Welcome to Rugby World, where we take a closer look at stories from across the planet, with a focus this week on the Autumn Series.
Wallabies No.9 Nic White has declared Eddie Jones the ‘king of mind games’ and given a fascinating glimpse into the feud between England’s coach and former Wallabies mentor Michael Cheika.
Jones and Cheika’s verbal stoushes are legendary, with bad blood boiling away for years between the two Randwick products.
White was asked for his insight into how a Jones v Dave Rennie buildup to Sunday’s (AEDT) Test might differ from the similar period when Cheika was coaching the Wallabies and hinted that in the past the verbals set a different tone for preparations.
“I think it will be less personal for sure,” White said on Wednesday. “As part of the playing group, I certainly didn’t feel it but there was obviously a lot in the media between Eddie and Cheik.
“I think it will be a little different this week. It will be a good chance for us to focus on what we want to do and the way we want to play.
“Our job, and this will be a little different to previous games with England, is we’ll focus on the things we couldn’t control on the weekend, fix those and really concentrate on us rather than in previous times concentrating so much on what England do.”
Jones has been in good form already ahead of this game, and White said the Wallabies were wary of praise coming their way from him.
“It’s nice for him to give us some praise but Eddie’s the king of mind games, we’re certainly not reading too much into what he says,” said White.
“He’s the type of guy you’d love to sit down and have a beer and talk rugby with. Hopefully one day I get that chance.
“He’s the king with the media and I love listening to it.”
The Wallabies lost to Scotland 15-13 last weekend, a match full of frustrations – with the refereeing, injuries and the failure of a fresh lineup to really gel.
White, who had begun to look really smart and sharp alongside Quade Cooper, found himself partnered by James O’Connor, and it was a step backwards, cohesion-wise.
“It was a little bit clunky at times, it took us a little bit of time to get into it,” said White.
“There’s certainly an element of new guys coming in and we’ve got to be able to adapt to the way they play and their strengths, but there’s also an element that guys need to fit into the way we want to play.
“It is a bit of a juggling act. I think on the whole we were pretty good. There was a bit of clunkiness, it’s something we feel we can fix pretty quickly. I feel by the second half the kinks had been ironed out.”
He was asked if less changes was more effective regarding selections.
“I think so (but) that’s a personal view,” said White. “Sometimes less is more. Guys need a bit of time in the saddle to feel comfortable and guys to get used to those around them.”
‘Love the one you’re with’
Eddie Jones’ mind games was also a central theme in an excellent interview with Australia’s attack coach Scott Wisemantel in the UK Telegraph this week.
Wisemantel was Jones’ assistant at the 2019 World Cup and was recruited by Dave Rennie to help his revolution.
“If I start to play mind games, I will come out second best,” Wisemantel said when asked to dish some friendly dirt on his former boss. “I’m not going to try. I’ll have a meltdown.”
“It is no coincidence that England’s best attacking rugby was played when Wisemantel joined Jones’ coaching ticket in 2018 through to the 2019 World Cup,” wrote the Telegraph.
“A significant drop-off followed the departure of Wisemantel, who subsequently joined his native Wallabies.”
Wisemantel is therefore well placed to compare Jones and Rennie.
“They go about it in different ways, but every day is a challenge,” Wisemantel said.
“Every day you get challenged and you learn. I think philosophically they are very similar, and the outcomes are similar, but the processes are very different. Dave’s a bit gentler around how things are done, but he is very stern and knows what he wants.
“It is the same with Eddie. The principles are the same. It is just they way they do it is different. You can see with the outcomes, they are both very successful and there’s a reason for that.
“Eddie changes all the time. He is always evolving. He’s cagey. I can see how they are evolving and they are heading in the right direction, they really are. It will be a really good challenge for us in how we defend and attack.”
Nic White was the latest Wallabies player to hail the impact Wisemantel has made on the Australian squad, saying he brings “good energy”.
“He’s giving guys freedom to back themselves. Trying to unlock a lot of guys at Test level and get themselves to feel comfortable,” said White.
“What he brings day to day when you wake up -he brings in a certain energy to the breakfast room. He’s a great guy to have especially when you’re on tour for a long time.”
The last time Australia faced England was in the 2019 World Cup quarter-final and Wisemantel played a major role in bringing down Cheika.
“It is kill or be killed,” he said. “From a philosophical point of view, there was no remorse. I can’t remember who wrote the song, but love the one you’re with.”
Marler missing after positive COVID Test
England’s preparations for Sunday’s match have been hit by COVID related issues for the second game running. Prop Joe Marler has been ruled out after testing positive to the virus.
Marler was a bench player against Tonga last week, and England officials are unsure how he got the virus. Owen Farrell missed out on the Tonga game after a positive test that was later discovered to have been a false result and he will be avilable for selection this week.
Irish and All Blacks reunion
Some old mates will come face to face when the All Blacks tackle Ireland this week.
Former Hurricanes and Blues halfback Jamison Gibson-Park, former Chiefs and Tasman wing James Lowe, both Maori All Blacks, and midfielder Bundee Aki all excelled against Japan last week and are in line for selection.
Former Hurricanes teammate TJ Perenara was looking forward to playing “awespome” Jamison-Park.
“He was one of the most gifted players I have played with, in every thing. Everything that guy touches often turns to gold. To see him come over here and be so successful at both the club level here and the international level has been awesome,” Perenara said.
Meanwhile, Beauden Barrett had plenty of compliments for another me4mber of the 100 Test club, Johnny Sexton ahead of their likely match up.
“He’s a very good player, he’s so influential for their team and he’s all class so, of course, you love these match-ups,” said Barrett.
“You don’t get too caught up in it but you do appreciate who your opponent is and the team you’re playing.
“I admire his play, his longevity and how influential he is. He has great skillsets. Probably one of the strengths of his game is his ability to get second touches and always be a threat. There’s a lot to admire about him and the way he plays.
“In terms of his mentality, he’s a competitor. He loves to play, he loves to win, he loves to get amongst the physicality. He’s a huge part of their team and how they play.”
‘Difficult to watch’
Former Wallabies captain David Pocock, known for his strong social justice and climate chang views, has spoken out against Rugby Australia’s upgraded sponsorship deat with oil and gas energy group Santos.
“I was always proud to represent my country. As a rugby player, that’s what you dream of. It’s been difficult to watch a partnership emerge with Santos,” said Pocock.
“I really think fossil fuel sponsorship is the new cigarette sponsorship, where they are advertising a product that we now know is destroying our home planet and our futures.”
The deal with Rugby Australia will see the team sport the Santos logo on the famous gold jersey.