England coach Eddie Jones has hit out at those criticising his team’s style of play after their extra-time win over France in the Nations Cup final.
Owen Farrell kicked a penalty in the second half of sudden death to give England a 22-19 win over a youthful French side at Twickenham on Sunday evening.
In a dramatic final an inexperienced France team, who were without 25 of their regulars due to a pre-tournament agreement with the Top 14 clubs, put in a magnificent defensive performance to go toe to toe with last year’s World Cup runners-up.
Les Bleus picked a starting XV numbering only 68 caps against the most experienced England team of all time with a total of 813 caps. Almost half of France’s total was supplied by veteran fullback Brice Dulin, who has made 30 Test appearances.
At one stage in the second half of regular time, a frustrated crowd of 2,000 fans started booing in reaction to a passage of prolonged kicking between the two teams. England had been criticised throughout the tournament for a lack of enterprise in their attacking gameplan.
‘Can I just say I think you are being totally disrespectful to the players the way you criticise the rugby,’ Jones told journalists at the final’s post-match media conference.
‘Rugby needs to be positive at the moment. It’s a tough time for the sport, it’s a tough time to play rugby and we are all trying to play as good a [game of] rugby as we can.
‘Consider the players are coming off at least a 10-month season without having any pre-season to prepare for the international game.
‘It has been tough for the players and you are being disrespectful to the players. You should be trying to paint a much more positive picture of the sport. It is a sport we love and it is a difficult game to play.’
Jones was then asked about winning and whether providing entertainment was also important.
‘That is not the point and I find the question a bit childish,’ Jones responded. ‘Obviously, you have to win. If we don’t win, we don’t coach.
‘In terms of the rugby – do you think we go out there and don’t want to play good rugby? Are you seriously asking me that question? Sometimes you can’t play good rugby, so I apologise. I apologise.
‘Had we run the ball from everywhere and got turned over 30 times and been beaten 30-15 you’d have said why didn’t we kick the ball more.
‘These are the best players in the world and you’re telling me they’re playing that game because they don’t want to play good rugby? Be respectful to the players.
‘We’re trying to win games of rugby and we’ve got to find a way to do that, to try to get the ball to the opposition goalline as we can. That’s the aim of the game. Always has been, always will be.
‘The easiest way at times is to kick the ball, other times it is to run the ball. We’re always looking to get the right balance.
‘Would we like to run the ball more? Possibly yes, but not if we’re not going to win games of rugby.’
Photo: Getty Images