Cardiff – England coach Eddie Jones tried to make his frustration clear while refusing to criticize referee Pascal Gauzere following the reigning Six Nations champions’ 40-24 loss to host Wales on Saturday.
Defeat in what Jones had labeled a “make-or-break” third-round fixture all but ended England’s hopes of a successful title defense after a shock loss at home to Scotland.
Wales clinched the Triple Crown and stayed on course for a Grand Slam in ultimately decisive fashion.
But their highest test score against England featured two first-half tries controversially awarded by French referee Gauzere, the first of which former Wales captain Sam Warburton said would have left him “livid.”
That opening try came from a quickly taken penalty, with Dan Biggar cross-kicking to wing Josh Adams while skipper Owen Farrell, at Gauzere’s request, was still talking to England about their discipline.
The build-up to Liam Williams’ try appeared to feature a knock-on by Louis Rees-Zammit, judging by the wing’s own expression.
But that score stood after Gauzere consulted the television match official.
Jones, while acknowledging Wales as “worthy winners,” said Gauzere’s early try calls were “huge decisions.”
“We can’t debate it, we are not allowed to debate it. All I will end up with is a fine and that won’t help anyone,” Jones told reporters.
The veteran Australian coach added: “The dog won’t be able to eat its food, wife won’t be able to eat, so I can’t say anything.”
If rugby union’s complex rule book meant there was a debate over whether Rees-Zammit had in fact knocked on, England received sympathy from an unexpected quarter regarding Wales’ first try.
“You cannot respond within half a second of (Gauzere) saying ‘time back on’ when you’re in the middle of a conversation with your team,” said Warburton, now a BBC television pundit.
“I’d be livid if I was Owen Farrell and England.”
For all their early setbacks, England recovered to level the match at 24-24 heading into the final quarter.
But indiscipline, long a problem for England, then saw them concede 16 unanswered points, with Wales replacement fly-half Callum Sheedy kicking three penalties before Cory Hill’s try sealed a bonus-point win.
“There were times we gave away penalties we shouldn’t have, it was just from the effort and sometimes you get in situations where emotionally you struggle because of the circumstances and you try too hard,” said Jones, whose team conceded 14 penalties.
“Wales were worthy winners. We take full responsibility and don’t blame the referee.
“But sometimes there are circumstances that happen that are difficult to handle and weren’t good enough to handle them.”
Defeat still saw England play some of their best rugby this tournament as tries from Anthony Watson and Ben Youngs helped them get back on level terms.
“We got in their 22 eight times compared to their six times, which gives an indication of the quality of our play,” said Jones.
“No one can say we aren’t a hard-working and honest group. We’ll learn from this. It’s a great lesson for us.”
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