Eddie Jones showing the pressure ahead of England vs Scotland with prickly press conference despite historic run

England have won all 16 matches under Jones and stand poised to break the All Blacks' record - but Jones has cut a disgruntled figure in recent days suggesting all is not as rosy as it seems

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You wouldn’t know that England have the chance to match New Zealand’s record win streak this weekend by Eddie Jones’s behaviour on Thursday, but the head coach gave his most prickly press confidence to date that displayed all the signs of a man under pressure.

That couldn’t be further from the truth. England have won all 16 matches under his tenure and are on course for a second consecutive Six Nations Grand Slam, and victories over Scotland on Saturday and Ireland next week will not only secure that triumph, but also break the All Blacks’ record they set last year. Yet something has irked Jones this week, and he made sure those in attendance at their Pennyhill Park training base knew about it.

Whether he was showing his anger from the England team tactics being photographed during the week, his frustration from the leg injury that struck Owen Farrell during Thursday’s training session shortly after being named in the side to face the Scots, or his lingering feelings of disgruntlement with Italy’s tactics two weeks’ ago, he gave the impression that all is not well inside the England camp this week.

Jones’s behaviour was enough of a shock to trigger the question of whether he’s still enjoying the job or not. “Immensely mate!” came the reply. “Aren’t you?” For someone who has previously criticised the number of media engagements that he is required to attend, it wasn’t hard to see who his frosty side was being reserved for, but this wasn’t the only abnormal incident that occurred.

For starters, Jones refused to explain what exactly happened with Farrell to leave him needing treatment on the turf – that is unless you are to believe his claim that the 92kg inside centre “ran into my dog”.

“He could be in doubt, mate. Could be in doubt,” Jones said. “He's got a bad leg, so he couldn’t finish training. I think he ran into my dog, he ran into her. He'll be alright. I think he’ll be alright. 

Pushed further on Farrell’s injury, given the claim of running into Annie, the Papillon belonging to the Australian, was not sticking, Jones said: “We’ve got some great goal kickers - George Ford. But Owen will be right, he’s in doubt but we’ll see. He should be right.

“You don’t know that - Annie is a pretty tricky runner and sometimes she gets off the leash.”

But finally, some sort of reason was given. “He just ran into someone at training - as simple as that. He’ll be alright, possibly.”

With squad members also sticking to the dog story – almost as if they had been told the party line – Farrell’s participation in Saturday’s Calcutta Cup match remains a mystery. Then there was Jonny Wilkinson, the 2003 Rugby World Cup hero who was supposedly knocking over drop-goals with – you guessed it – Farrell during training.

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Eddie Jones in training with his players ahead of this weekend's clash against Scotland (Getty)

Wilkinson wasn’t the only focal point watching on the sidelines, with Warren Gatland also in attendance to cast his eye over a number of potential British and Irish Lions hopefuls. The prospect of Jones inviting Gatland as one of his many special guests to add their two-pence on his squad, as he has done with Antonio Conte, Gareth Southgate and many more, is highly unlikely, given their coaching rivalry and the Australian’s approach of ignoring anything to do with the Lions this year.

But what all this did was take the attention away from his team selection. Jones went against what the tactics board claimed last Tuesday by sticking with Nathan Jones at number eight, despite signals suggesting that Billy Vunipola would take the shirt back after making his comeback from a serious knee injury that required surgery last November.

It was a leaf out of Jose Mourinho’s book, taking the attention off the players and putting it onto himself, and it also reduced the spotlight on the fact that England’s performances have not been quite what Jones would’ve liked. England have been brilliant in spells, but could quite easily have lost their games against France and Wales and they made a meal out of seeing off Italy and their extraordinary no-ruck approach.

“Every week it gets harder, and that’s the great thing,” Jones said. “We have some great players coming back. It’s probably the strongest 23 that we have picked for a long time. It’s been an interesting week.”

It certainly has, given the team leak clearly stated that Vunipola was in at No 8, albeit for a training session only. “The Daily Telegraph picked him for us and we decided we’d change our minds! He's [Vunipola’s] always in with a chance, he's one of our best players, but he's not ready to start yet.

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Billy Vunipola won't start at No 8 against Scotland, despite reports suggesting otherwise (Getty)

“We didn’t say he was going to start. The boards weren’t left out by accident.”

But perhaps the most telling of Jones’s responses came in his assessment of England’s slow starts. Against France, Wales and Italy, England have trailed on the scoreboard. That doesn’t seem to concern Jones, but given the way Scotland powered back against Wales in the second half to score 20 unanswered points, perhaps it should.

“We've varied it up a bit, changed the way we’ve trained considerably. Intensity has improved and we're moving towards our best performance,” he insisted.

“It’s an 80-minute game and we’ve got to be ahead at the 80 minute mark and that’s what we’re aiming to be against Scotland.

“We've been ahead at the 80th minute mark and that’s the only time that counts. It’s like starting a 100 metre race - you can be ahead at the 10m mark but you’ve got to be in front at the 100m mark.

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England will have to make do without Farrell on Saturday (Getty Images)

“We want to play well. It’s a big occasion it’s the Calcutta Cup and we want to play well and we’re preparing to start well. We’re not preparing not to start well, we’re preparing to start well so there’s no different message."

But could Jones explain why England are starting slowly? “If I knew then I would fix it and I haven’t been able to fix it so I don’t know.”

If this is the England when they’re winning, then imagine the England that appears when they finally lose a game. That could well be this weekend, with an in-form Scotland side looking to win their first match at Twickenham since 1983. Do that, and there might be more fireworks off the pitch than there is on it.

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