Eddie Jones has refused to criticise French referee Pascal Gauzere for some controversial decisions that played a major role in the downfall of England in their 40-24 Guinness Six Nations defeat to Wales in Cardiff. First-half Welsh tries from Josh Adams and Liam Williams ignited fierce debate at the Principality Stadium.

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England complained on the pitch that they hadn’t been allowed sufficient time to reset after Owen Farrell had gone to talk to his players behind the posts – as soon as Gauzere blew to restart play, Adams gathered a Dan Biggar cross-kick in space to score. Next, it was felt that Louis Rees-Zammit knocked on in the lead-up to the Williams try but TMO Alex Ruiz saw it differently and Gauzere awarded the score. 

Those tries left England 17-6 in arrears and while they did fight back to level at 24-all with 18 minutes remaining, Wales finished by far the stronger as they scored 16 unanswered points to clinch the Triple Crown and keep alive their unexpected 2021 Grand Slam bid. 

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In the aftermath, England boss Jones refused to tackle the first-half refereeing controversies, claiming he risked being fined if he publicly said what he felt about what had unfolded in Cardiff.

“They are huge decisions, aren’t they? Look, we can’t debate it, mate, as you know. We are not allowed to debate it. All I will end up with is a fine and that doesn’t help anyone. The dog won’t be able to eat its food, wife won’t be able to eat so I can’t say anything… as I said, mate, I want my dog to eat food so I’m not allowed to say anything. I’m sure you guys [the media] can make commentary how you wish to on it.

“Wales were worthy winners. We have only got ourselves to blame. We take full responsibility, we don’t blame the referee but sometimes there are circumstances that happen that are difficult to handle and we weren’t good enough to handle it.  

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“They [Wales] get points that maybe they don’t deserve and we got to fight hard to get back in the game. It makes it difficult and you have got to be good enough to be able to overcome that. They were worthy winners and we have got to be able to handle those circumstances as unusual as they might be.

“Whenever you get beaten and you get beaten by a penalty count it’s an issue but there were bigger issues in the game than that and I think you hit on them initially, so I will let you discuss them.”

Jones wasn’t overly critical of his England players, despite the penalty count going 9-14 against them with Maro Itoje accounting for five of those infringements. “There were times we gave away penalties we shouldn’t have. We know that and it’s just from the effort. Sometimes when you get in a situation like this where emotionally you struggle a little bit in the game because of the circumstance, you try a little bit too hard and that happens.    

“Our boys overcame a very tough start to get back in the game, really worked hard to get themselves to 24-all, and then again we let ourselves down a little bit and probably the last play is indicative of the game. 

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“We got in their 22 eight times, they got in our 22 six times. We are in there, we get intercepted and they score down the other end. The score indicates a substantial win for Wales but I don’t think that indicates the actual game.

“Look, we played some good rugby today. As I said, we got in their 22 eight times and they had six times which gives you an indication of the quality of your play. You have got to be able to convert that which we weren’t able to do. We’re pleased with the effort of the team. No one can say we aren’t a hard-working, honest group and we will learn from this. It’s a great lesson for us, a great lesson. 

“Am I concerned? I’m concerned we lost the game, most definitely. But in terms of the World Cup (in 2023), that is a long way away and there is a lot to be done before we have a serious issue that we have to be concerned.”

Switching to Wales, England coach Jones wasn’t hesitant in giving them kudos, particularly replacement out-half Callum Sheedy who came on and was immaculate when kicking from the tee to settle the outcome in favour of the home side.  

“He [Sheedy] did well. He kicked three quality penalty goals when the pressure was on. Again, we got on the wrong side of the referee and we have got to do better than that.

“Look, that is what the scoreboard says [40-24], congratulations to them. They have been through a tough period. We understand that and they have come out of it. Well done to Wayne (Pivac) and his team. We have only got great admiration for what they have done.”

 

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