Rugby Union

Six Nations 2016: England coach Eddie Jones prioritises mind games and arrogance

Eddie Jones, in a radical break from English rugby's measured and diplomatic recent past, admitted that he would do whatever it takes to help England win, indulging in mind games with opposition coaches and extolling the virtue of his players adopting the arrogant tag with which they are so often labelled.

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As a first offering, Jones stated that he would write a letter of apology to Vern Cotter, the Scotland head coach, who was irked last week when the Australian expressed his belief that the home side would start as favourites for the Calcutta Cup at Murrayfield on Saturday.

"I know Vern was upset about that so I apologise and, if you want me to write a letter, I'll write a letter of apology," said Jones, who revealed that he had been so impressed with his new team's preparation that he believed there needs to be a change of status.

"We're happy to be favourites. You have to do everything you can to win. Whatever helps you won, you've got to do. That is my job as coach. That is what I am hired to do. Every time we talk to the media, we are trying to find a way to win.

"It is part of the process. Clive [Woodward, who has several verbal exchanges with Jones when he was coaching the Wallabies in the build-up to the 2003 World Cup] wasn't bad at it. He's English, isn't he? And he's knighted. So, he's knighted for doing mind games.

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"Mind games are an important part of the game aren't they? Warren Gatland does it exceedingly well, doesn't he? He has got that dry sense of humour."

Jones has long held that mantle. Of more substance than Jose Mourinho manipulation or baiting, is the fact that the Australian has embarked on a strategy of encouraging his players to have no fear of being bullish about themselves.

There is to be no softly-softly approach under Jones, treading a delicate line as to not arouse sensibilities. England have often been accused of conforming to lazy type - as full of themselves and of their own worth.

"Arrogance is only bad when you lose," Jones said. "If you are winning and you are arrogant, it is self-belief. When you lose, it is being arrogant. We are a side that is going to prepare well for Test matches, we are going to believe we can win Test matches and are going to believe that we are going to be the best team in the world.

"If that is being arrogant, then it is being arrogant. To me, it is belief about what we can do. I am quite happy for the players to talk about that because that is the way we are going to think."

And how goes the mission statement when matched against the work done in training? "The clearest message I have got from this squad is that they want to win for England and they realise that this is an opportunity to turn English rugby around," said Jones, dismissing out of hand any notion that he will impose an identity on the team.

"No, it will come from within the team. Every team I have coached, you can't say this is the way the team is going to operate. You have got to work it out, work out the characters of the team, and for them to find out what is important."

Jones has already acknowledged that what he terms 'the honeymoon' period is coming to an end and that he will be judged by results, starting with Saturday's (Sunday AEDT) championship opener against Scotland.

He is braced for a hostile reception north of the border, disclosing that one Australian team he took there was bemused to find that the pitch had been narrowed in order to thwart the wide-running game of the Wallabies. Jones has never lost there.

"The guys were telling me that you get within 10 minutes of the ground and a host of bagpipers appear and slow-march in front of the bus," Jones said. "The Scottish people are canny, aren't they?"

Jones will name his side on Thursday, with an injury doubt still hanging over Courtney Lawes. The Northampton lock has yet to train fully with his hamstring problem and if he does not pass muster, then Saracens' Maro Itoje, whom Jones felt had "his best game I have seen him play for Saracens" against Bath last weekend, will be favoured to step into the breach.

The Telegraph, London

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