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'If I was Eddie I'd be pretty pleased': Woodward's rare Jones praise

By Kim Ekin
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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Ex-England boss Clive Woodward has praised Eddie Jones following Saturday’s hard-fought Guinness Six Nations win over Wales. The 2003 World Cup-winning coach has been one of the Australian’s harshest critics in recent times but his reaction was very different after the English had managed to hold off the Welsh 23-19 following an engrossing second half at Twickenham. 

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England appeared to be cruising to victory after they quickly transformed a 9-0 interval lead into a 17-point advantage not long into the second half. However, they had to withstand a barnstorming three-try Welsh revival which resulted in the game going down to wire – exactly as Jones had predicted on Thursday.

It will be a big test on Saturday. Wales always are. They find a way to stay in the game,” said Jones after he had named his matchday 23 the other day. “We know it is coming and it will be a leadership test… These games always tend to go to the wire, it’s almost like a narrative that is built into a Wales-England contest – it is going to go down to the wire and it is going to be the last 20.”

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It certainly was, England responding to the initial Wales fightback to move their 17-12 lead onto 23-12 by the 72nd minute only to have the Welsh rally a second time and an 80th-minute converted try forced what had become a gripping contest into an edge-of-the-seat, clock-in-the-red finale before the final whistle was eventually blown following a Maro Itoje turnover.

If I was Eddie I’d be pretty pleased because Wales were brilliant, Wales were outstanding,” enthused Woodward post-game about the current England boss when appearing as a pundit on ITV. “England took the pressure well, they never panicked. They defended magnificently well. Wales were fantastic. 

“But England, quarter-final, they move onto semi-final so I think deep down he will be pleased because that was a real test in the second half. We all felt the first half wasn’t great, the second half was magnificent. Wales led it but the defence of England, I think Jones will actually be very pleased and the England players should be very happy as well. I was really glad Marcus Smith stayed on to see the whole thing through.

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I thought him and (Harry) Randall were really impressive. They did control the game. The second half just went away from England. Sometimes that can happen but the key thing from a Welsh point of view is asking how can you play that way in the first half? It’s okay when you are 17-0 down catching up, it’s okay, nothing to lose… but from an England point of view, it was so important that he [Smith] stayed on. 

“They kept their shape. (Henry) Slade played really well at inside centre, his kicking game off his left foot was fantastic. The positives far outweigh the negatives. Now they can really look forward to this Irish game in a couple of weeks’ time. That was a great Test match. Well done to Wales because it could have just petered out and it didn’t. To go to the 83rd, 84th minute was just astonishing and the crowd here loved it.”   

Fellow ITV pundit Jonny Wilkinson agreed with Woodward about how Wales had tested England: “I thought it was a really exciting second half. Isn’t it amazing the mindset a team goes into that last ten minutes like Wales did where everyone just pulls together and they are so on the same page, you have got to do this and this is how we are going to score and everyone just bought in… it was amazing. 

“There is so much to learn from that part of their game, let that part of the game coach how they can be in the rest of the game because they were immense. But fair play to England, we have seen them fall for that kind of energy in recent years and in this one, they have managed to score the points and get out of there.”

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