Eddie Jones has described visitors Ireland as a “risk averse” team that more often not than opts to concede possession ahead of his first match at Twickenham as England head coach.
“They kick 70 per cent of their ball away,” said the Australian. “If they want to do that, good luck to them. It has worked for them. It is not the way I think you should play rugby, but it has been successful for them, so good luck.”
Jones’s message was clear: Joe Schmidt’s team play boring, defensive, safety-first rugby while he prefers a more swashbuckling southern-hemisphere style of play. But do his claims stack up?
In Schmidt’s two Six Nations as Ireland boss, his side have averaged 32.8 and 35.2 kicks per match - the highest amount recorded by any team in both the 2014 and 2015 tournaments respectively, according to data from Accenture, the competition’s official technology partner.
England kicked 32.2 times per game in both tournaments, France 30 and 28.2 times per game and Wales 30.8 times per game in both years.
In nine of Ireland’s 10 Six Nations games under Schmidt they have kicked more times than their opposition.
Yet as the Six Nations’ best team in the last two years, Ireland have tended to have the ball more than most and so also out-ran and out-passed their opposition in seven out of 10 games, including both meetings with England.
Furthermore, while Ireland undoubtedly benefit from fly-half Jonny Sexton’s boot, Jones’s 70 per cent estimates are some way off: Ireland kicked just eight per cent of the time in last year’s tournament and 10 per cent of the time a year earlier.
And on all available evidence so far, that has not changed significantly since Jones has taken charge of the Red Rose.
Ireland have kicked significantly less frequently so far in this year’s tournament, averaging just 22.5 kicks per game.
England, on the other hand, have averaged 31 kicks per game in Jones’s first two games, against Scotland and Italy – traditionally two of the weaker sides against whom Schmidt’s Ireland have been more bold with their running and passing.