Spare us the Six Nations 'mind games' nonsense, Eddie Jones & co.
I like Eddie Jones. Since he joined the Six Nations party as head coach of England in 2016 he has brought a bit of humour and controversy to the normally staid proceedings. Whether you love or hate the Marmite coach from Down Under, he makes for bloody good copy.
However, one thing I can do without is the so-called 'mind games' nonsense that has now becoming as annoying as having to listen to The Fratellis blare out at the RDS every time Leinster register a score.
2016, and Jones surfed into the oldest rugby union tournament on the crest of a wave following his exploits with Japan in the World Cup which saw the kingmakers in England make him one of the highest paid coaches in world rugby.
Ahead of his first game in charge, against Scotland, Jones attempted to make the 2015 wooden spoon winners sound like world beaters.
"The advantage Scotland have is massive. They have to carry that pressure of favouritism, which is probably something they are not used to."
What's worse is that we have to hear the other coaches hit back with ho hum, predictable responses every time.
"I am not quite sure how Eddie works," retorted Scots gaffer Vern Cotter. "It’s just a psychological lever that he is trying to use to take the pressure off himself. I wouldn’t think England would need that. I thought they would be comfortable with the favourites tag."
Lo and behold, Jones went on to lead England to their first Grand Slam in thirteen years.
Ireland's 2017 Six Nations hopes were well and truly slayed by the Welsh dragon last year before they faced England in Dublin and Jones did his best to wind up the opposition before kick-off.
The Aussie predicted "kick and clap" rugby from the hosts.
"Ireland, psychologically, are in a very strong position," he claimed. "They’re beaten, they’re out of the tournament and they love spoiling parties. And the party they’d love to spoil the most is the England party. They’ve got an enormous amount of psychological advantage."
Irish head coach Joe Schmidt couldn't help but bite.
"I think last year he might have said that we kicked 60 per cent of the ball that we had. And when it was mentioned to him that England kicked the ball more than we did it probably wasn't convenient at the time. The outcome will be based around a variety of tactics, certainly not one."
Jones' comments backfired as Ireland claimed a 13-9 victory but the chariot remained intact and England wheeled home with another championship win.
The back-to-back champions head into their 2018 defence, even-money favourites with the bookies but the two-time championship winning coach didn't let that stop him talking more nonsense at this week's tournament launch in London.
"We've got to be the hungriest team in the tournament to win and that's what we're aiming to be. That's why we don't mind these other teams being spoken of as the darlings of European rugby - it gives us something to chase.
"We can't tell whether we're darlings or not. All I can remember is last year we won every game apart from one and our rugby was rubbish!"
Jones claims that Ireland tournament favourites due to their centrally contracted system, fit players and with all of the Irish provinces doing so well in Europe.
"It's different (being favourites), isn't it?," he said. "You go into a major tournament - and this is one of the major tournaments in the world - if you go in as favourites it comes with massive expectations.
"Fans, supporters, media, sponsors…. It's how you react to that expectation, but they've got a great coach and they've got good leadership in the team so I'm sure they'll be able to handle it. But there's always that question there…"
And Jones dodged any chat of the final round clash between the champs and Ireland in London being a tournament decider.
"I'm sure all Ireland are worried about is the tricky game they've got first up against France. That's a tricky game. I wouldn't like to be playing France first with Jacques Brunel in charge of that team. You don't know what they're going to produce. I'm sure Joe's got his side concentrating on that."
Ireland's favourite New Zealander couldn't resist.
"Bookies don't make money by being wrong," claimed Schmidt. "As much as we might have been the team that managed to knock them over last year, the year before that they beat us at Twickenham. They're back at home when they play us. You've got a number of other teams that will be very competitive."
We all know that these incredibly boring pre-tournament comments are a diversion tactic so that the men in question can waste time and avoid the real issues. So here's hoping that, as ever, the action on the pitch gives us the sporting excitement we crave this Spring and that Mr Jones and co. curb their ridiculous attempts to psych out their counterparts before the players enter the arena.