Friday 20 October 2017

Ireland played 'above themselves' and England didn't, says Jones

Jones: 'Not good enough'. Photo: PA Wire
Jones: 'Not good enough'. Photo: PA Wire
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

He came expecting greatness, but what Eddie Jones witnessed from his players down on the Aviva Stadium turf was ordinary indeed.

It is easy to forget that when they set out on their 18-match unbeaten run in October 2015, this England side were a laughing stock and Stuart Lancaster was headed for the hills.

Under the Australian, they became a relentless winning machine and put Six Nations titles back-to-back. Players who had failed at the World Cup looked to have turned their form around, Maro Itoje emerged as a totem to build the team around and over the course of two seasons their reputation grew and grew.

On Saturday, they couldn't take the 19th step; denied by Ireland just as New Zealand had been in November.

They collected the trophy, their mouths all smiles, but their eyes telling a different tale and then their coach arrived to explain it all away.

Ireland, he said, had raised their game for the occasion.

"We're all human beings and we're not perfect and that's why world records finish at 18 games or 17 games," he said.

"It's so hard to keep going because you get a team on the day that performs above themselves and we were below ourselves.

"They used the conditions superbly and we probably didn't and you get a result like you did today, 13-9.

"We are Six Nations champions, back-to-back, which is a fantastic achievement. We're joint world record holders, but we weren't good enough today. And we have to accept we weren't good enough today. Next time we get together as the full squad will be in November and we'll look to right what happened today.

"No one plays their strongest side, every team has players missing.

"They played superbly. If you can bring a bloke like (Peter) O'Mahony off the bench, you aren't doing too badly. He's a bloody good player and those conditions suited him perfectly.

"Those conditions probably suited him better than Heaslip, who is probably more a top of the ground type player.

"I thought our effort today was good - I thought Ireland played superbly. Ireland played really well - I thought we had them after half-time, they started to kick indiscriminately and we got some back-to-back positions.

"In the first-half we couldn't get our hands on the ball and when we did we gave it back to them. The players handled it really well, they were just too good for us today, it happens sometimes."

Man of the match O'Mahony's introduction was the subject of much post-match discussion, when he came into the side just before kick-off after Jamie Heaslip had reportedly gone down with a hamstring in the warm-up.

Jones suggested it was a St Patrick's weekend miracle.

"I don't really care mate," he said of the idea that the move might have been pre-planned. "We've got to play against the 15 that's out on the field. If they want to do that then that's fair enough. Maybe a leprechaun tackled him in the warm-up... I dunno."

Whatever happened, it worked out for Ireland and England were left licking their wounds.

"You can't win everything in rugby, you can't win forever," Billy Vunipola said. "No side in the world has done that, not even all the All Blacks. You have days like this.

"All the messages on the field were great, the tactics were great, everyone was saying the right thing.

"But we'd go a couple of good positives and then indiscipline, penalty and you're back in your own half. That's the problem when you play against a team like Ireland."

Irish Independent

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