Victorious Eddie Jones vows to improve ‘awful’ England after they edge to France win
England coach promises to do a better job after his ‘awful’ grand slam champions launch their defence with a scrappy win at Twickenham
England coach Eddie Jones promised to do a better job after his “awful” Grand Slam champions launched the defence of their Six Nations title with a scrappy 19-16 win over France at Twickenham.
France had much the better of the play but England, yet to lose under Australian boss Jones, were able to grind out an ‘ugly’ win as they secured a national record 15th consecutive Test victory.
The visitors were 16-12 up on the hour when replacement prop Rabah Slimani went over for a try France had long threatened.
But in the end it was England’s bench strength that proved decisive, with replacement back Ben Te’o’s try nine minutes from time giving England a lead extended by Owen Farrell’s conversion.
“It is always good to win when you do not play well, and we did not play well,” Jones said. “I take full responsibility for the performance.”
The former Australia and Japan coach added: “I thought we were awful, but I thought we were always going to win the game and that is what I like about these boys. They have got a never-say-die attitude.”
Jones sent on several replacements after Slimani’s try, with back-row James Haskell, returning after a broken toe, and Auckland-born Te’o, whose maiden Test try came just moments after he took the field, making the biggest impact.
“The bench definitely made a difference,” Jones said. “Haskell, for a guy that has played 35 minutes and 35 seconds this year was brilliant, and Ben Te’o did really well for us, too.”
As for France, Jones said: “I think they are selecting right, they’ve got a big physical team and they are starting to understand how to make modern French flair.”
Next up for England is a February 11 clash in Cardiff against Wales, who begin their Six Nations away to Italy in Rome on Sunday.
“I did not prepare the team well enough,” said Jones. “I have got a lot of homework to do over the weekend.”
He added: “England versus Wales in Wales, can you believe the Test record? Sixty percent of the Tests have been won by Wales, and 40 percent have been won by England.
“I’ve been to the Principality Stadium and it’s just another ground.
“So I need to work out why the English don’t play well in Wales.”
Victory maintained England’s bid for back-to-back Grand Slams did and saw them top the previous Red Rose record of 14 straight wins they had shared with Clive Woodward’s celebrated 2003 side, who went on to win that year’s World Cup by beating an Australia team coached by Jones in the final.
But cricket buff Jones insisted: “Records don’t mean anything. You score a hundred in a Test and next day get out for a duck.
“We want to be Six Nations champions and that starts now by beating Wales next week and that is the only thing that matters.
“If we win the Six Nations I will stand up here and do handstands. I will be that happy.”
For Guy Noves, the France coach, there was renewed frustration at once again seeing his side fail to claim a major scalp after narrow November home defeats by Australia (25-23) and world champions New Zealand (24-19).
“We had opportunities, you’re right, we need to work to have a better result,” said Noves.
“But, undoubtedly, we’re on the right path,” he added ahead of France’s next match at home to Scotland who upset Ireland 27-22 at Murrayfield on Saturday.
Noves said a France side captained by hooker Guilhem Guirado had been “polluted by quite a few individuals mistakes” as he lamented their inability to close out the match.
“It lacks rigour, it lacks maturity,” explained Noves. “We’ve got a very young team.
“We’re ahead by four points 10 minutes before the end, we shouldn’t have lost this game.”