'England can still get better'
REACTION: England may have avenged two painful defeats by Ireland and dashed their hopes of successive Six Nations Grand Slams, but the victors’ coach Eddie Jones says they will not be resting on their laurels.
Having seen the Irish deny his side their hopes of the Grand Slam in the final match two years ago and then clinch their Grand Slam last year at Twickenham, the 59-year-old Australian said he was delighted for the players who outmuscled the Irish.
England was fully deserving of a victory that ended Ireland’s record run of 12 successive home Test wins.
The only major worry for Jones was over star lock Maro Itoje, who went off in the second half although the head coach suggested it was a ligament injury, not a broken leg as referee Jerome Garcès feared when he left the pitch.
Jones, though, did not revel in the importance of the victory – with his usual quips kept to a minimum – as he said England was still very much a work in progress.
“Defensively we can get better, they [Ireland] took their chance when they had it,” he said of the first of Ireland’s two tries.
“We are starting to coach the attack and building it up as we progress through the tournament.”
Jones, who turned around a difficult year in 2018 by winning three of the four autumn tests, said he was not taking any pointers from the game with regard to this year’s World Cup – he was simply looking towards next weekend’s match at home to France.
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However, there was much to please the former Australia and Japan coach from a physically superior performance – England scored a try within two minutes through Elliot Daly – that left Ireland well beaten at the end.
“[With] the intensity in which we played when you play against Ireland at home you know it is going to be a physical battle, others are more tactical,” said Jones.
“We went in there and ripped in and maybe shaded them there.”
Jones said he was delighted by the returns to the side of the often injured Manu Tuilagi and the Vunipola brothers, Mako and Billy, but insisted the win was for the team as a whole.
“What I’m pleased for is our players, and our players deserve all the credit,” said Jones.
“You know, they’ve worked hard, they’ve come together in the space of ten days, and played a good game of rugby today and made their country proud.”
Jones said the crucial battle his players had won was in winning the ball and seizing their chances in opening up the Irish.
“We wanted to create space and we managed to do that, and then the execution of our kicking and chasing was very good.”
Jones reserved one moment of typical wit when he was asked whether England had targeted Robbie Henshaw at fullback – he had been selected there despite only once playing in that position in Test rugby.
“We would have played the same way if Lance Armstrong had been the fullback,” he said, poker-faced.