Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has been refusing to bite back at Eddie Jones for so long he jokes he’s been hurling insults at himself in the mirror just to get it out of his system.
But the phony sideshow between the former Randwick teammates will be instantly forgotten when Saturday’s Test series opener against England at Suncorp Stadium gets underway and the players commence the real battle.
“I’ve been sledging myself, internally, just to get it off my chest,” a grinning Cheika told the crowd at Friday’s Queensland Reds luncheon at Brisbane City Hall.
“I go home at night, sit in my room and I just give it to myself.
“It’s a craft, sledging. It’s good. It’s fun, I’ll be honest.
“So sometimes you’ve got to know, like the famous song, you’ve got to know when to hold them and when to fold them.
“I’ve been holding them, that’s definitely the case – but like any rugby player knows, when the whistle blows, all the words are meaningless. It’s about action.”
A nearly sold-out crowd awaits at Suncorp, a venue where the English have never won before but their coach, former Wallaby mentor Jones, knows intimately.
After an intense build-up and declarations of aggression from both sides, a fiery encounter is expected between the two old rivals.
There are four debutants in the Australian team – starters Samu Kerevi, Rory Arnold and Dane Haylett-Petty, along with reserve halfback Nick Frisby.
“If you look at those four guys, they come from all different backgrounds and that’s really a big part of our identity and what we want to be about,” Wallabies skipper Stephen Moore said.
“For me, who’s been there for a while, it’s very exciting to be able to share that moment with those guys.”
The match, the first of a three-Test series for the Cook Cup, gets underway at 8.05pm AEST.