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Ireland coach Joe Schmidt plays down England counterpart Eddie Jones’ comments of his side ahead of Saturday’s Grand Slam showdown

The Ireland coach believes Jones' controversial comments are not relevant

Sport360 staff 2018/03/15

Joe Schmidt has sought to defuse tensions over Eddie Jones branding his team the “scummy Irish” ahead of Saturday’s Grand Slam showdown with England at Twickenham.

Jones apologised on Wednesday after footage emerged of him referring to Joe Schmidt’s team as the “scummy Irish” and Wales as a “little s*** place”.

Ireland will chase just a third-ever 6 Nations clean sweep with victory over England in London on Saturday – but head coach Schmidt insisted his players will not be distracted by the fuss.

“I’m not exactly sure what they were,” said Schmidt, when asked about Jones comments in the Fuso video that had caused some offence.

“They are not directly relevant to us to be honest.

“Those words don’t impact on how we play or how his team plays and that’s our focus.”

A Youtube video surfaced on Wednesday of Jones delivering a talk on leadership for Fuso, the Japanese parent company of England sponsors Mitsubishi.

Jones insisted he was “very sorry” in a statement on Wednesday evening, shortly after the video came to light.

And a spokesman has confirmed that the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) had received a phone call and apology from their English counterparts.

Asked if Jones’ comments could hinder Ireland’s preparation for their tilt at a Grand Slam to add to the triumphs of 1948 and 2009, Schmidt said: “I don’t think so to be honest.

“I know it’s probably at the stage of being boring, which we don’t want to be described as, but the bubble we have here allows us to focus on the task in hand.”

Jones had issued an apology on Wednesday for his statements.

Iain Henderson has dislodged Devin Toner to start Saturday’s Grand Slam decider. Peter O’Mahony, Rob Kearney and Cian Healy have been passed fit for Ireland’s all-out assault on just a third-ever NatWest 6 Nations clean sweep.

British and Irish Lions lock Henderson’s selection represents the sole change from Ireland’s 28-8 win over Scotland, that sealed their third Six Nations title in five years.

Flanker O’Mahony and full-back Kearney sat out training on Tuesday, but have since proved their fitness to start the St Patrick’s Day clash. Prop Healy appeared unsteady on his feet against Scotland, but Ireland insisted he suffered a shoulder “stinger”, not a head injury.

Ireland boss Schmidt has also insisted he remains unfazed by assistant referee Marius Van der Westhuizen acting as an official during England’s training session on Tuesday.

Schmidt admitted Ireland were taken aback by the move, but still moved to back Van der Westhuizen’s ability to officiate with full neutrality on Saturday.

“That is a bit of a surprise,” said Schmidt, of Van der Westhuizen helping out at England training this week.

“I’m sure in retrospect people are probably thinking it’s not the best thing to do.

“I know Marius and I would have no hesitation in standing by his integrity.

“I don’t think it will affect his decision making and we’ll stand by him as an official on Saturday.”

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