Ahead of a potentially bleak visit of the All Blacks today, Eddie Jones returned to an old topic. While Owen Farrell is expected to play this afternoon, he has been struggling all week with a knock picked up against South Africa. Jones addressed this with a bewildering reference to Jonathan Sexton, saying that "If he was Johnny Sexton, then we'd be able to complain about him, but because he's Owen Farrell he's allowed to be hit late. He gets up and he plays on. He'll be like that this week".
It's not the first time that Jones has spoken about Sexton. In 2016, ahead of an England/Ireland clash at Twickenham, with the Irish out-half reportedly struggling with an injury remarked that "Sexton is an interesting one, they've talked about him having whiplash injury which is not a great thing to talk about. I'm sure his mother and father would be worried about that. Hopefully, the lad's all right on Saturday to play". In fairness to Jones, he admitted months later that he had overstepped the mark and would apologise "when the time is right".
Brian O'Driscoll did a series of interviews ahead of Ireland's game against Argentina today, and he addressed Jones' comments on Sexton with David Kelly of the Irish Independent. Jones, says O'Driscoll, is using Sexton to shift the emphasis from the All Blacks game, and Farrell's contentious late hit on André Esterhuizen in the final minute of last weekend's win over South Africa.
It's throwing the banger over in that direction to take attention away from what is the mainstay point. Here we are talking about it, rather than the actual point, which is who's going to win the match. It's a side plot to the bigger theme of what's more important, the game on Saturday.
If this afternoon's game goes to form, it will be very difficult for Jones to hide behind Sexton, or anyone else.