Eddie Jones has returned fire at Australia’s Nic White, who said he was expecting more off-the-ball antics from England in Saturday’s deciding Test in Sydney, describing the Wallabies scrum-half as “the biggest niggler of all-time”.
White said on Tuesday he was surprised by the level of wind-up tactics in the first two Tests but was adamant the Wallabies would not be baited into “that off-the-ball stuff”. White was involved in an incident with Ellis Genge in the second Test in Brisbane where he was pinned to the ground by the England loosehead, who put his elbow into the scrum-half’s face.
Earlier in the match, Genge goaded the Australia captain, Michael Hooper, by slapping him on the chest three times after Billy Vunipola’s early try. The previous week, in the first Test, the Australia second-row Darcy Swain was sent off for head-butting Jonny Hill after the England lock had pulled his hair and pushed him in the face earlier in the match.
As a result, White said the Wallabies were on red alert for more of the same in Sydney but, when those comments were put to him, Jones laughed them off and responded by saying they were rich coming from the former Exeter No 9. “Well, he’s got plenty to say,” said Jones, who has made three changes to his starting XV, recalling Danny Care at scrum-half.
“It’s a tough, physical game. I hardly think he’s entitled to make that comment. He’s the biggest niggler of all time, isn’t he? That does make me laugh; the boy who niggles everyone, complaining about niggle. 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, isn’t he?’
Australia have vowed to “shut the Pommies up” as they seek to atone for last week’s defeat in Brisbane. The head coach, Dave Rennie, has made four changes to his starting lineup with the former NRL and Fiji international rugby league player Suli Vunivalu in line for a debut, having been named on the bench.
Vunivalu said the Wallabies would be seeking to replicate the breathtaking intensity with which rugby league’s State Of Origin decider was played out on Wednesday. Queensland triumphed over New South Wales in a contest that gripped the nation from the opening whistle, with three head injuries inside the opening five minutes and two players sent to the sin-bin for punching during one of several flashpoints.
Vunivalu said: “Watching that game made me look forward to this other big game with that intensity right from the start. We have been lacking that with the Wallabies for our first 20 so if we can bring that up and shut the Pommies up we’ll do a good job.”