mere four of their last 12 Tests, placing Cheika under pressure with less than a year to go until the World Cup.

Jones and Cheika played club rugby together for Randwick and while England’s head coach has won all five meetings between the rivals since taking over in 2015, he refuses to underestimate his long-standing friend.

“Cheika is my old mate, he’s always at his best when they’re under pressure and he loves that,” Jones said.

Wallabies boss Michael Cheika has had a tough 2018.

Wallabies boss Michael Cheika has had a tough 2018.

“He’s a street-fighter and that makes them dangerous. But at the same time we’ve had a tough year too and we don’t mind a scrap either, so it should be a good scrap.

“Australia had a good win against Italy and they’ll be ready for the battle. They understand where we’re strong and we understand where they’re strong.”

England survived a scare against Japan on Saturday by conceding a 15-10 half-time deficit that eventually morphed into a 35-15 victory sealed by Joe Cokanasiga’s 72nd-minute try.

Eleven changes had been made to the side that faced the All Blacks and it was only when Owen Farrell was introduced after the interval that the tide turned.

Farrell has become irreplaceable, a point underlined this autumn by his heroics against the Springboks and the galvanising effect he had on his team-mates as Japan threatened an embarrassing upset.

Jones rejects concern over England’s reliance on their Saracens playmaker, however.

“If I was Japan and I had Michael Leitch off the field, I’d be a bit worried too,” Jones said.

“If I was us with Owen Farrell off the field, I’d be a bit worried. If I was Ireland with Sexton off the field, I’d be a bit worried.

“Do you want me to keep going? He’s an influential player. Of course he’s important to us.”

New Zealand came from 15-0 down to beat England 16-15 at Twickenham.

New Zealand came from 15-0 down to beat England 16-15 at Twickenham.

Farrell replaced Alex Lozowski at half-time after his Saracens team-mate waved Ryoto Nakamura through for Japan’s opening try.

It is the latest in a series of decisive and hard-nosed substitutions made by Jones, who withdrew Teimana Harrison and Luther Burrell inside 30 minutes in Australia two years ago.

Bath lock Charlie Ewels reveals the threat of being hauled off can act as a powerful motivator.

“At half-time Eddie is hard. He knows what he wants, he is questioning your character which, as a rugby player, is something that hurts – and so it should,” Ewels said.

“He’s firm in what he’s saying and ultimately, if you are not doing it, he’ll bring you off. That is obvious, he doesn’t need to say that. He’s proven that in the past – bringing guys off.

“If you’re not delivering, if you’re not doing your part and if your attitude isn’t right and you are not winning your collisions, he can’t have you on the pitch. The guys know that.”

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Ireland skipper Rory Best reacts to famous New Zealand win

Rory Dollard 18/11/2018
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Rory Best has admitted he had to “block out” criticism and pressure ahead of captaining Ireland to their first-ever win over New Zealand on home soil.

Best conjured a compelling return to form as Ireland stunned the back-to-back world champions 16-9 at a raucous Aviva Stadium on Saturday night.

The 36-year-old hooker devised the strategy of the Ireland squad taking one collective step towards the Haka, to prove the All Blacks could not bully the hosts.

Best then hit back to form after Ireland’s patchy showing in the 28-17 win over Argentina the previous week, in an authoritative reassertion of his Test captaincy credentials.

Asked to sum up his feelings at receiving a standing ovation when he was substituted late on, Best joked: “I thought that was actually for Tadhg Furlong who came off at the same time, he had an unbelievable day in the scrum!”

Getting serious however, Best continued: “I just felt a little bit rusty in there last week at the line-out, and we were put under a lot of pressure by New Zealand in that area as well.

“So I just had to block a bit of that out, and go about doing what I do well for the team.

“And that’s working hard, trying to hit a few things, clean a few rucks and be there whenever the team needed me.

“And if everyone does that and everyone puts their hand up, then generally you get a good team performance.”

Best has now had a hand in two unique ploys to neutralise the Haka, the war dance challenge shrouded in mystique from which New Zealand draw huge inspiration.

The 113-cap front-rower helped devise the figure-eight standing pattern to face the Haka in tribute to the late former Ireland back-rower and Munster coach Anthony ‘Axel’ Foley before the maiden victory over the All Blacks in Chicago.

Best backed up that touching and smart move before the 40-29 win over New Zealand in the USA by concocting Saturday’s ruse.

The crowd roared its approval on Saturday night, and Ireland’s President Michael D Higgins wrote a letter of thanks to Best and the Irish rugby team on Sunday morning.

Asked to choose which All Blacks win he will cherish more, Chicago or Dublin, Best refused to separate the triumphs.

“They are both firsts for us, so I wouldn’t look at one as better than the other,” said Best.

“They’ve been world number one for nine years, so we knew it was going to take a big effort.

“It’s hard to know what it feels like at the minute; you’re physically exhausted but mentally absolutely ecstatic. It’s another little bit of history that this squad has managed for itself.”

Jacob Stockdale’s cunning try separated the teams in the end, with the move straight out of head coach Joe Schmidt’s one-off play-book.

Schmidt afterwards joked he steals all his best set moves, and while that is clearly not true, Stockdale’s score had more than a touch of similarity to a try Beauden Barrett ran in during New Zealand’s 37-20 win over Australia in Yokohama in October.

Asked how long he spends devising his set moves, Schmidt joked: “I mostly steal them from other people.

“But I’m always on the look-out, I always keep my eye out. I watch the Mitre 10 Cup, they’ve always got a couple of good ones.

“It’s hard to get patents on moves.

“We felt we could go back down that short-side, sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. But it’s always nice when they do put them together.

“I’ve come up with some really poor moves in my time, but they always look good on paper.”

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Rugby Autumn Internationals: Talking points from every game this weekend

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As another weekend of Autumn Internationals draws to a close, we examine each game and look at the key talking points from some terrific matches.

Ireland 16 New Zealand 9 – Men in green make their intentions felt

It was billed as the battle of the best two sides in the world, and it didn’t disappoint. In what could become a World Cup dress-rehearsal, Joe Schmidt’s side proved they are more than a match for the All Blacks.

From a mental perspective the result is huge, with the manner of victory really putting a flag in the side for the Irish.

Many sides can hang with New Zealand for 50 or 60 minutes but it was the whistle to whistle ferocity the men in green brought in attack, but most notably defence that will make people sit up and take notice.

Keeping the All Blacks to zero in the tries column is no mean feat, but it was the contact area and breakdown that really set the platform for the win.

The performance of Kieran Marmion will also please Schmidt, we know about the abundance of riches in the pack, but to now have a ready-made replacement for Conor Murray, if needed, will fill the side with confidence.

The All Blacks knew this would be their biggest test of the autumn, and with a relatively flaccid pack, missed tackles and an array of handling errors they look a shadow of the side they are built up to be.

This is by no means panic stations for Steve Hansen, but there is work to be done.

England 35 Japan 15 – Eddie needs to handle with Care

Michael Leitch breaks through the tackle of Danny Care to score at Twickenham

Michael Leitch breaks through the tackle of Danny Care to score at Twickenham

While we were never going to learn a great deal from England’s performance against Japan, there were a few things that will have Eddie Jones more than a little nervous.

Danny Care is the main one. A lack of composure on his own try-line and a woeful missed tackle played a huge part in Japan’s two tries, and the lateral nature of England’s attacking play in the first half did little to inspire. He may have bagged a try, but that doesn’t paper over the cracks.

Ben Youngs is far and away the Red Rose’s best nine, but the lack of depth behind him is troublesome.

On the plus side, Joe Cokanasiga, Zach Mercer, Charlie Ewles and Harry Williams all gained more experience which will only add to the English collective heading to the Land of the Rising Sun next year.

Speaking of Japan, any World Cup needs a good showing from the hosts and on this performance, their fans will certainly have a decent amount of hope – of not only winning a match or two, but even progressing from their group.

Scotland 20 South Africa 26 – All too familiar for the Scots

Scotland's centre Huw Jones evades a tackle from South Africa's fly-half Handre Pollard

Scotland’s centre Huw Jones evades a tackle from South Africa’s fly-half Handre Pollard

This was almost the typical Scottish display.

Promise lots, have long periods of domination, show some true world-class elements, then orchestrate your own downfall.

In Huw Jones they have a gem of a player. His glorious passes in the lead-up to Peter Horne’s try were sublime, as was his dart from inside his own 22 in the second period that saw him eat up more than half the pitch.

The sad thing is the Scots don’t have many like him. Stuart Hogg was his usual lively self, while the teak-tough Hamish Watson covered every blade – but they need more like them if they are going to turn games like this into regular wins.

Yes, this may have been their first home defeat in a year, but Gregor Townsend and his men should be striving for more.

For South Africa, it’s their third close, bruising encounter in the last three weeks and you sense they will be glad to get on the plane after a final outing in Cardiff next week.

Wales 74 Tonga 24 – The kids are alright for Gatland

Liam Williams scores the first of his brace against Tonga

Liam Williams scores the first of his brace against Tonga

A few years ago this is the sort of game Wales would have limped to victory in, unconvincing and leaving questions in the minds of both the watching public and management.

And after 45 minutes with the score level at 24-all this could have gone the same way.

However, the Islanders were put to the sword as they tired and lost some discipline and Wales ran riot in clinical manner that would have Warren Gatland more than satisfied.

Liam Williams, left out against Australia last week, was immense on his 50th cap, as was stand-in skipper Ellis Jenkins, and fellow back-rower Seb Davies – there is youth in this squad that is providing good depth now.

It’s the battle for the 10 jersey that really intrigues.

Gareth Anscombe got the nod last week, but Dan Biggar was masterful with hands, boot and brain this week. While Rhys Patchell’s cameo, albeit against a beaten side, had the Welsh fans purring.

Nice problems to have.

Italy 7 Australia 26 – A win is a win for the Wallabies

Taniela Tupou scores Australia's third try in Padova

Taniela Tupou scores Australia’s third try in Padova

Confidence is the name of the game for Michael Cheika’s side at the moment and this result will keep the wolves from the door a little longer.

While it may not have been totally convincing, four tries and the all-important ‘w’ it what the Wallabies will take away from Padova.

The potential loss of David Pocock to another neck injury doesn’t bode well for their trip to Twickenham.

For the Italians there are positives. They pressured the Aussies for long periods, and on another day could have had a brace of their own before the break. The complexion of the game would have been very different then.

France 28 Argentina 13 – Les Bleus end barren run

Teddy Thomas was the man of the moment for France against Argentina

Teddy Thomas was the man of the moment for France against Argentina

If Australia needed a win, France REALLY needed a win.

And that’s what they got to snap a five-match losing streak.

The big thing in this one was France’s reaction to going behind as early as the second minute, low on confidence, cliché dictates the French would then hoist up the white flag and meekly surrender for the rest of the game.

Not a bit of it.

In a scrappy game, France had some star quality in the form of Teddy Thomas – and he will be pivotal to the progression of this side.

Argentina look like a side at the end of a long and tough season, they are better than this and will command respect heading to the World Cup.

 

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