Fri 12 Mar 2021 | 05:50

England put pressure on ref ahead of France clash

England put pressure on ref ahead of France clash
Fri 12 Mar 2021 | 05:50
England put pressure on ref ahead of France clash
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IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Struggling England have turned up the heat on referee Andrew Brace ahead of this Saturday’s Six Nations round four showdown with France at Twickenham.

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The fixture takes place 14 weeks after the IRFU-affiliated Welshman took charge of the sudden death  Nations Cup final between the same two sides.

Brace shipped criticism for his performance in that decider which England eventually won 22-19 in extra-time. The penalty count was 9-16 against the French, Fabien Galthie’s team conceding nine ruck penalties and three at the scrum compared to England giving up six ruck infringements and one more at the scrum.

It resulted in the official being on the receiving end of some nasty personal abuse on social media and he was even pulled from doing a Champions Cup match in France the following weekend.

Since then, Brace has taken charge of England in their opening Six Nations game where their defeat to Scotland ignited the run of penalties that resulted in Eddie Jones inviting RFU referees Matthew Carley and Wayne Barnes to training this week to iron our some issues.

England have conceded a total of 41 penalties in their three matches across the tournament, a figure that includes the 15 Brace penalised them for in round one versus the Scots. The penalty count that February Saturday was 15-6 against England, who conceded seven ruck penalties and two more at the scrum compared to Scotland leaking two infringements in each of those sectors of play.

England boss Eddie Jones said at Thursday’s team announcement: “We have got a referee on Saturday whose job is to enforce the laws of the game and we are hopeful he will enforce the laws of the game as the law books states.”

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This theme was warmed to by forwards coach Matt Proudfoot on Friday when asked his thoughts about having Brace on the whistle for a third time in five England matches. “The laws stay the same. The referee is there to referee the law. Like any game, things happen. Andrew is a very good referee. We understand his style, we have had our conversation with him and the messages he is looking for.

“Those are the important messages, what he sees and how he interprets it, so the team has taken on that message but the big thing we have spoken about from a referee perspective is what can we control, where are those moments that when we are trying to apply pressure we need to be smarter about, so that has been our big focal point this week about the refereeing.

“We review constantly every performance, areas we have spoken about, and every referee has his plan and we need to understand it. That was the conversation we have had with him and I’m sure like a player they improve, they make mistakes and they get better. We are expecting Andrew to referee the law and what his interpretation of it is. I don’t think anything other than that is applicable.”

Asked what specifically England need to do to get on the right side of Saturday’s decisions, Proudfoot added: “Being smarter, knowing which are the stupid ones and correcting that. Obviously, if a team is applying pressure and you get caught in the wrong position then that is going to happen in a game but the ones that we release the pressure are the ones we need to be smarter about.

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“We have spent a lot of the week understanding where we are transgressing and had live sessions with referees. We have really addressed that. Players have honed their skills about where they can impart pressure and where is the line.”

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