Shots at last.
On the eve of the Wallabies’ first Test of the year, England coach Eddie Jones has thrown a passing jab at Dave Rennie, lamenting the lack of pre-match banter.
The build-up to Saturday’s first Test of the year has been discernibly different to 2016, where Jones and his former sparring partner at Randwick Michael Cheika went toe-for-toe against one another.
Jones, having lifted England off the canvas after their 2015 World Cup flop, threw the opening shots off the field but saved his best actions for on the field.
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England swept the floor against the Wallabies, winning three-nil to send Cheika’s World Cup stars crashing back to Earth.
While Cheika has long since gone and England are in an entirely different place ahead of next year’s World Cup following consecutive Six Nations disappointments, many hoped Jones would turn the head back on the Wallabies, who he has won all eight Tests against Australia, upon his homecoming.
Instead, Jones had kept his power dry. Until now.
“He’s probably got the same mindset as me,” Rennie said. ”It’s not about us. It’s about the players and we’ll let them do the talking.”
Jones was later asked whether he was mellowing out given his subdued first week in Australia.
“Well, I don’t think I was anything but myself in 2016 and I don’t think I’m anything but myself now,” he said.
Pressed on the point later, with the luxury of the cameras being away, Jones said he missed the banter and recognised there was little point paying any attention to Rennie because it was not the New Zealand coach’s go.
“In 2016 we had Cheika here and there was a bit of niggle – it was good, good Australian sport,” he said.
“This time it feels like… I don’t know what it feels like. I prefer it like that, but you can’t spar against nothing. I like a bit of fun. When you’re sparring in a corner by yourself it’s not much fun.”
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Rennie’s Wallabies have been hidden away over the past fortnight, training at their unofficial headquarters on the Gold Coast.
The decision has annoyed some, with many believing the Wallabies are best served promoting the game in the host city. The Wallabies are unlikely to fill Optus Stadium, with their lack of visibility in the city one factor for the crowd, which is expected to be around 50,000.
But the ultra cool Rennie doesn’t want any distractions for his players ahead of the crunch series.
Such is his calm demeanour that the third-year Test coach was asked whether he was excited for the series.
“Can’t you see I am excited?” Rennie said, with his usual dry New Zealand voice.
Jones said he wasn’t fazed by the low build up, having previously told reporters that England could expect a hostile reception in Australia.
“It doesn’t make a difference to me,” he said.
Jones shocked many on Thursday when he named 19-year-old sensation Henry Arundell alongside former Sydney Uni skipper Guy Porter on his bench.
With Jonny May ruled out following contracting Covid-19, Arundell, who burst to fame with a stunning length of the field try last month playing alongside Nick Phipps at London Irish, has continued to turn heads.
Jones said Arundell had wowed onlookers throughout the week by burning teammates on the training field and compared him to Springboks great Bryan Habana.
“We’ve got these young guys coming through who are doing things at training we haven’t seen before,” Jones said.
“Henry scored, how long is the field, 100m? He scored a 90m try at training on Wednesday.
“There were a few, I won’t use the expletives, ‘he’s fast!’ heard.
“We had a number of coaches from different sports watching and they heard this comment. He could be a very good player but he’s got a long way to go.
“He’s just scored a try not many other players in the world would have scored. It was like a try Bryan Habana used to score – one of those.”