Eddie Jones believes that Owen Farrell was able to rediscover his best form in England’s thrilling Six Nations victory over France due to a deliberate policy of staying away from the referee.
Farrell produced arguably his best performance for England since the 2019 World Cup on Saturday and Jones revealed that the game plan was to “allow the referee to do what he wants”, allowing his captain to direct his aggression towards France.
Jones spent the past week educating his players on how to react to dubious umpiring decisions and invited top officials Wayne Barnes and Matthew Carley to camp in an effort to improve his team’s discipline. Farrell admitted before the game that he had spoken to Carley about his communication with umpires, an area of his game often criticized, but Jones revealed that the idea was to avoid him whenever possible.
Jones disagreed with what he perceived as a “captain’s challenge” to the France referee, apparently a reference to Andrew Brace overturning a late decision and penalizing Ben Earl, calling the call “ridiculous.” But when it comes to Farrell’s dealings with the referee, Jones believes his captain followed the instructions perfectly. He said: “[Owen has] We went back to that belligerent and aggressive self and basically made the decision about the referee, we were going to allow the referee to do whatever he wanted: no consultation, no questions, [Owen] he had a game plan.
“Owen got a great balance in his game so I thought he was in his aggressive prime. The way Owen has responded to the criticism he has received has been absolutely outstanding. He has not complained, he has not complained, he took it on the chin and moved on. Fixed your game. “
Jones was equally effusive in his praise for Maro Itoje, highlighting how he and prominent Tom Curry supported Farrell in a leadership capacity. Itoje was criticized for conceding five penalties against Wales last time out, but gave up just one against France before launching the decisive try. “I thought [Maro] it was sensational, “added Jones. “I found it incredible, given the amount of criticism it has received. He’s a taller player and when you consider the performances of him, Owen and Tom Curry, they laid the foundation for the team. “
Meanwhile, Itoje has acknowledged that he has to change his reputation as a serial penalty offender without losing his edge. The 26-year-old was more restrained than usual in the opening exchanges, but his influence grew as the match progressed, culminating in a cathartic attempt to win the match against the British & Irish Lions head coach, Warren Gatland.
“There has been a bit of insight that has come up with my game and how I play it,” Itoje said. “I am working hard to try to change that perception. I don’t want to lose any of the good things that I do and the good things that I contribute because I know what I can contribute to a team and how I can influence a game. I want to remain as confrontational as I can. I don’t want to lose my bite, I don’t want to lose the things that make me a good player.
“But, at the same time, I want to change that perception. It’s just a game, but I’ll have to do it on a constant level to change the perception. If you give away five penalties, the referees [will hear] outside noise [which] He is going to say that Maro Itoje gives away many penalties. Everything influences. Things that people say, things that people think. They all affect the way the referees prepare for the game. For the moment that is perception. I have to work a bit to change that.
“I know how I can influence a game, but it’s probably just about not trying to do everything or trusting the system to handle it rather than putting myself in situations where I can deal with it. I can still influence the game and I still have moments in the game that I can influence, but it’s a balancing act. Pick my moments, understand the context of the game, where we are on the field, adjusting to what the referee is doing a little better, a combination of all those things. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism