It could well be an After the Lord Mayor’s Show footnote if Wales clinch the Grand Slam but England coach Eddie Jones has done his best to ensure that, whatever happens in Cardiff midway through “Super Saturday”, there will be an edge to the Guinness Six Nations finale at Twickenham.
The Aussie lost his chance of breaking the world record of 18 successive Test wins at BT Murrayfield last year when Scotland stormed to an astounding 22-13 victory and ahead of this year’s re-match has not wasted time in sending out a few trademark barbs.
“We know that’s their game of the year,” shrugged the England coach. “We saw how they carried on last year after they beat us. So, we might have short memories sometimes, but sometimes you have longer memories.”
That seemed to be a reference to a social media post which featured skipper Greig Laidlaw and Finn Russell in high spirits celebrating in the aftermath last February. Jones may be a master at generating headlines but “Scotland rugby players enjoy a drink and a sing-song hours after beating England” would not be his most eye-catching.
The incident that occurred the following day, after Jones had been utterly gracious and sporting in defeat, did leave a bad taste in the mouth as three idiots from Edinburgh, who were all subsequently fined for their disgraceful behaviour, hurled foul-mouthed taunts at the England coach at a Manchester train station. Jones had travelled down on public transport to be a guest of Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford that Sunday.
“I think they have a healthy dislike of the English and we would certainly like to reciprocate the welcome we got up there last year,” added Jones. “Twickenham is all leather patches, brogue shoes – it’s nice. You don’t get people telling you where to go, you don’t get people spitting on you, you don’t get people grabbing you round the head and telling you what you should do. So we’ll make sure the hostility is on the field.”
Scotland assistant coach Mike Blair was asked yesterday if such talk from Jones was the kind of thing which, in old parlance, would be “pinned up on the dressing room wall”.
“There’d be no room left on the wall,” said the former Scotland skipper with a smile.
“It’s something that he does, he enjoys that relationship with the media dropping a few quotes here and there, but that’s his decision to do that.
“We can’t affect how Eddie Jones sees us behaving. The win we had last year was a good win. I don’t know what he is referring to about over celebrating.”
When the video of a seemingly well lubricated Laidlaw blasting out O Flower of Scotland in an Edinburgh nightspot was suggested as a potential allusion, Blair responded: “I don’t know if that is over celebrating or just having a good time after winning a game. The guys were not too happy about losing the game this week so there was not that kind of stuff going on.
“When you win a game you enjoy yourself. I am sure his England players would have enjoyed themselves after beating Ireland in Ireland for example.”
Scotland stand-off Russell, who featured in that widely broadcast clip of celebratory conviviality with his skipper and half-back partner, was typically sanguine about Jones’ remarks.
“Maybe it’s Eddie being Eddie. I don’t really know him so I’m not sure,” said the 26-year-old. “That’s all a year ago now, so surely he’s not holding a grudge from that long ago, but you never know!”
There was a bit of a pre-match stramash in the tunnel at Murrayfield last year involving Ryan Wilson and England duo Owen Farrell and George Ford but Russell added: “That doesn’t really involve us as players. Even Ryan isn’t in the squad just now [through injury], so he’s not going to be there to rough him up in the tunnel whatever happens.”
The Racing 92 playmaker added with a smile: “That’s not my job!”
Russell couldn’t disagree with Jones’ suggestion, albeit with a disparaging subtext, that the annual fixture with England does have a special resonance. After three successive defeats in the Six Nations, ending that 36-year wait for a win at Twickenham would certainly add balm to the wounds.
“It would be great as a Scotsman to beat England, it doesn’t happen often,” said Russell. “So we know how hard it is and we’re going to be going down there trying to win, looking to do our best this week to get ready for it. It would be massive for us if we managed to win down there. It doesn’t make up for the last three games that we’ve lost, but it would be a good way for us to finish the Six Nations if we managed to put in a good performance and get a win down there.
“Like I say, it doesn’t make up for our losses. These are still games we need to improve on and work on, but the only thing we can do now is go down to England, play as well as we can and play our best and try to win.”