Who would’ve thought England would be more entertaining than the All Blacks?
Though to be fair, it wasn’t England so much as their Aussie coach, Eddie Jones, who was firing more shots than a drunk cowboy.
First he claimed that England had been spied on at training that morning.
“There was definitely someone in the apartment block (across from the training ground) filming, it might have been a Japanese fan,” Jones said.
He admitted he used to spy on teams, too, but piously claimed he hadn’t since 2001.
“You just don’t need to do it anymore,” the spy-teetotaller said. “You can watch everyone’s training on YouTube. There’s absolutely no value in that anymore.”
I checked. There are video clips of the All Blacks in the gym, but that’s about it, so Jones must have better YouTube than me.
As entertaining as this is, it’s remarkably standard. Jones, Steve Hansen, Warren Gatland…the list of top test coaches goes on who have, at different times, claimed to be innocent while accusing the others of spying.
Jones was in fine form, though, especially when he claimed he wasn’t fussed about the spies (these are the spies he brought up in the first place).
“Don’t care, mate. Don’t care. We knew from the start that they were filming and it doesn’t change anything we do.
“We have two security guards: Prince Harry’s … and the ex-Prime Minister’s. Only those two. Lovely blokes.”
Jones also had a crack at the Kiwi rugby press, claiming they were “fans with keyboards” as he stirred things up ahead of Saturday’s semifinal between England and the All Blacks.
He’s a smart fella is Eddie. He knows taking pot shots at the All Blacks is as sensible as running at Kieran Read, so he shoots the media instead.
This ain’t his first rodeo.
Across town the equally media-savvy Steve Hansen had a crack at the Six Nations for not backing the Nations Championship, which would have established a more global season.
It came as he talked about how rare it is for the All Blacks to play England.
Last year’s test at Twickenham was the first in four years, though they did play each other four times in 2014.
Wins by England are just as rare – they have lost 15 of their last 16 tests against the All Blacks.
Hansen also predicted Jones would try to play mind games ahead of this match, but was vague about whether he would return fire.
“Sometimes it’s better not to go there and sometimes it is. I’ve made my mind up where I’m going and I’m sure he’ll do the same.”
On the field, where these games are actually won, Hansen predicted both sides would try new things on Saturday.
“You would be naive not to expect the opposition to do something different. It’s their job. We’ll do the same.
“If it comes off you’re a superstar, if it doesn’t you’re an idiot. It’s a fine line with us coaches.”
Hansen expects to have a fully fit squad to pick from with the exception of flanker Matt Todd, who has already been ruled out with a shoulder injury.
Skipper Kieran Read missed training with a tight calf, but Hansen said he would be fine, while lock Sam Whitelock lightened things up when he said Read simply hadn’t wanted to train in the Tokyo rain.
The All Blacks go into the match as favourites, but Hansen did his best to play that down by praising England and suggesting they played a similar style to the All Blacks.
They don’t, but it’s a nice thing to say. Jones wasn’t about to play nice, though.
He reckons his England team is under no pressure and suggested the All Blacks’ mental skills coach Gilbert Enoka would be flat out this week.
“We don’t have any pressure, mate. No one thinks we can win. There’s 120 million Japanese people out there whose second team are the All Blacks.
“The All Blacks are looking for a third straight World Cup, so there will be pressure there.
“I don’t think they’re vulnerable but the pressure is real. The busiest guy for them will be Gilbert Enoka. They will be talking about it the whole week. It’s potentially the last game for their greatest-ever coach and for their greatest ever captain,” Jones said, seemingly forgetting about Richie McCaw.
“We’ve been preparing for this game for two-and-a-half years. Even back then we knew that we would play New Zealand in the semifinals. We believe we’ve built the game to take New Zealand.”
Jones, who loves a verbal stoush, was quizzed on whether he hoped Hansen would return fire, and took the chance to fire shots at the Kiwi media.
“Someone has to ask questions mate because the New Zealand media doesn’t. You guys are just fans with keyboards, so someone’s got to ask them some questions about what’s going on.
“The English media, as I said, one week ago I was going to get sacked. We couldn’t play. So we deal with a completely different situation.”
And Jones loves it. But don’t worry, only a few more days and then the rugby will take over.