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Eddie Jones responds to Nic White, talks about what rugby union should learn from rugby league

Eddie Jones took aim at Australia’s scrum half Nic White, and said he would agitate for action on the laws of rugby, as he put the finishing touches on England’s preparation for the decider against Australia at a sold out SCG on Saturday night.

Jones was in an expansive mood as he reflected on the state of the sport, but also the on-going claims of niggle that have followed his team since the first Test, when Jonny Hill provoked Darcy Swain into a red card.

Earlier this week White, never shy it comes time to making his thoughts known on the field, said he expected England to persist with their niggling tactics.

“We will expect the same this weekend, them coming after us. It is just part of the game,” said White.

“We will look to start this game more physically up front, but we won’t be baited into that off-the-ball stuff. We will leave that to those boys.”

Jones was clearly amused when the comments were relayed to him.

“I hardly think he’s entitled to make that comment … he’s the biggest niggler of all time!” Jones said.

“That makes me laugh, that does make me laugh. The boy from Queanbeyan who niggles everyone, complaining about niggle. That’s a bit like the pot calling the kettle black.

“Obviously he thinks that, and his perception is reality, so he’s got a funny way of looking at reality.

“He’s just trying to look for something.”

Nic White

(Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

While White’s comments put a smile on Jones’ face, he was more contemplative in talking about the state of rugby, especially in contrast to the State of Origin thriller served up between Queensland and New South Wales on Wednesday.

“We’ve got to get back to having flow in the game,” said Jones, who backed the NRL style of discipline – putting players on report rather than carding them other than in exceptional circumstances.

“You watch that [Origin] game and there’s a natural flow and rhythm to it. And rugby, when it’s played at its best and we have the laws at the right level, we get that natural flow and rhythm in the game, and we don’t have it at the moment.

“Every time there’s a flow in the game we get a stoppage, we go back, someone’s taken out someone. Well, the referee couldn’t see it, so it can’t be too bad.

“If it’s a blatant red card offence we need to go back to it.

“2019 World Cup was pretty good, 2015 World Cup was better, 2011 was OK, 2007 was crap.

“There’s a rhythm to how rugby’s looked at and officiated, we’ve got to into the good rhythm again.

“If you see an offence that’s not a standout red card and the guy sees it, say ‘No.2 gold goes on report’. He goes on report, goes to the judiciary, barristers make some money, and he either gets fined or suspended, and the game is allowed to flow.”

Jones said rugby league made key changes to improve their sport.

“What did rugby league do? In the 60s, when you played the ball you struck for it, when you had a scrum you had a contest, when you carried the ball you could strip, so there were so many penalties and the referees were so influential that fans were getting disenchanted with the game.

“So they took all the contest out of the game, made it fast and simple and physical. And rugby is a complex game because we’ve multiple contests; lineout, scrum, kick-off, rucks, mauls.

“And that’s the uniqueness of the game that allows different body types to play, which is part of the charter.

“So we’ve got to be careful of the fact we want to keep the game unique, and we don’t want to go to a mass entertainment sport.

“Because it would be easy to change rugby into mass entertainment sport, but it mightn’t be so interesting in 10 years’ time.”

Jones believes rugby has an issue with trying to seek perfection in its decisions.

“We’ve gone too (far) playing it like it’s a tennis game and every decision’s got to be right,” Jones said.

Jones said the issues were brought home by the All Blacks-Ireland Test which got so confusing the players, coaches and commentators had no idea what was happening with the cards and replacements and lost count of how many players should be on the field.

“I don’t want to see a game like that ever again, where we don’t even know how many people are supposed to be on the field,” said Jones.

“Imagine in the World Cup, you’re playing a quarter-final, you get a red card, two yellows and you’re down to 12 men, it’s just ridiculous.”

Jones was asked how he could approach other head coaches to form a lobby group on the issues and he suggested the November Test window in the northern hemisphere.

“We need to get the referees, the coaches and the players together and say ‘this is the game we want, this is the game people want to see’, and try to put together a forthright case as to the proper officiating of the game,” he said.

“I was speaking to a few coaches over the last day. “We can’t blame the referees. The referees, coaches and players need to get together and say, ‘This is the game we want. This is the game that people want to see’ – and try to put together a case for proper officiating of the game.

“Everyone goes up north in November, so we’ve just got to find a way to do it. I’m sure we can organise something. I think everyone feels the same way. I saw Dave’s [Rennie] comments after the game. He feels the same way. He got in trouble, didn’t he, for commenting? Mine’s probably still to come…”

While there are clearly aspects of the game where Jones wants change, there is one where he prefers the status quo. With World Rugby moving towards a global competition, it seems that three Test tours such as this current one are under threat.

“I think this sort of tour one of the great thing is that the players actually get time to do cultural things and do social things together. And when you’re in a tournament that doesn’t happen. So yeah, let’s hope maybe it doesn’t happen.”

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