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The fix is in from the British rugby establishment going into the England vs Australia Test at Twickenham at the weekend.
This fierce confrontation off the field presages an even more ferocious confrontation on it.
An unholy alliance combining England’s coach, the feisty Australian Eddie Jones, and the British media, have come together to smash the Wallabies psychologically and in the eyes of the referee in the expectation that a resurgent England team will continue it’s winning ways in 2016.
Make no mistake about the purpose of this alliance. It is intended to damage the Wallabies and encourage their coach Michael Cheika into making mistakes about who to attack in his attempts to fight back against pre-meditated verbal thuggery from Jones and his accomplices, the Fleet Street hacks.
Take your mind back to early June when England landed in Australia to begin their three-Test series against the Wallabies.
Eddie Jones told the world that Australia was a fearsome place to tour because the Wallabies and the Australian rugby media were hand-in-hand conspirators against any opposition.
This was nonsense. Anyone reading The Roar, for instance, knows that the national rugby team and its coach get praise when they deserve it and brick-bats (all too often this season, unfortunately) when they deserve it too.
Jones knew he was talking nonsense because when he was the coach of the Wallabies this is what happened to him. He was applauded when the Wallabies won, as he should have been, and given the stick when they lost. Again, as he should have been.
But this notion that the Wallabies and the media somehow work together to defeat the opposition is nonsense.
On the other hand, it is clear that the British rugby journalists often work with England to put pressure on referees before Tests on their opponents.
An example of this is the united voice of the British rugby establishment against Richie McCaw and his alleged “cheating.”
Another example was a similar cry of cheating against Rod Macqueen’s Wallabies for running two lines of attack. Clive Woodward, for instance, who seems to have coached Eddie Jones in how this system works, was forever crying out “cheating” for this system which he readily adopted when he finally understood how it worked.
The point about these “cheating” cries is that they were immediately picked up by the British rugby media. It was almost as if they had been coached into supporting these allegations by the England management.
And now we jump forward to the Twickenham Test this weekend.
Surprise, surprise we had Eddie Jones making the allegation on Monday that he would be talking to the South African referee Jaco Peyper about the Wallabies illegal scrumming tactics. And surprise, surprise The Daily Telegraph UK ran a long story titled: ‘Why England Have Nothing To Fear When They Face Australia’.
And further surprise, surprise the article discussed in detail all the alleged weaknesses there were in the Wallabies scrumming.
What a coincidence! Pardon my sarcasm but this collaboration between the England coach and the Fleet Street gang is so blatant and so poisonous at times (and this time particularly) that it deserves to be called out for what it is, a fix.
I have been critical of a lot of Michael Cheika’s behaviour and coaching this season. But, in my opinion, he has been maligned by Jones and the Fleet Street hacks. Moreover, he has behaved in a way that respects the rugby game and his exalted position in it as the coach of a national team.
Eddie Jones has taken the low road and Michael Cheika has taken the high road.
Cheika made the point in his response to the Jones allegations that it is England and their prop Dan Cole who needs to answer questions about illegal scrumming. Cole, Cheika noted, was given a yellow card against Argentina and “that same prop’s been infringing the law since his career started probably, if not all of this year.”
For me, this was a direct hit. Cole is a noted and inveterate borer who has got away with his illegal boring tactics too often during his career due to indulgent referees and protection offered to his play by the Fleet Street hacks.
There is the point, too, that Cole has been allowed to bind illegally on the arm and shoulder rather legally on the body. This illegal binding makes it almost impossible for his opposing prop to stay up rather than falling flat on the ground.
Cheika made a second valid point that the Wallabies always try to scrum straight, a technique they have been drilled in by Mario Ledesma, in the Argentinian manner.
This claim puts intense pressure on referee Peyper to be fair in his rulings and above all rule on the letter of the law, binding on the body, rather than by the yelling of the crowd or the verbals launched against the Wallabies by Jones and his Fleet Street mates.
I liked the way, too, that Cheika revealed how thin-skinned Jones becomes when he is confronted with people prepared to stand up to him: “It’s funny how your tune changes because in the summer when he asked for those meetings (with the referee and opposition officials) he was blowing up, he stormed out of one (with Wallabies assistants Stephen Larkham and Nathan Gray).”
As a player for the Randwick club, Eddie Jones, a pint-sized, industrious, skillful hooker, was an incessant sledger. But when the Wallabies coach of the day Bob Dwyer (a former Randwick player and coach) needed a new hooker for the national side, he promoted Phil Kearns from the Randwick seconds team.
Sledging can get you only so far. I am hoping that something similar, in a sense, happens at Twickenham and that Peyper dismiss the Jones sledging and assess what happens in the scrums in a discerning way, with particular attention paid to England’s dodgy scrumming.
If this happens, I don’t doubt that the Wallabies scrum will hold up well. And if this happens, then the Wallabies could end their season on a relative high with a win against England, a small compensation for the three-nil thrashing they endured in Australia in the June series.
This was been a poor year for the Wallabies. They have won only six of their 14 Tests, a record that is not acceptable. Beating England at Twickenham will offer some redemption but most importantly some hope for a much better outcome in 2017.
It would be nice, too, to see Jones having to explain away an unexpected loss to his Fleet Street admirers …