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'Eddie went past me just before and said, 'get ready for a few grenades''

Joe Schmidt is ready for further verbals from England coach Eddie Jones ahead of the Six Nations opener in Dublin.

JOE SCHMIDT SAID he relishes the verbal ‘grenades’ coming in Ireland’s direction from England head coach Eddie Jones ahead of the Six Nations opener between the nations in Dublin.

Jones has already stoked the fire in the build-up to the eagerly-anticipated Aviva Stadium showdown by claiming Ireland out-half Johnny Sexton has the ‘bat phone to the referee’, a comment Schmidt has laughed off.

Eddie Jones with Joe Schmidt before the game Schmidt embraces the 'banter' between coaches. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Speaking at today’s Six Nations launch in London, the Ireland coach said he is relaxed about the ‘banter’ and revealed Jones had warned him of further mind games before next Saturday.

“Eddie went past me just before and he said, ‘Right, let’s get ready for a few grenades.’ He’s always incredibly hard to read, Eddie,” Schmidt said. 

“I want to get hold of it [the bat phone] if I can. I’d like a direct dial myself. I didn’t know that Commissioner Gordon is in the building when matches are being played.

“I just think with Johnny, I’m not sure Owen [Farrell] is that different, they’re demanding of themselves, their co-players and officials. Look at Dan Biggar, I don’t think he’s any different either. They’re incredibly competitive and because they’re incredibly competitive, they ask questions.

“The other thing is that they’re all incredibly intelligent players, they all know the laws of the game. They’ve accumulated a level of experience in the game that if you wrap those three up, they probably have a couple of hundred Tests between them.

“You’ve got to make sure there’s a respect. Johnny doesn’t have as much to say for us because he’s not skipper. Rory would be the guy who is more face-to-face conversations than bat phones but I think he manages that really well as the captain.”

Schmidt insists he will not engage in the back-and-forth ahead of the 2 February opener, but is ready for more noise from Australian Jones, who also joked he might spy on Ireland’s training camp in Portugal this week. 

“He told me he was gonna, so I don’t know. It keeps it fresh, it does keep it entertaining and it does make me think, ‘Is he serious about that? Is Jack Nowell going to play seven? Is Tom Curry going to play there or is Wilson going to play there?’

“You do want to keep the opposition guessing, certainly once the ball gets kicked off you want to keep them guessing. Eddie does a good job of it because they’re heading down to the Algarve. It’s 15 minutes from where we are and he said he might whip across and have a look.

“Because that’s topical at the moment, he just throws it in the conversation. I enjoy the banter with Eddie because he’s that irrepressible character. I respect him as a strategist, he’s a smart coach.”

Joe Schmidt and Rory Best Schmidt and Best in London today. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Ireland captain Rory Best, also in attendance in London for the launch, said all of the pre-game talk largely goes over a player’s head.

“I think by and large you probably leave it to Joe but you can’t help but hear some of them,” the Ulster hooker added.

“Some of them are very clever, some of them are very funny and it adds into the spectacle of Test match rugby, but ultimately for us it’s about making sure we roll up our sleeves and prepare well because we know we have to.

If we don’t prepare well and we don’t perform well against England, then we know that there’s a good chance that we’ll lose and as Joe touched on earlier, that’s the little bit of fear that you go into games with and there’s no doubt that against England there’s that little bit of fear of what they can do, and we saw that in the Autumn.

“It was a fantastic Autumn in which they were very unlucky not to beat the All Blacks, so we understand how good they are, we’ve understood how good they’ve been for the last number of years, especially under Eddie.

“So we’re under no illusions, and all that other stuff when you get a bit of down time and you’re relaxing and you go home and people tell you what’s been said, yeah look you can think about it a little bit more or less, depending on what you want to do.

“But look, it’s all a part of what is a special game and a special tournament.”

With reporting by Murray Kinsella from London

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Ryan Bailey

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