Few rugby people know better what makes Eddie Jones tick than Wallabies assistant coach Stephen Larkham.
The former Wallabies’ five eighth, who played under Jones at the Brumbies from the late 90s and then with Australia from 2001-05, says his old mentor’s verbal jabs this week are nothing more than a diversionary tactic ahead of a game in which history beckons.
Victory for England over the Wallabies at Twickenham on Saturday would make Jones the first coach to lead the country to an unbeaten record for a calendar year.
It would also have Jones’ team equal the record set by Clive Woodward’s all-conquering side of 14 successive wins, a mark set between March 23, 2002 and August 23, 2003.
Jones has been doing his best to ruffle feathers in the Australian camp, raising questions about the team’s scrummaging techniques.
Michael Cheika returned serve with interest earlier this week, accusing England prop Dan Cole of packing down illegally for his whole career.
“There was always going to be some mind games played in these weeks,” Larkham said.
“We’ve spent a lot of time on our scrum and we’re pretty confident we know what we’re doing there.
“We’re not really focused on external influences; we’re just focused on getting out preparation right – and putting a good performance on the paddock this weekend.”
Larkham said there hadn’t been any discussions about Jones from the players and their only focus was attaining some revenge for the 3-0 series home loss in June and ending a difficult year on a high.
“A win would be a small way to rectifying it,” he said.
“When you lose in your home country 3-0 in a series … we were pretty embarrassed by it.
“But we’ve certainly moved on from it. A lot of the players who played in that series aren’t here with us now and the combinations and motivations in this group is far different to back then.
“You never want to look back too much but it would be nice to start to rectify what happened there.”
Despite losing 27-24 to a red-hot Ireland team last weekend – a defeat that ended their grand-slam aspirations – Larkham said there was enough quality on show in the second half in Dublin to give him encouragement of a positive showing at Twickenham.
“We scored a good try at the end of the half and then I think in the second half we finally strung some phases together and looked pretty dangerous,” he said.