Sunday 19 August 2018

Eddie Jones admits England ‘have been left behind’ by international rivals after losing grip on Six Nations

England have suffered back-to-back defeats in the Six Nations, following the 25-13 loss against Scotland a fortnight ago, for the first time since 2009

England's head coach Eddie Jones
England's head coach Eddie Jones

Jack de Menezes

Eddie Jones has admitted that his England side have been left behind after losing their grip on the Six Nations, with Saturday’s 22-16 defeat by France handing Ireland the title with a round to spare.

England have suffered back-to-back defeats in the Six Nations, following the 25-13 loss against Scotland a fortnight ago, for the first time since 2009 and now face the possibility of suffering three straight losses – something they have not experienced in 12 years – if they are unable to end their run of poor form and smash Ireland’s Grand Slam hopes in next Saturday’s Twickenham encounter.

Having lost to a France side that has only beaten Italy so far this tournament, Jones admitted that his team are in a “tough period” right now and have been left behind by the likes of New Zealand and Ireland when it comes to managing the breakdown – an area that massively cost England for the second game running as they conceded an alarming 16 penalties and 12 turnovers.

“We did not learn quick enough,” Jones accepted after the defeat at the Stade de France. “Why I am not 100 per cent sure. The game is changing a little bit, and we are probably slow to adapt to it. As you could see at the end of the game when we had a bit of power on the field and got the ball going forward, our attack looked better.

“We are not adapting to the referee’s interpretation at the ruck as well as we should. We just have to keep learning in those areas. They are painful lessons at the moment.

“It is just a tough period for us. We are always going to go through this at some stage. Any team that is developing, as we are, you go through these tough periods where the game does not love you. If the game loves us today then we might win the game, but we don’t get bounce of the ball, we don’t get that 50/50 decision and we are in the losers’ chair and it is not a very happy place.

“I don’t think we should get too carried away or too melodramatic about where we are.”

Two Owen Farrell penalties and a 53m effort from Elliot Daly kept England ahead heading towards the break, but their ill-discipline in the breakdown allowed France scrum-half Maxime Machenaud to level the scores on the stroke of half-time and Jones’ side were not helped by the loss of No 8 Nathan Hughes to another left knee injury in the 24th minute when a cleared-out player fell awkwardly on him at a ruck.

France made a flying start to the second half, with referee Jaco Peyper electing to award the home side a penalty try and send Anthony Watson to the sin-bin for a high tackle on opposite wing Benjamin Fall as he dived for the line, though it took a television match official review to come to the decision. England could easily have conceded immediately after had it not been for some desperate defending with 14 men, and although Machenaud kicked another penalty to extend to lead to 10 points, the outgoing champions – whose title hopes faded rapidly after Ireland’s 28-8 win over Scotland meant that they needed a bonus-point win over France to keep the championship alive – hit back with a well-taken try from Jonny May that came through nice hands from Farrell and Elliot Daly.

But with England believing they had France on the ropes, the Stade de France erupted when an immediate penalty was awarded to Les Bleus that allowed replacement fly-half Lionel Beauxis to extend the lead to six, and despite late chances to claw the result back, England slumped to defeat again.

Their issues at the breakdown are clearly of great concern to Jones given that they are costing his side games that they simply didn’t look like losing during the first two years of his reign, and he added: “The breakdown is different and more contestable and there are different interpretations of the ruck being refereed and the contest has increased enormously, and we are failing to deal with that at the moment. We have to find ways to cope with it, simple as that. It is going to take us some time. It won’t come quickly.”

They have just seven days to find a makeshift answer in order to avoid suffering a second consecutive defeat against Ireland, following last year’s Grand Slam-shattering loss in Dublin, and should they fail to find a way to win on St Patrick’s Day, Jones will have suffered three defeats in a Six Nations campaign that none of his three predecessors in Brian Ashton, Martin Johnson or Stuart Lancaster experienced.

But stand-in captain Owen Farrell, who led the side in the absence of the injured Dylan Hartley, believes that there is enough in the final 10 minutes to believe that they are still capable of defeating the newly-crowned Six Nations champions next Saturday.

“There are always lessons from any game especially a loss but I thought the effort from the boys was outstanding obviously a lot of things to work on,” Farrell said. “The attitude and reliance I thought was good to come back at the end and not feel sorry for ourselves at any point of the game. We fought hard and that was one pleasing thing to come out of it.”

Online Editors

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