Rugby

Eddie Jones hits back at England's critics

AFP-JIJI

England coach Eddie Jones has hit out at “negativity” over his team’s performance after a 32-12 loss against South Africa in the Rugby World Cup final.

The Australian stood by his players after Saturday’s stinging loss in Yokohama, where England looked like a shadow of the team that had stunned two-time defending champion New Zealand 19-7 a week earlier.

“We were beaten by a better team, but I’m so proud of the players,” he insisted after finishing as the losing coach in a World Cup final for the second time.

“I’m disappointed there’s such a negative attitude about our performance,” bristled Jones, noting that he had taken a team that crashed out in the pool stage four years ago to the brink of a first world title in 16 years.

“We weren’t good enough today-— sorry, I apologize! We’ve just got beaten in the final and there’s all this negativity — I find it incredible.”

Jones, who was Australia’s coach when Jonny Wilkinson’s extra-time drop goal brought England rugby’s holy grail in 2003, struggled to explain why his team had been destroyed in the scrum and at the breakdown, as Handre Pollard kicked six penalties before tries from Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe completed the rout.

“If I knew, I’d be able to fix it,” he snapped after England’s third loss in a World Cup final following heartbreaks in 1991 and 2007, when the team was beaten 15-6 by South Africa, where Jones had a role as a consultant.

“They won a significant area of the game, which was the scrum, and that trickled down to the rest of the game,” added Jones, who masterminded Japan’s jaw-dropping upset of South Africa at the 2015 World Cup.

“If you can’t get on the front foot you look like a team that lacks ideas, lacks energy and looks tired.”

Turning his famous “stink eye” on the British press pack, Jones denied England had choked.

“You write that, you’re the clever guy,” he fumed. “We put everything in we could — we just weren’t good enough today. We’re the second-best team in the world.”

He dismissed opposite number Rassie Erasmus’s theory that the English pack had come into the decider fatigued, while South Africa’s split of six forwards — dubbed the “bomb squad” — and only two backs on the bench allowed the Boks to replace their hulking pack for the last 30 minutes of games.

“Winning coaches have got all the answers — I’ve got no answers, mate,” growled Jones, who lost prop Kyle Sinckler — so explosive in England’s 40-16 quarterfinal rout of Australia and against the All Blacks — to a head injury after just three minutes.

“It’s bad luck when you lose a tighthead in the first minute, but it’s not an excuse. You’re better off putting that game to the side and getting on with it.”

Jones refused to be drawn on whether he would seek to extend his current deal with England beyond 2021.

“That’s not my decision,” he barked, admitting England would be “kicking stones for four years” after such a devastating end to the tournament.

“Remember three weeks ago, I was going to get the sack — there was going to be blood on the walls at Twickenham. Sorry guys, but you’ve got me for another two years.”

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