Jones the dragon-slayer
The return heavyweight bout between England and Wales lived up to its billing as the most thumping rugby match of the Six Nations. It was also the perfect result for both sides.
England’s win brings the Grand Slam in sight, but Wales get to feel smug that they could have won if they had played on for a couple more minutes against an England team clutching at air with the bench emptied and the two leaders, Dylan Hartley and Chris Robshaw, withdrawn.
There’s nothing the Welsh like more in the absence of a win than claiming the moral high ground. In a masterstroke of man-management, the England coach Eddie Jones — who will presumably soon be walking to work on water — singled out Robshaw as his player of the season.
That’s the very same man very publicly iced as skipper after the World Cup. I’m not sure he was the very best player — Vunipola, Ben Youngs and James Haskell have all been pretty good — but how astute of Jones to single out the man with most reason to feel aggrieved. The captain who is quite happy to return to the ranks and still give it everything is a rare beast.
Both Eddie Jones and the Welsh coach Warren Gatland are tough former hookers who don’t like to give an inch. Their mindset is built on ruthless defence and, in Warrenball’s case, sending very big men at speed in the straightest line. It brought two grand slams for Wales.
Now Jones’s England have taken the upper hand, with a superb back row denying the Welsh any ball. The post-2003 experiment of using home-country coaches — Johnson, Robinson and Lancaster — just didn’t work out. But the Antipodean will to win has done the trick, first for Wales and now for England. As Jones says, you don’t want to beat teams with just a strong defence.
We can’t wait to see where he will take England