Tuesday 22 May 2018

'I find it quite sad, to be honest' - Eddie Jones slams England fans for George Ford treatment

England's George Ford prepares to kick at goal
Action Images via Reuters / Henry Browne
England's George Ford prepares to kick at goal Action Images via Reuters / Henry Browne

Gavin Mairs

Eddie Jones has launched a staunch defence of England fly-half George Ford, criticising the reaction of spectators as the Bath player, who missed six out of seven kicks at goal, was booed at Twickenham.

Jones insisted that Ford had been a key element in the build-up to four of his side’s five tries in their final game before the squad head for Australia tomorrow.

And the England head coach rounded on those who criticised Ford’s kicking display as the 23-year-old missed two penalties and four conversion attempts, prompting sections of the Twickenham crowd to cheer when he was replaced in the 75th minute.

“That is not very nice, is it? We have got to be careful of that in rugby,” said Jones. “I have seen ­Tiger Woods miss putts, I have seen Michael Jordan miss jump shots, everyone has a bad day and he had a bad day kicking but I thought the rest of his play was brilliant.

“He knew when to run and when to kick, and he had a few dabs himself. We scored five tries, one was a bit ‘how’s your mother’, and the other four were scored by backs. If you score four tries against Wales your stand-off is doing something right.

“We’ve just beaten Wales five tries to one and we’re talking about a guy who can’t kick a few goals. It’s quite amazing and just shows the negative reaction in English rugby. I find it quite sad, to be honest.

“Wales are literally full strength, we’re missing 11 players and we’re talking about a young kid who misses some kicks. I think we need to get some perspective on where we’re going in the game here.”

Dylan Hartley, the England captain, also backed Ford, who faces strong competition from Owen Farrell for the fly-half role in the first Test against Australia.

“Obviously he didn’t have the greatest day off the tee, but we all have those days,” said Hartley. “I have bad throwing days but it doesn’t make you a bad player.”

Jones insisted Ford, who started at fly-half during England’s Grand Slam campaign, would be unaffected by the missed kicks.

“He will work it out for himself, good players work it out themselves. He has got Jonny [Wilkinson] to call on if he needs some advice. He is a tough boy. I am not worried about him. He will be fine. He is a fantastic rugby player. Everyone has experiences which aren’t pleasant but he will be fine.”

Jones also highlighted the reaction of Wales fly-half Dan Biggar to the decision to award a try by Jack Clifford – after the television match official had ruled Dan Cole’s knock down had not gone forward – as a worrying trend in the game.

“When you look at the replay it was definitely a try,” Jones added. “The ball went backwards. I didn’t like how Biggar went on after that. We have got to be really careful in the game that we don’t allow that to creep in.”

Wales coach Warren Gatland, however, insisted that Biggar had not acted inappropriately.

“Dan was adamant there was a knock on and he’s passionate,” Gatland said. “There wasn’t any abuse from Dan towards the referee; that would be unacceptable.

“There’s nothing wrong with a player demonstrating what he feels is a pretty important decision and showing a bit of passion. I don’t have any issue with it.”

Jones will announce today whether Luther Burrell, who scored England’s first try on his return to the side after missing out on the World Cup, or Ollie Devoto will replace the injured Manu Tuilagi in the 32-man squad.

“I’ve done all I can,” said Burrell. “It’s in their hands now. Either way, South Africa or Australia, I’ll be privileged to go on either tour.”


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