Wednesday 19 December 2018

Jones' critics can't have it both ways


England coach Eddie Jones. Photo: Reuters
England coach Eddie Jones. Photo: Reuters

Brian Moore

Events of the last week have revealed a fact that appears to have been a bit of a shock to some people in rugby - Eddie Jones, the England coach, is not necessarily a thoroughly nice person. Really? He is a former Australian rugby player and played hooker, the position of agents provocateurs extraordinaire. I'm shocked; shocked, I tell you.

What was also revealed is that some people can give it but not take it.

Wales fans, and remember there are many in the English media, have selective memories and sensitivities. You can use the lazy and pejorative prefix of arrogant against anything English-related without criticism.

Your coaches and media can be provocative in all manner of arenas around the world but shame on you if you have a jab at one of rugby's self-styled minorities.

So, Jones questioned whether a 24-year-old Wales fly-half, with very few caps, might struggle with the extra pressure of Twickenham and an England defence that, unlike the Scots the previous week, might tackle players behind the gain-line. In fact, Rhys Patchell found playing on the back foot difficult and was substituted in the second half.

Many chose to infer from Jones's use of the word "bottle" that he was alleging Patchell was not brave - a daft interpretation because anyone who plays international rugby has that quality. What Patchell does not yet have is the requisite experience that, say, George Ford and Owen Farrell possess, having played considerably more games.

Now, on to the allegation of incompetence at best, and perfidy at worst, against the officials on Saturday at Twickenham. I thought they erred in not awarding Gareth Anscombe a try but, after the game, it was open season on television match official Glenn Newman - respect for officials seems for some to extend only to decisions they like. The officials were biased towards England; that must be why they awarded five times more penalties to Wales.

England won ugly, in an ugly game, in ugly conditions, and should not apologise for doing so. They, perhaps, should have had the game won in the first half when they scored the game's only tries and were comfortably in control. England's habitual, and now glaring, flaw of giving away penalties kept Wales in touch on the scoreboard and in terms of territory in the first half.

When Wales came into the game in the second half, England's defence was tested fully and, as on other occasions, it bent but did not buckle. It was another incomplete England performance that, nevertheless, had many elements that were good.

If you want to develop a defining characteristic, being able to absorb pressure without imploding and find a way to win, and do so consistently, is a good one.

If you are Welsh - well, Wales didn't lose because of the officials or because of wicked pre-match slights against defenceless players. They lost because they kicked poorly; did not compete sufficiently well in the air; played on the back foot for substantial amounts of the game; made too many handling errors under pressure and, despite having three try-scoring chances, two other clean line-breaks and a penalty-count advantage of 10 to two, could not score more than six points. Blaming anyone else will not change those facts.

Finally, for fellow hacks - do not lap up Jones's copy-making comments and then get prissy when he says something you do not agree with, or allege disrepute, when you regularly disparage in similar fashion.

(© Daily Telegraph, London)

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