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Jones begins Six Nations mind games

Eddie Jones already seems to be playing mind games in the style of Sir Alex Ferguson. Not yet about opponents – no doubt that will come – but with the England Six Nations squad.

Twickenham will host two massive RBS Six Nations clashes in 2016. England v Ireland (Saturday 27th February) is the Australians first home game as head coach and promises to be an epic encounter. Jones’s secind home Six Nations tie is England v Wales (Saturday 12th March) the fiercest rivalry in European rugby will surely provide more memories.

And according to the legendary Martin Johnson he is going to need to. He believes Jones must heal the mental scars and wounds left over from England’s dreadful World Cup experience.

Many of the players, it is suggested, are still damaged by the experience. The poor dears. Jones clearly has a pretty good grasp of both human nature and the vagaries of professional sportsmen.

He noted: “If you hear certain things enough about a player there must be some truth to it. If there is enough smoke, there is a fire there. So if someone says ‘he is an idiot’, then another bloke says ‘he’s an idiot’ and three other blokes say ‘he’s an idiot’, then he’s probably an idiot!”

Which doesn’t explain how ill-disciplined bad boy Dylan Hartley got selected but might be somewhat unjustly behind why Danny Cipriani, whose attitude has been questioned in the past, didn’t.

Jones wants expansive Six Nations style

There was encouraging hints about how Jones’ England won’t be playing.

“There’s a lot of sequence of rugby played here. By that I mean that things are planned all the time – you don’t win Test rugby like that. Some of the dumbest players are the smartest players. They just need to be bright in rugby.”

In other words getting away from the grid iron play book.

“If we get the players playing instinctively, then we’ll release their potential. The best decision-making 10 in England is who? Charlie Hodgson. But he’s 35 — I don’t think I can wheel him out!”

And how do you get players working instinctively? It seems, having met with Pep Guardiola, he has been impressed with the Spaniard’s favourite drill based on intense passing combinations in confined spaces, requiring split-second decision-making and crystal-clear vision.

“In rugby, once you get away from the set-piece it’s like football. Players have got to know where to move in relation to where the ball is and what the defence does.”

Almost like teaching players not to think because you supposedly don’t get thinking time at the top.

Not quite sure I altogether agree with that.

Be it football or rugby the greatest players create time and space for themselves and that is because their sporting brain is working faster than lesser mortals.

I am sure the Scots, first up for England, will take a dim view of all this and might be more intent on banging a few heads together!

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