November 28, 2022

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England coach Eddie Jones says rugby’s use of red and yellow cards is “out of control” and that referees will be the most important player when the top teams meet at next year’s World Cup.

Speaking after his England side recorded a 25-17 victory over the Wallabies at Lang Park on Saturday, Jones was critical of the number of cards being issued in the game, including for contentious deliberate knock-ons.

“I think the game’s gone out of control,” he said.

“We saw in the New Zealand-Ireland Test, at one stage the commentators couldn’t keep count how many players were on the field. Seriously. They had three backs packing the scrum.

“We’ve gone the full hog, where everything is a yellow card, everything’s a red card and there has to be some kind of common sense coming back into the game.

On Saturday night, Wallaby Izaia Perese and England’s Marcus Smith were both sent to the sin-bin for deliberate knock-ons when attempting an intercept.

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Both Jones and his Wallabies counterpart Dave Rennie said there needed to be some common sense applied to the rule.

“I would say both of those, they went for intercepts,” Jones said.

“Deliberate knock downs should be penalised but that’s not a deliberate knock down.”

Rennie said even the referees don’t like the rule, but are forced to apply it that way.

“There’s no doubt Izzy is trying to catch it,” Rennie said. 

“It’s certainly different from an intentional slap down [but] I have no issue with that decision.”

The rulings had the packed Lang Park crowd roaring in indignation from the stands, and Jones agreed.

Next year, at the World Cup in France, Jones suggested that those, and other decisions, would be key in splitting the top teams.

“I reckon the top five or six at the World Cup, the referee is going to be the most influential player,” Jones said.

“The team that develops the best cohesion and being adaptable to red or yellow cards and being adaptable to the way referees are refereeing the game will be crucial.”

Bullish Jones relishes cauldron atmosphere

A male England rugby union player pumps his fists during Test against Australia.
England has won its last two matches at Lang Park, either side of a 10-match Wallabies winning streak at the venue.(AAP: Jono Searle)

Eddie Jones loves coaching at Lang Park — he’s now won all seven of his Test matches here as coach of the Wallabies and now England.

England’s victories in their two most recent Tests at the venue bookend a run of 10 successive victories for the Wallabies in Brisbane.

“I love coaching at Suncorp,” Jones said. 

“That is a good experience. 

“I was coming out from the coaches box and they’ve all got their scarves on — when did Australians start wearing scarves? It’s a new age isn’t it — before the game they’re saying ‘you’re gunna get belted tonight’ and they’re a little bit quiet [now] so that’s good.”

The Lang Park cauldron certainly lived up to its reputation on Saturday night in what was a terrific atmosphere that translated to a ferocious start from England.

Jones hinted that the forwards, particularly Ellis Genge, took umbrage with Taniela Tupou’s comments that Australia wanted to dominate England at scrum time, saying Genge “wanted to make a mark on the game.”.

An English male Test rugby player makes a break against the Wallabies.
Ellis Genge was in red-hot form for the English in Brisbane.(Getty Images: Cameron Spencer)

England’s forwards set their stall out early, driving a maul over after just five minutes to give England a lead they’d never relinquish.

England had 57 per cent possession and 52 per cent territory, while the Wallabies conceded 16 penalties that kept handing Owen Farrell the chance to score points and extend the lead.

“You’ve gotta give them credit,” Rennie said.

“They put themselves in the right part of the field and kicked six penalties, so we’ve gotta look at our discipline.

“When we can play territory and play down the right end of the field we can put them under heat, but a lot the game got played at our end.”

For his part, Jones said England got “the rub of the green” with the referee early, which allowed them to keep the pressure on the Wallabies.

“We played the way we wanted to play,” he said. 

Smith-Farrell axis comes good

Owen Farrell and Marcus Smith hug
The Owen Farrell-Marcus Smith axis in midfield worked for England in Brisbane.(Getty Images: Cameron Spencer)

Jones has come under pressure over the past couple of years for England’s patchy form and his variable selection policies — no more so than persisting with the Smith-Farrell axis in midfield.

On Saturday though, that combination worked and, although Jones insisted that he did not mind the constant speculation about his role, saying it was “fantastic” and there is an “infatuation with sacking coaches”, he would have been thrilled to see that combination work so well.

“I love my mother ringing me up in the morning, saying, ‘are you getting sacked, when are they going to sack you, are you going to come back to Australia, come back and live in Randwick’,” Jones said.

“I know all our fans are unhappy, they’re all out there saying that was rubbish, we don’t like the selection, they’re all saying that so make sure you write it.

“I don’t mind it because I made the choice to take the job and it’s always going to happen, because there is an infatuation with sacking coaches now. It’s neither here nor there.”

As England marched up the field early on, capitalising on quick ball, it was Smith taking the ball at first receiver to keep the Wallabies defence on its toes.

His stuttering runs and hot-stepping made the defenders question their positioning and allowed England to make breaks through their big ball carriers up front.

Once the try was scored and a lead established, England were able to combine the pair’s vastly different approaches to the game to maximum effect.

“We’re really pleased with that combination [between Smith and Farrell],” Jones said.

He praised Farrell as “the best competitor” he’s ever coached, while saying Smith is only just out of nappies but is progressing nicely.

Injury woes mount for both teams

Cadeyrn Neville sits on a cart and grimaces
The Wallabies’ shocking injury toll has continued to mount.(Getty Images: Mark Kolbe)

Both teams are feeling the effects of a brutal series so far, with Rennie acknowledging that his stocks at lock are “a bit thin” after another attritional Test in which Cadeyrn Neville suffered a nasty knee injury.

Jordan Petaia, Izaia Perese and Scott Sio all spent time in the medical room during the match for the Wallabies, while Maro Itoje is unlikely to play next week for England after being concussed in a collision with Hunter Paisami.

Sam Underhill is also a doubt for next week after he too suffered a head knock.

“I don’t wanna be here talking about injuries,” Rennie said. 

“It’s part of the game. We’ve had a few, but it wasn’t the reason we lost tonight.”

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