Eddie Jones arrived into Dublin for Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations match versus Ireland charming the hosts with a well-said tribute to the soon-to-retire CJ Stander, but the England coach also appeared to brand long-serving scrum-half Conor Murray as a limited threat.
Having suffered a hamstring injury in the week leading up to the round two loss to France, Murray is now back in harness in the Ireland team and is set to start this weekend having spent the entire 80 minutes last Sunday in Edinburgh as an unused sub.
Andy Farrell has given Jamison Gibson-Park, a Kiwi who qualified for Ireland under residency, a run in the team this season. The Leinster scrum-half has featured on nine occasions, five of those as a starter, and Jones believes he offers a very different threat to the long-established Murray who has been on the Test scene since 2011 when he broke through at Munster.
“Our main concern is ourselves,” said Jones, outlining his approach to this weekend’s round five finale in Dublin. “We haven’t worried too much about Ireland, we haven’t worried about their selection.
“Gibson-Park gives them a bit more of an unstructured threat. He tends to look for the opportunities to take himself whereas Murray was more of a pattern player under the Joe Schmidt-coached sides. Our ruck defence needs to be tight on each side, and (Johnny) Sexton is still a very good player.”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) March 19, 2021
The recalled Murray, though, was adamant that he has more to offer than just repetitive box kicks. “That is just what the outside noise is from time to time,” he shrugged. “I have huge belief in what we are doing here and the coaches are the very same.
“They back you to back yourself and put on a show and back your skillset and for me, it definitely goes further than kicking the ball in the air. That is obviously a big part in the tactics of international rugby. It’s something that we do well. England do it really well, so that will be one element of what is to come at the weekend.”
Away from the half-backs, back row Stander, who is set to play his final match for Ireland this weekend before retirement for personal reasons, was the only other Irish player mentioned by Jones at his England team selection media conference.
“CJ Stander has announced his retirement, what a wonderful player he has been for Ireland, good carrier, good strong defender,” said Jones. “It also shows that people who don’t get much recognition in professional rugby are the families of players and management staff and coaches, what a special role they play.
“The players and the staff are away for long periods of time and they have to carry on with their lives. We should recognise the enormous service they do to the game and it will be sad to see CJ Stander not play for Ireland anymore.”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) March 18, 2021
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