Assuming that results go as expected this weekend, England and Ireland seem to be on course for a Six Nations championship decider next Saturday afternoon at Twickenham and, despite the clash still being more than a week away, the verbal sparring between the two countries has already begun - with Irish legend Brian O'Driscoll taking a swipe at England head coach Eddie Jones.
England chief Jones, 58, has built a reputation for controversial pre-match comments, ostensibly designed to get under the skin of opposing camps. Indeed, Jones heavily criticised Welsh duo Alun Wyn Jones and Rhys Patchell in interviews prior to England's 15-10 win over Wales last month.
It is a potential repeat of Jones' words regarding Irish fly-half Johnny Sexton's health two years ago that most concerns O'Driscoll though.
Prior to his side's 21-10 win over Ireland in 2016, Jones suggested that Sexton should consider retirement after suffering a spate of concussions, adding that he felt that the fly-half's parents would share his worry for their son's health.
Many believed that Jones, rather than being genuinely expressing concern, was instead attempting to single out Sexton in order to unsettle the Irish camp - a view shared by O'Driscoll.
“You’re going to identify that you’re going to go after a pivotal player in the team," said O'Driscoll, per the Daily Express.
“I think Eddie Jones stepped over the mark a couple of years ago when he talked about being concerned for Johnny Sexton’s parents with his apparent concussion issues.
"I think he overstepped the mark."
Although his comments were perceived to be in poor taste by some, England were victorious in the match which followed Jones' remarks and O'Driscoll noted that the Australian coach had been successful in shifting some of the focus away from his players in the pre-match build-up.
"It’s to take the pressure off his players because everyone is talking about Eddie Jones," he reasoned. “I’ve no issue with it provided it doesn’t get personal and it’s not angle-based in a nasty capacity.”
O'Driscoll certainly knows what it takes to achieve success in the Six Nations. He is the tournament's all-time leading try scorer with 26 tries.
The Irishman was also voted Player of the Tournament of three separate occasions - and the 39-year-old suggested his old team use Scotland's tactics in their recent win over England as their blueprint when they face off next week.
"You’ve to be brave. You’ve got to look at where they (Scotland) tried to attack them,” O’Driscoll added. “England have been excellent... but I also think that’s their vulnerability too if you’re willing to throw the pass," he speculated.
Before the build-up for an England vs Ireland title decider can truly begin, though, both sides must win their respective matches this weekend.
Ireland host Scotland on Saturday afternoon, before England travel to France on Sunday. If both can emerge victorious, then the war of words between the two camps is sure to intensify.News Now - Sport News