Eddie Jones: Ireland deserving of run-ending victory
England coach: ‘They performed above themselves, we performed below ourselves’
Eddie Jones expects 15 of his England squad to make this summer’s Lion tour - with owen Farrell among the front runners. Photograph: Shaun Botterill/Getty
On the hour mark all tributaries converged into the great river.
Familiar territory. Ireland clinging on against perceived immortals, defying logic, their battered outhalf wincing through every motion.
England chipping away at their old neighbour’s slender lead, the world record curving into view.
Everyone needed a moment.
Sexton toed ball up, over the touchline.
“Come on now boys,” roared Donnacha Ryan, summoning the spirit of Ciarán Fitzgerald. “They had their patch! They had their time!”
Pandemonium was quick to return.
“We were starting to find a few breaks but unfortunately gave away that penalty in defence and Sexton kicked a magnificent goal to put them 13-6,” said Eddie Jones. “Then it became difficult for us.”
The irony of Robbie Henshaw meeting Te’o in midfield was lost on no one. The brilliant Rugby League man, who ably filled Leinster’s midfield void until Henshaw was enticed from Galway, came off worse and was helped ashore.
Moments later Devin Toner and the ferocious Tadhg Furlong launched Peter O’Mahony in front of Itoje after Farrell spurned three points in search of Ireland’s jugular.
“You have these days,” said Jones. “Ireland played superbly. We weren’t good enough. They performed above themselves, we performed below ourselves. They used the conditions superbly, we didn’t.
“We are not perfect,” he grinned.
Records turned to dust. The carcharodon carcharias laid slain on the beach.
Gone until November resuscitation at Twickenham against the All Blacks, when those other failed nineteenth chasers come fishing for English loot.
“We can be proud of ourselves. We are Six Nations champions back-to-back, we are joint world record holders. We weren’t good enough today.
“Accept it,” Jones told pressing English media.
England, like New Zealand in Chicago, crashed against the rock of a strange nation with a reputation for felling unbeatables, then losing to Scotland and Wales.
It’s perhaps the oldest Irish lament.
“We have nothing to play for but stopping them doing something,” said Johnny Sexton pre-match. “We don’t want to be in this situation but we are so we have to enjoy it then worry about how we become the team that England and the All Blacks are after the championship.”
At least they are seeking a way to alleviate history’s weight.
As do England. But they met Peter O’Mahony here. The man who would probably be Ireland captain by now crept into the backrow when Jamie Heaslip’s hamstring split in the warm-up.
“To bring a bloke like O’Mahony off the bench you are not doing too badly,” said Jones. “He’s a bloody good player.
“Those conditions suited O’Mahony more than Heaslip, who is a more on top of the ground type player. Sometimes you have those bits of luck in your warm-up.”
He grinned again. Luck Eddie? Any suspicions it was a tactic? “I don’t really care, mate. We got to play against the 15 on the field. If they want to do that that’s fair enough. Maybe a leprechaun tackled him in the warm-up, I don’t know.”
Joe Schmidt, when this was suggested, responded: “Couldn’t be a more flawed theory. Bit of a slight on us, really. It’s not something we do. It was disruptive more than anything to us.”
Jones stuck to his primary message: “Ah, they were just better than us.”
England looked greatness in the eye and blinked.
“Not the end of the world, mate. We are 14 months into a four year plan. We’ll be alright.”
England will keep rising, Ireland are away to figure out how to do the same, but from lower standing.
In the meantime everyone joins forces for an artificial construct; entry into marketing heaven, an amalgamation of enemies to defeat copy book villains in black. The Kiwis only crime is to obsess about rugby more deeply than any one else.
“I’d expect 15 of our guys to go,” Jones continued. “I’d be disappointed if we don’t get that many in.
“I think [THE LIONS]have a massive shout, mate. I think, as Ireland showed, New Zealand are there for the taking. We can’t wait to play them either.”
In the meantime, Eddie’s up into the “Andes mountains” for a test series with Los Pumas.
No great whites for a while, plain sailing, with Joe and those who remain - surely not O’Mahony, not now - off to the Red Bull Arena in New Jersey on June 10th before a two test series in Japan.
An important dry run before the flood returns.