LONDON • England coach Eddie Jones has apologised to a reporter, who he suggested could not tell half-Asians apart in a barbed answer to a question on Thursday.
The 60-year-old, the son of an American-Japanese mother and an Australian father, was speaking during a press conference at his team's training camp ahead of tomorrow's Six Nations Test with Ireland.
He was initially asked about how he looked after players' mental health following the suicide of British TV presenter Caroline Flack, who hung herself last Saturday. The same reporter then asked a follow-up question about how meditation had helped him, following comments he had made about engaging in mindfulness last year.
Jones replied: "I don't think I've ever spoken about meditation. You must be thinking about someone else, maybe another half-Asian person. Maybe we all look the same."
A Rugby Football Union spokesman said: "Eddie made an off-the-cuff comment, which was not intended to cause any offence. He has subsequently spoken to the journalist privately explaining this and apologised, which was accepted."
Former Australia and Japan coach Jones, now in his fourth year in charge of England, has a reputation for provocative remarks that, he says, are mainly designed to unsettle opponents.
He defended his pre-match approach in a recent BBC interview, claiming that he enjoyed getting under people's skin. "You've got a responsibility to create the theatre of the game," he added.
World Cup finalists England must win at Twickenham to stay in title contention, while a victory for the visitors would see them to a Triple Crown and maintain their bid for a Grand Slam.
Ireland bowed out in the World Cup quarter-finals, but new coach Andy Farrell has "given us a bit of an identity", said Jacob Stockdale.
They will also travel with the stirring words of U2 front man Bono ringing in their ears. The rock star and keen rugby fan gave the team a pep talk ahead of their trip on what it means to be Irish, which Farrell called "unbelievable".