London — Australia coach Michael Cheika described his rivalry with England counterpart Eddie Jones as "irrelevant" as he sought to deflect attention from their previous verbal skirmishes ahead of Saturday’s Test.
It will be the fifth clash between the two Australian coaches since Jones took over the England job two years ago. Cheika has come off second best in all four previous meetings, three of them on home soil.
The two are former teammates at Sydney club Randwick but traded verbal blasts in 2016 when Australia were beaten 37-21 at Twickenham.
Asked by reporters about their reunion this weekend, Cheika said: "Mate, it’s irrelevant. It’s Australia versus England. That’s the only thing that counts. It’s not about fun with Eddie or anyone. We’ll have fun in our own camp and then prepare ourselves the best we can each day."
One concern for Australia in the buildup to the Twickenham Test will be the number of penalties that the Wallabies conceded in Saturday’s 29-21 win over Wales in Cardiff.
"You are not going to be able to say it’s not a problem of our doing because the penalty count was 15-3 against us," Cheika said after making a winning start to their three-match British tour.
"I think just the consistency is what we are looking for. We’ve got to solve it; it’s a problem we haven’t had all year. We’ve not been in double digits almost all year, so to go 15 in our first game in Europe surprised me… and [to] lose a player too."
Captain Michael Hooper was sent to the sin-bin for repeated infringements as the Wallabies held off a strong home finish.
"It’s becoming a bit of a thing for us against this Welsh team, a couple of times where our team has hung in with a lot of character," said Hooper afterwards. "It was a satisfying win. The willingness of the team to get off the ground and work for each other was hugely pleasing."
England beat Argentina 21-8 on Saturday in their first international of the November series in a clash Jones termed a "grindathon".
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