The pleasantries before the passion.

Yesterday’s launch of the 2019 Guinness Six Nations was every bit the friendly, respectful, positive PR affair we’ve become accustomed to pre-tournament. New sponsors laid on the niceties, coaches gave little away, captains cracked jokes and posed with silverware.

Connor O’Shea spoke of his Italian side needing to bring intensity to every game. Joe Schmidt said Irish expectations aligned up with reality. Jacques Brunel said France needed to right near misses. Gregor Townsend hoped his squad would draw confidence from Scottish regional displays, and Warren Gatland lauded the depth of his Wales squad.

Talk was positive, answers rehearsed, difficult questions straight batted. At one point Irish captain Rory Best, whose side go in undeniable favourites for a second straight title, said: “If we don’t prepare or play well (against England on February 2nd) we might not win the game.”

Absolutely true of course, but hardly ground breaking insight.

English skipper Owen Farrell added Jonny Sexton was ‘obviously very good’ given he was World Player of the Year and revealed part of his job ‘was to tackle within the laws’. One answer more ironic than other perhaps Owen.

Alun-Wyn Jones said it would be special to open the tournament up in Paris under the lights on a Friday night and then delivered what is now most customary of all customary Six Nations lines.

Don’t say it Alun, don’t say…… “and I guess you never know which French side is going to turn up.”

Women captains Sarah Hunter (England), Gaelle Hermet (France), Ciara Griffin (Ireland), Manuela Furlan (Italy), Lisa Thomson (Scotland) and Carys Phillips (Wales) all addressed varying progress and expectations. With professional players mixing with amateur ones, we’ll again have some one-sided contests. But the potential for development, as well as public exposure and media coverage of the tournament, is currently at an all-time high.

And yet then through all the pleasantries comes Eddie Jones. Irritating, irrational, amusing, and a witty breath fresh of air from the mundane nature of formal press conferences now so integral to professional sport.

“Eddie who do you think are the favourites for the Six Nations?” came question number one.

“Don’t know mate I’m not a book maker.”

“Yes but you must have an opinion?”

“Well I’m happy to run a book makers.”

The tone was set. And he had our attention.

Could England cope with the brutality of the Irish first up?

“People talk about brutality. I’m yet to see a Six Nations game that doesn’t have brutality.

“To beat Ireland you have to win the contests in the air and on the ground. And it doesn’t matter if their players are big small, ugly or cute.”

Ironically, both teams will prepare just seven miles from each other at their respective training camps in Portugal.

“I’ll buy binoculars at the airport then,” said Jones, smirking in the manner of a man enjoying his own evasiveness.

Swiftly, the manner of his answers reached social media. Not that he cared, he doesn’t use it.

This theme continued. Jones could potentially have been pressured into explaining how his side were going to right the wrongs of under-performing in the 2018 tournament. Instead, the master of childish diversion managed to amuse and frustrate in a 20 minute period where he essentially told us absolutely nothing.

As Schmidt had already referred to, Jones has perfected the art of projecting confusion. Verbal hand grenades and ignorance are now so inevitable you’re left guessing whether he’s playing games - or guessing if he is tricking you into thinking he’s playing games.

“He casually mentioned he’d come and spy on us in Portugal and I don’t know if he means it or not,” admitted the South African.

He speaks for us all.

But in truth, all involved at what was admittedly an impeccably organised launch will be pleased the formalities are over. Roll on the most highly anticipated Championship for years. Roll on the intense scrutiny. Roll on the tournament that despite concerns over ticket prices, player welfare, and prolonged TMO delays, still captivates rugby fans like no other.

It often captivates non-rugby fans too, but let’s not talk daffodils and fan snobbery now. There’s more than enough of that to come.

And roll on Eddie Jones mixing a bit of idiocy with analysis. It won’t tell us much, but in an era of the meticulously media trained, juvenile and off-script answers can be strangely refreshing.