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Jones urges England to be more ‘ruthless’ after nervy win over Wales

Jones urges England to be more ‘ruthless’ after nervy win over Wales

RUGBY: Eddie Jones said England needed to be more “ruthless” after accepting they had the “rub of the green” in a 23-19 win over Six Nations champions Wales at Twickenham yesterday (Feb 27).


Sunday 27 February 2022, 03:00PM

Eddie Jones. Photo: AFP

Eddie Jones. Photo: AFP

England seemingly had the game won at 23-12 entering the last minute only for Wales replacement Kieran Hardy to go over for a converted try.

There was still time for the match to restart, giving Wales a chance to grab a try that would have given them a remarkable win after they were 17-0 down early in the second half.

“It’s a very good win for us, plenty of resilience, plenty of toughness,” England coach Jones told reporters following a match where Wales outscored his side three tries to one.

The veteran Australian boss had only confirmed his side shortly before kick-off, with Elliot Daly replacing Manu Tuilagi after the powerhouse centre suffered a hamstring injury a matter of hours following Thursday’s announcement of the original match-day 23.

“We put ourselves in a good wining position in the first 50 minutes, had a period there 10, 15, 20 minutes where we were a bit untidy in defence and let them back in the game but for a young team there were some good signs out there,” said Jones.

“For a young team, we need to find a way to be more ruthless once we get in the opposition’s 22.”

England fly-half Marcus Smith kicked the hosts into a 12-0 half-time lead with four penalties.

And soon after the break, England were 17-0 up after No 8 Alex Dombrandt, a team-mate of Smith at Premiership champions Harlequins, had plunged over for his first Test try following Wales hooker Ryan Elias’ over-thrown line-out.

But Wales hit back with two tries in seven minutes through wing Josh Adams and centre Nick Tompkins before, after two more Smith penalties, Hardy struck to set up a tense finish in front of a capacity crowd of over 81,000.

Tough Youngs’

The match ended when veteran scrum-half Ben Youngs, brought on as a replacement to win an England record 115th cap, kicked the ball dead.

“It’s a great tribute to his work-ethic, to his resilience, to his toughness,” said Jones of Youngs’ achievement in surpassing Jason Leonard as England’s most-capped men’s international.

Victory meant England, who next play Ireland at Twickenham in a fortnight, now have two wins from three games this Championship and are second in the table behind leaders France.

But Wales’ second defeat following an opening day 29-7 thrashing by Ireland all but put paid to their hopes of a successful title defence.

Next up for Wales are France, who will arrive in Cardiff after a dominant 36-17 win away to Scotland that kept them on course for a Grand Slam, with Welsh captain Dan Biggar warning: “If you give good teams head starts you’re going to be up against it.”

Wales coach Wayne Pivac said Scottish referee Mike Adamson had erred in awarding Dombrandt’s try, with the New Zealander arguing England’s Maro Itoje had barged Adam Beard illegally at the line-out.

“He was definitely pushed out the line-out,” said Pivac. “Unfortunately no-one picked it up and the try was allowed to stand.”

Pivac added: “It’s very disappointing to be two down from three games.

“We were disappointed with our penalties at the breakdown. We were always chasing the game and couldn’t get a foothold in it til late.”

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Jones, however, countered Pivac’s complaint about Dombrandt’s try by saying: “It’s the rub of the green.

“We don’t complain when it goes against us, as it did in Cardiff last time (when Wales beat England 40-24). I didn’t see anything wrong.”

France skipper Dupont warns against Grand Slam complacency

Meanhwile, France captain Antoine Dupont urged his side to guard against complacency after they moved within two matches of a first Six Nations title and Grand Slam since 2010 by sweeping aside bogey team Scotland with a thumping 36-17 victory at Murrayfield yesterday.

“We’re very satisfied with this victory because it’s very difficult to win at Murrayfield, but we still have two matches to play and we have to remain cautious,” said Dupont, whose side ran in six tries to overwhelm a Scotland team who thwarted their title ambitions in 2020 and 2021.

Having already overcome Italy and Ireland at home, France head to Wales on March 11, with the chance of clinching a title and Grand Slam against England in Paris eight days later.

“We haven’t won the tournament for twelve years and we have to aim for that,” added Dupont, who set up the opening try for giant lock Paul Willemse with a blistering break.

“But we have to make sure we are not complacent. We have to be rigorous.”

The French were rigorous and ruthless in their attacking from turnover ball as tries from Willemse, wingers Yoram Moefana and Damian Penaud, who bagged two, and centres Gael Fickou and Jonathan Danty earned their first Six Nations win in Edinburgh since 2014.

“The French are probably up there with the All Blacks in terms of getting tries from turnover ball,” said Scotland coach Gregor Townsend, whose team beat England in their opening game but now find themselves out of the title reckoning, having lost to Wales in Cardiff two week ago.

“Their front five add to that as well. It’s not just the backs. You’ve got a real XV who can attack.”

France are now on a six-match winning streak which includes their stunning 40-25 victory against New Zealand in Paris in November.

“In international rugby, what is important is to win matches,” said France head coach Fabien Galthie.

“We have to win and each victory is one more brick that we put on the wall that we’re trying to build.

“However, losses allow us to learn a lot and what we experienced here two years ago helped us a lot today.”

Asked about his team’s ruthless counter-attacking, the former France captain and scrum-half said: “Rugby is a transition game. That is what we have worked on consistently - and also how to use our qualities, the intuition we have to allow the players to shift quickly from defence to attack.

“You can see in our training sessions we work on this transition game. You could see that today. There was quality in our decision making and great carrying of the ball.”

Scotland, who were hit by the loss of flanker Hamish Watson to COVID-19 on the eve of the match, head to Rome to face Italy on March 12 before finishing their campaign against Ireland in Dublin.

“It’s a horrible feeling in the changing room,” said captain Stuart Hogg, whose side closed to with two points after a 28th minute try by flanker Rory Darge but tailed off long before winger Duhan van der Merwe’s 80th minute score.

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