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'A bad call by the referee, unfair conditions in the game': How England have tailored training to ensure they cope with French adversity

By Liam Heagney

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Eddie Jones has revealed the lengths he has gone to this week at training to try and ensure his struggling England team can better cope when they are on the receiving end of adversity in a match. The 2020 Guinness Six Nations champions were humbled last month by sobering defeats to Scotland and Wales.   


Especially galling was the undisciplined fashion in which they fell away in the closing stages of the loss to Wales, the penalty count punishingly mounting after they had managed to fight back from having two first-half tries incorrectly awarded against them. 

With a total of 41 penalties conceded in last month’s three matches, Jones invited RFU Test referees Matthew Carley and Wayne Barnes into the England camp this week to help them clean up their act when they face the French on Saturday with Andrew Brace, the referee from the loss to Scotland, on the whistle.  

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It has been no-holds-barred, with the instructions going so far as to purposely stress the England players with adverse game-like situations in training to equip them with the tools needed to best react and not lose their focus as happened against Wales.  

“When the good teams go through this like we are [handling adversity], it’s never a lack of effort. It’s handling the disappointment of the game, that’s the most important thing,” explained Jones, who has made three changes to his XV with Max Malins, Luke Cowan-Dickie and Charlie Ewels in for benched trio Elliot Daly, Jamie George and Jonny Hill. “We have tried to create training sessions this week to replicate what might be termed a disappointment in the game to make sure we don’t lose our focus. 

“What happens when you are not at your best and you get those disappointing moments in a game, all other ideas start flooding into your head instead of just getting back to what is really important. So particularly this week we have tried to create sessions that elicited that response and to expose the players so they can practice that little bit more.


“Game scenarios, a bad call by the referee, unfair conditions in the game, all of those sort of things. We have concentrated on a number of areas, put the players under pressure and we have probably had what we think is a really good training week. I can’t tell you if it is a really good training week until after the game but we think we have had a really good training week. 

“Players enjoy the training. I just look at them this morning [Thursday], they are walking around with a smile on their face looking forward to the challenge. There is going to be moments in the game where we are tested like that and we need to make sure we keep our focus and we feel that we have practised that really well this week.”

Explaining the value in having both Carley and Barnes involved in the England set-up in recent days, Jones added: “Matthew Carley has done a great job. He has refereed three of our more contestable sessions and we also got Wayne Barnes to come in just to talk about how referees now prepare for a game which was very enlightening. 

“They will help the process but at the end of the day it comes down to the individual responsibility of players to make the right decision at the right time and we have encouraged that practice to be good at training and we would like to see that flow into the game. We have got a referee on Saturday whose job is to enforce the laws of the game and we are hopeful he will enforce the laws of the game as the law books states.”


This was a calculated reference by Jones as Brace was also the referee when England eventually edged France in extra-time in last December’s Autumn Nations Cup decider, another game where they felt deflated by some of the decisions that were made.

“France have a high penalty rate,” continued Jones. “They have a very high penalty rate so we will just have to wait and see. They put a lot of pressure on the tackle, as most good defensive sides do. They have got a good lineout-contesting side and they are two areas where they will put pressure on us.”

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'A bad call by the referee, unfair conditions in the game': How England have tailored training to ensure they cope with French adversity