A 21-13 loss at the Principality Stadium has placed the Grand Slam beyond the reach of Eddie Jones’ team but they remain favourites to seize Ireland’s crown, with Italy and Scotland still due at Twickenham.
Gatland amplified England’s misery by declaring “when it’s really mattered, I’ve questioned whether they can win these big games” as a World Cup year took a fascinating twist.
Jones delivered a “no comment” when pushed for his response having fallen to his Kiwi rival for the first time in four meetings, but George refused to recognise the accusation.
“I think that’s unfair. Warren can say what he likes. He’s in a position of power after winning that game so fair play to them,” Saracens hooker George said.
“What I know having been in the camp is that we are a team that wants to build and we are a team that wants to improve.
“We will learn from this. We have won big games before and we are going to win big games again.”
"It was a brutal Test match… we are gutted."
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) February 24, 2019
George bristled when it was suggested that contributing to England’s downfall was the fact the occasion was of greater importance to Wales, who set a new national record of 12 successive Test wins.
“It definitely does not mean more to them. We have got the most passionate team I have ever been a part of. I wouldn’t say it means more to them,” George said.
“Let’s take it back to Ireland when people were talking about how we are wearing our hearts on our sleeves. Hopefully we will always show that.”
England splintered at the seams when under pressure in the second half and were tactically outsmarted to undo much of the good work evident in resounding wins against Ireland and France.
We have got the most passionate team I have ever been a part of.
Among the pivotal moments were the successive penalties conceded by the otherwise outstanding Kyle Sinckler at a time when Wales were forcing themselves back into contention.
Gatland’s claim that Sinckler was an “emotional time bomb” was proved partly correct and the combustible prop was quickly replaced by Jones, who demanded a sympathetic assessment of the 25-year-old.
“Trying to single him out and trying to make a villain of him will do him a disservice,” Jones said.
“He’s a very good young player, a young prop. He’s got 20 caps and is playing in one of the most difficult positions on the field and he’ll come through as a great Test player for England.
“Every player you’ve got to look after, but I’d ask you not to go after him because you’re desperate to go after him. Give the boy a chance.
“He’s a good young player and he’s doing his best, and like everyone we all make mistakes, but he’ll be all right.”
England’s problems are mounting with the magnificent Courtney Lawes suffering a significant calf injury that will rule him out of the rest of the campaign while Jonny May departed in the second with possible concussion.
Mako Vunipola has already been ruled out of the remainder of the tournament by an ankle issue while Dylan Hartley has been lost to a knee problem. The hope now is that Maro Itoje recovers from knee ligament damage as soon as possible.
“We’ve lost three of our best forwards and we’ve got to be able to cope with that,” Jones said.
“Maro’s coming along well. He might have a chance against Italy.”
By Duncan Bech, Press Association Sport England Rugby Correspondent
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