THE BIG tennis of the week is being played a long way from London: in Shanghai, to be precise. But those who know their double faults from their double burgers might be mildly entertained by the verbal racketeering in which Clive Woodward, the England manager, and Eddie Jones, the Wallaby coach, are engaged ahead of this weekend's one- off Test at Twickenham. Jones is currently 30-15 up on the Woodward serve, having blasted a couple of sharp returns down the line from the middle of a school rugby pitch yesterday, but there is another 36 hours of prime talking time between now and Saturday's international.
Jones reacted to Woodward's stage-managed criticism of supposedly nefarious southern hemisphere tactics, as exemplified by New Zealand's successful deployment of decoy runners against England five days ago, by lobbing him at the net. "Yes, I think we have a serious problem with obstruction, and I'm glad Clive has raised the issue," smirked the Australian, a mischievous twinkle in his eye. "Have you seen what England get up to at the line- out?"
He had not finished. Asked whether England were in the habit of describing as "cheating" any move they were incapable of performing themselves, he replied: "Mate, England are the best side in the world, so they know how to do everything." Having momentarily exhausted his reserves of sarcasm, Jones got serious. "There is an absurd aspect to all this," he complained. "If you ban decoy runners, you would never see a run-around or a switch move again - and people have been using those techniques since 1900. There is only one rule of obstruction, and it demands that everyone should make an effort to be behind the ball-carrier and be in a position to receive the ball. Quite clearly, New Zealand did that at the weekend. They had decoy runners and option runners, and they were used correctly."
Steve Larkham, the Wallaby outside-half, then suggested that because Woodward had generated a considerable fuss and had already mentioned the subject to this weekend's referee, the New Zealander Paul Honiss, Australia would probably steer clear of decoy tactics during the game. …