Eddie Jones has a habit of being at his most honest straight after matches. After England’s victory over Italy he was not playing ball but a better example was when, after beating Wales, he made his true feelings known about the Principality Stadium roof controversy, saying rugby union is “a winter sport”.
Jones is also always at pains to protect his players so, when he talked on Saturday evening of how keen England were to face New Zealand later this year, it felt like an obvious way to deflect from being outfought and out-thought by Ireland – even though there was no doubt some truth in it.
The mooted fixture has not gone down particularly well in New Zealand. It is hardly Jones’s fault but the New Zealand Herald splashed with ‘Grudge Match’ last week as the RFU’s intentions became increasingly clear. Perhaps a defeat for England takes the sting out of the showdown but then again both sides reached 18 consecutive victories before being beaten by Ireland.
Writing in the New Zealand Herald, Chris Rattue says it is Ireland, rather than “stilted” and “overrated” England, who can claim to be the second best side in the world.
“As almost always happens to England under pressure, they lose the ability to pass the ball smartly,” writes Rattue. “England were wrecking balls in chains. A lot of them looked like overstuffed plastic shopping bags in desperate need of a trolley.”
“England – with one victory in the last 15 Tests against New Zealand – are light years away from living up to the hype,” he continued.
“England aren’t even the second best team in the world, despite what the primitive ranking system claims. Ireland, under the astute coaching of Joe Schmidt, deserve that respect.”
Of the potential fixture, which the RFU is pursuing despite the All Blacks being pencilled in to face the Barbarians on 4 November he says: “There was no genuine point to it, and even less so now. It was a fanciful sugar rush which has been nailed by the bitter truth about Jones and his overrated team.”
In Ireland meanwhile victory over England was ranked just below their 40-29 triumph over the All Blacks in Chicago last November. “This may not have been quite the scalp which a first win in 111 years over New Zealand represented but, given the circumstances, it wasn’t far behind,” writes Gerry Thornley in the Irish Times.
Perhaps it was the Cyprus Rugby Federation that was most pleased. Ireland’s victory means their national side’s world record of 24 consecutive victories remains intact. The governing body tweeted thanks to Schmidt’s team, with a photograph of a pint of Guinness and the caption, “rude not to…”