Eddie Jones insists ‘cohesive’ Ireland are favorites for Six Nations clash at Twickenham



England head coach Eddie Jones has branded Ireland “the most cohesive team in the world” ahead of the two sides’ Six Nations clash at Twickenham on Saturday.

Jones, whose side sit third in the championship standings after wins over Italy and Wales, added that Ireland are favorites this weekend despite only having won once in south-west London in the last 10 years.

“Ireland are favorites and have been in very good shape,” Jones, 62, said. “A good team that is well coached by Andy Farrell. And apart from [Andrew] Porter they have everyone ready to go.

“They are literally the most cohesive side in the world. The bulk of their team train together for the bulk of the year. So they’re very well coordinated in their attack, very well structured, very sequenced in set-plays, and they They’ll be a great challenge for us but we’re not intimidated by any team.

“They move the ball at pace and that’s the secret to any attack – to move the ball at pace with accuracy.”

England’s preparations for the match have been hampered by Sunday’s news that Alex Dombrandt, who started against Wales at No 8, will be ruled out of training until later this week due to a positive Covid test. Jones was unable to confirm what that would mean for the Harlequin’s involvement against Ireland.

“The dogs are barking but the caravan moves on mate,” Jones said. “He’ll [have] by chance We just have to wait and see how he recovers from Covid. He’ll have to do all the cardiac tests and then we’ll see on Thursday whether he can train and participate at the necessary level. If he does that then he has a chance of playing against Ireland.”

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There was more optimism around Sam Underhill’s recall, however. The Bath flanker has won just three England caps since December 2020 and has not featured yet for Jones’ side in this Six Nations campaign.

“He’s a quality player,” Jones said of Underhill. “He has had a difficult season with Covid sickness and a few injuries. He’s a little off his best but we’ll give him the opportunity to train tomorrow and see where he’s up to, and if he’s at the necessary level to play an international game against Ireland then he’ll come into consideration to come into the 23.”

‘We’re in a very good position for the World Cup’

Jones would not provide an update on Manu Tuilagi’s latest injury setback – “he’s unavailable and we’re not thinking about him at the moment but we hope he recovers well” – before reaffirming his belief that England are on track to peak at next year’s World Cup.

“We’re in a very good position,” Jones said. “There’s a little over 12 months before we get together for the final part of the project. Three months before the World Cup is when all teams become equal. We all have the same amount of time to practice. Up to now, teams have their players for different times.

“But once the World Cup campaign starts it’s all equal. So, how are we tracking now? In a really positive manner, mate. It’s not a perfect straight line. Sometimes we’re going quicker than others and sometimes we’d like to go a bit quicker. Just look at the spine of our team, our 9, 10 and 15. When we played against Wales, they had 12 times the amount of caps that we had. Twelve times. So, what a fantastic experience for those young blokes.

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“To edge out a win against the Six Nations [holders] is a real testament to where they’re going. How much better are they going to be in 12 months with another 10 caps under their belt?”

Meanwhile, Jones paid tribute to compatriot and cricketing legend Shane Warne, who suddenly passed away on Friday aged 52.

“Shane was an icon wasn’t he?” the Australian said. “He was a player that scaled the heights; he had his issues of him off the field but he changed the game of cricket.

“I was lucky enough to meet him on a couple of occasions. I remember we had a net session with the Wallabies against the Australian side when they were right at the top of their game and Warne was right at the top.

“And we had a guy called Wendell Sailor, he was a larger-than-life character, and he was batting against Stuart MacGill who was Australia’s other leg-spinner.

“And Wendell was coming in and smashing MacGill out of the nets, and Warnie grabbed the ball, he winked to the blokes behind the nets and said ‘watch this’.

“He gave him two and floated them up and he let Wendell smash him. And the third one, he bowled a bit shorter, a bit faster, and he was bowled.

“Then he told Wendell to go where he needs to go! Which I thought was just a great little insight into such a wonderful sportsman.”


www.telegraph.co.uk

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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