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Monday 30 January 2023 Dublin: 8°C
# Mind Games
'That's his thing' - Ireland not biting on Jones' Stoke City comparison
Assistant coach Simon Easterby says Ireland are not concerned with Jones’ media tactics.

AH, GOOD OLD Eddie Jones.

Just when you feared that the build-up to an Ireland clash with England might be a little muted in comparison with those in the past, the Australian flicked the ‘mind games’ switch into overdrive.

Joe Schmidt Dan Sheridan / INPHO Ireland are staying focused on their own game. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Ireland’s Six Nations hopes are gone, but Jones has managed to make this week all the more fascinating with his comparison of Joe Schmidt’s side to Stoke City.

First, he cited a 60% kicking rate of their possession, to which Joe Schmidt accurately pointed out that Ireland have kicked less than 25% of their ball during the current championship [England are at 36% so far].

So Eddie upped the ante to 70%, hammering the point home by stating Ireland’s attacking strategy is “not the way I think you should play rugby.”

For Schmidt and his Ireland coaching staff, these words have come as little surprise.

“Do you think it’s high? Yeah, it looks a little high to me,” said Ireland assistant coach Simon Easterby yesterday when asked about Jones’ comments.

It’s something that’s been thrown out there; those things get thrown out there most games before a match by some people.

“It’s something that he feels is a strategy to try and get us to change, to do something different or react to it, but we can’t fall into that trap. We’ve just got to try and stay focused on what we’ve done so far and what we plan to do, our strategy going into this week.

“It is what it is. Characters like that are good for the game and we will see come Saturday night how much of that rings true.”

It’s a clever ploy from Jones in truth, given the swell of opinion around Ireland that says their use of possession under Schmidt is not ambitious enough.

We must question whether Jones is simply saying whatever comes into his head when in front of the media, but he seems a more calculated figure than that. In that sense, his “everyone hates England” comments this week are similarly built to spark a reaction.

“Again, things have been sort of thrown out there and there is obviously a response wanted from that, but it is a really important game for us,” says Easterby.

Simon Easterby Cathal Noonan / INPHO Easterby wasn't going to give Jones any ammunition. Cathal Noonan / INPHO / INPHO

“There is always an edge to an England/Ireland match and having been lucky enough to play in a few of those I know what it means to play in them. It is a really important fixture for us at this stage and for them but that is really main focus, how important the fixture is to us right now.

“The history is the history and we’ll never forget that but it’s important that we focus on the here and the now and the 80 minutes that is front of us on Saturday.”

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With Jones having all the fun over in England in the build-up to this game, one wonders whether Schmidt’s Ireland have ever thought about taking a trip down the mind games path that Jones and others like Warren Gatland so often walk.

Certainly, Schmidt and his coaches attempt to filter their key messages into the public sphere at every available opportunity, though perhaps more often in relation to the refereeing than opposition players or coaches.

I think you can do that but it’s what you hope to achieve from it,” says Easterby when asked if Ireland consider media tactics similar to Jones’. “I suppose it’s fine if you want to get reaction from other people and try to build something up.

“That’s his thing and the way he deals with situations and the way he wants to put things in place.

“He’s not dissimilar to other coaches. There are other coaches who do that as well. That’s how it is. We’ve probably preferred to just keep our focus on what we’re trying to do and make sure that we don’t start putting things out there that aren’t quite factually correct.” 

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