In his press conference the day after the unexpected loss to Ireland Eddie Jones has defended Dylan Hartley’s contribution to the team.
“Dylan does a super job for us and there is no reason why he won’t continue to do a super job. It is like when Mike Brearley captained the England cricket team. Everyone questioned him, then he won the Ashes (in 1981) and no one questioned him. Dylan is an outstanding captain.”
Jones went on to dismiss the loss as something that won’t affect the team’s preparation for what he sees as the big prize, the 2019 World Cup.
“One game doesn’t affect our perception of people or of the team. One game doesn’t change our plan. It is too early (for older players to be discarded). Did you think we would never get defeated? There is no scar there at all. It is great for us, not great to lose, but it is a great learning experience.
“These sort of things harden you because you learn from them and don’t want them to happen again.
“If we play them another 10 times, how many times do you reckon we’d win? I reckon we’d win at least six of them.”
That last statement is sure to anger Irish fans who will feel their side is good enough to beat England more than 40% of the time, especially if all the games were played in Ireland.
“The great thing is that we have won back-to-back Six Nations but no one has ever won three-in-a-row,” said Jones. “So we are still in a position where we could create a record in the Six Nations. It defines something no one has ever done. Next year is going to be even tougher than this was, and it was tough.
Jones’ statement that next year will be even tougher is arguably true with 3 away matches. However next year sees Wales and Ireland coming to Twickenham giving England a slight advantage over the 2 teams who were their biggest threat this year.
Jones also praised Ireland for how they approached the game, although it was a slightly backhanded compliment, stating that everything had gone their way and the conditions suited them.
“You can always be caught on the day by a side when everything goes right for them. That is what happened with Ireland. They played beautifully, great game plan, executed well. The conditions were almost perfect (for them), the next day the sun came out. Everything was in place and they were too good. We had 43pc possession and 45 per cent quality line-out ball. That’s the end of the game.
And he finished off by taking the blame for the defeat himself.
“I don’t think I gave the team the right environment to prepare well, the absolute right mindset. I’ll have to improve that for the future. But back-to-back titles is a fine achievement. We have improved the depth of our squad and, if by the end of 2017 we have improved that depth even more, then I will look back on 2017 as a successful year.”