LONDON – England coach Eddie Jones apologized to a reporter who he suggested could not tell half-Asians apart in a barbed answer to a question on Thursday.
Jones, the son of a Japanese-American mother and an Australian father, was speaking during a news conference at England’s training camp.
He was initially asked about how he looked after players’ mental health following the suicide of British television presenter Caroline Flack.
Jones gave a considered answer, that included paying his respects to Flack’s family.
But when the same reporter asked a follow-up question about how meditation had helped him, following comments the coach had made about engaging in mindfulness last year.
A smiling Jones said: “I don’t think I’ve ever spoken about meditation.
“You must be thinking about someone else — maybe another half-Asian person,” he continued.
“Maybe we all look the same.”
The reporter sought a private apology and Jones said sorry, shaking hands.
“Eddie made an off-the-cuff comment during the press conference which was not intended to cause any offense,” said a Rugby Football Union spokesman. “He has subsequently spoken to the journalist privately explaining this and apologized 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 by saying he enjoyed it.
“I think you’ve got a responsibility to create the theatre of the game,” Jones said. “Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.”
His threat, before England’s Six Nations opener against France, of “absolute brutality,” with its overtones of violence, was not well received and did England few favors as it suffered a 24-17 loss in Paris.
Jones then labeled Scotland a “niggly” team ahead of England’s 13-6 Calcutta Cup win at Murrayfield.
Earlier this week, former Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll said Jones “says some things that overstep the mark sometimes,” adding that a few of the coach’s comments were “scaremongering.”
World Cup finalist England needs to beat Ireland at Twickenham on Sunday to stay in title contention.
Victory for Ireland would see the World Cup quarterfinalist to a Triple Crown and maintain its bid for a Grand Slam.