England coach Eddie Jones has claimed Ireland’s Johnny Sexton gets preferential treatment from referees.
Jones was forced to apologise to Sexton back in 2016 when he expressed his alarm at the “whiplash injury” sustained by Sexton during the 10-9 defeat by France.
“I’m sure his mother and father would be worried about that. Hopefully, the lad’s all right to play on Saturday,” Jones said at the time before adding that he is “concerned about the player’s welfare”.
Speaking ahead of England’s clash with the All Blacks this weekend, Jones spoke about Owen Farrell who escaped disciplinary action for a controversial injury-time tackle on Andre Esterhuizen last week.
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While that challenge cast a spotlight on Farrell’s physical approach, Jones believes it is England’s playmaker who is given insufficient protection by referees while borderline hits on Sexton are often condemned.
“If he was Sexton then we’d be able to complain about him, but because he’s Owen Farrell he’s allowed to be hit late. He’s tough so he gets up and he plays,” Jones said.
“He’s a tough rooster, a warrior. He takes the ball to the line, he puts his body on the line, he doesn’t play in a dinner suit.
“We manage him every week. Players like him are never 100% right. They get on the field, they play and they give you everything they’ve got and he’s like that.
“He wants to play every week. If we are playing marbles on a Wednesday, he wants to play. He’s a competitor. You can’t put blokes like him in cotton wool.”
Jones is not the first in rugby circles to accuse Sexton of getting preferential treatment from refs. Wales flanker Ross Moriarty made the same accusation at the start of October.
Moriarty was sin-binned for a late shoulder on Sexton during the Dragons’ 52-10 loss to Leinster in the Pro14, a challenge he described as “fair”.
Speaking on the BBC Wales Scrum V programme, Moriarty said: “Some may say it was harsh, some may say it was fair, but if Johnny did that against me in that game I know for a fact he would not have had anything happen to him.
“It’s nice to see little players running around making a fool of big players but when a big player gets hold of a smaller one there’s always a big scene.
“Most players will have had something happen to them if they hit Johnny Sexton off the ball because obviously he has a big pull in the game these days which is quite sad.”
Additional reporting by PA
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