Jones slams Cheika's lack of referee 'respect'
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: England coach Eddie Jones has criticised Australia counterpart Michael Cheika for showing a lack of respect towards referee Ben O'Keeffe by trying to influence him through media comments rather than meet with him face-to-face.
In the build-up to Saturday's Cook Cup clash at Twickenham, Cheika said England had a policy of deliberately tackling the Wallaby half-backs late and would again attempt to "bully" his side this weekend.
Such is the complexity of rugby union's rulebook that, unlike many other sports, it is customary prior to an international for the coaches of both teams to meet with the referee in order to get an understanding of his likely interpretations and general approach.
But Cheika has indicated he will skip the chance to catch up with New Zealand official O'Keeffe.
Jones was taken aback by the approach of Cheika, his fellow Australian and a former teammate at Sydney club Randwick.
"Obviously Australia enjoy the media more than the referee," Jones told reporters after England's captain's run training session at Twickenham on Friday.
"I have coached over 100 Tests and before every Test, I have had a meeting with the referee," added Jones, Australia's coach when they lost the 2003 World Cup final to England.
"It's a sign of respect that you want to know what he wants from the game. It's a mutual exchange of information for the benefit of the game,"
Former Japan boss Jones has yet to lose against Australia since taking over as England coach after the Wallabies knocked the Red Rose out of the 2015 World Cup.
Saturday will see England gunning for their fifth straight win over the Wallabies under Jones and he suggested Cheika's comments were a case of sour grapes.
"We have played four games against Australia and had good referees in those games," Jones said.
"Obviously Cheika feels the referees haven't done a good job so possibly he should be taking that up with the referee, not the media,"
At the age of 28-year-old, O'Keeffe is unusually young for a Test referee and several of the players involved in Saturday's match, including England captain Dylan Hartley, will be older than the Auckland-born official, who is also a qualified eye specialist.
"He's an ophthalmologist and so he'll be able to see anything," said Jones, adding jokingly: "I might get my eyes checked by him!
"He's a very good young ref and is only 28, which is younger than Dylan Hartley, who might be able to give him a few tips about life,"
"He's a very competent, accurate and fit referee. He's an intelligent guy and I'm sure he won't be influenced by comments made in the press,"
Jones added: "We play by the rules and are happy to stand by that. Australia want to play a lot of games at this stage," insisted Jones, who has often been accused of 'winding up' opponents with his pre-match remarks.
"Their comments are literally water off a duck's back.
"We've played four games against them and we haven't had a player penalised for late hits at all. What do you make of that?"
If a meeting with a referee is a customary pre-match feature of all rugby internationals, recent Anglo-Australian clashes have rarely passed without former Wallaby coach Bob Dwyer highlighting what he believes is the illegal scrummaging technique of England props Dan Cole and Joe Marler.
The only surprise this week has been Dwyer's timing, with Jones saying: "I'm disappointed that he's a bit late. Bob normally comes earlier in the week, but he has come later this time.
"It's all part of the fun and games of England v Australia Test matches."