Eddie Jones has revealed that captain Owen Farrell was under strict instructions not to engage with the referee against France in an ongoing effort by England to improve their discipline.
England silenced the critics this past weekend when they came up trumps against France in ‘Le Crunch’. The men in white produced a classy performance at Twickenham to come away with an important victory.
Owen Farrell was a particular standout in the game, but coach Eddie Jones has now revealed that he had issued his captain strict instructions not to engage with referee Andrew Brace. This after Farrell came under pressure for his communication with referee Pascal Gauzere in the England vs Wales game.
Farrell, who has a reputation for remonstrating with referees, was told to adopt the silent approach. In the lead-up to the match, England brought in referees Wayne Barnes and Matthew Carley to assist Farrell in how he communicated with the officials. The strategy has seemingly paid dividends as England rarely found themselves on the wrong side of the referee against France.
Eddie Jones was proud of the way his captain has responded to the criticism levelled at him.
‘He hasn’t whinged, he hasn’t complained, he took it on the chin and got on with it and fixed his game. He’s got back to his belligerent aggressive self.
‘And we basically made the decision on the referee that we were going to let him do whatever he wanted. No queries, no questions.’
Maro Itoje, who gave away five penalties on his own against Wales, was also a big improver in the discipline department. Jones was also effusive in the praise he had for his second rower.
‘Sometimes you can see it in a player when they have their head around it and their eyes in it. To play that sort of game, on the back of what he has had to suffer, is a real great testament to his character and his desire to be a good teammate.
‘That is what stood out for me – his desire to be a good teammate.’
The game against France was, however, not totally without refereeing controversy. Andrew Brace reversed a penalty in the dying moments of the game for a technical offence at the breakdown, which gave France one last attacking opportunity to try to snatch the game.
Eddie Jones was less than thrilled by the unconventional decision from the referee. The England coach didn’t mince his words when asked his opinion on the incident.
‘I know we want to get the ratings up in rugby but that’s ridiculous.’
England will head to Dublin for their final-round match against Ireland on Saturday. Both sides have found some late form in the competition and will be looking to use their recent victories as a springboard.