Six Nations 2020: Eddie Jones' England suffer brutal start as new-look France pass first test

By Sports Desk February 02, 2020

Eddie Jones expected to see a brutal display when England travelled to France in the opening round of the 2020 Six Nations – and that is exactly what he got.

The problem for Jones, though, is that his pre-match quote with regards England testing their opponents' readiness for Test rugby came back to bite him. Badly.

Les Bleus were certainly up to the task. Starting a new era under the stewardship of Fabien Galthie and with defensive expert Shaun Edwards part of the coaching staff, they produced a performance that, after a long period rather stuck in the international doldrums, raises the hope they can rise again. England, in contrast, were as flat as a crepe.

"France can expect absolute brutality from England, we are going to go out there to make sure they understand what Test rugby is. It is about being brutal, it is about being physical and it is about dominating the set piece," Jones had said in his pre-match media conference.

Yet after stoking the flames ahead of a clash that rarely needs help to catch fire, his players failed to even do the basics expected of your local junior team.

Their first-half display quickly brought back memories of November's Rugby World Cup final against South Africa, when they suffered a chastening 32-12 defeat that saw an otherwise excellent campaign end in disappointing fashion.

Disappointing would be a generous description for an error-strewn opening 40 minutes at the Stade de France.

England treated the ball as if if harboured a contagious disease. Debutant George Furbank was diagnosed early with a case of the 'dropsies', which was perhaps understandable to a degree. However, the problem even spread as far as the usually reliable Owen Farrell, who failed to hang on to a simple pass in midfield, much to the delight of a raucous French crowd revelling in what they were witnessing.

There was even a penalty given away for failing to mind the gap at a lineout; that is how far things went underground for England.

Still, while the visitors showed all the coordination of a baby giraffe on ice, France produced some slick rugby in slippery conditions to assume total control. They led 17-0 at half-time, while Edwards' fingerprints were all over an aggressive defensive display that stifled England.

Jones may well have been brutal with his half-time assessment of his team's performance in the changing room, though England did not really start to show any fight until the immediate aftermath of Charles Ollivon's second try of the game, as a late challenge on the scorer caused a confrontation with just under an hour gone.

Jonny May – one of the few bright lights for the visitors in a dismal outing – crossed twice to reduce the gap, both fine finishes by the wing that demonstrated what England can deliver when they can build from firm foundations.

In the end, though, time scuppered any hopes of a dramatic comeback. France – who had surrendered a 16-point lead to lose on opening weekend a year ago to Wales – stood firm under late pressure near their own line, forcing Farrell to slot over a penalty with the final kick of the contest just to claim a losing bonus point.

After a stirring rendition prior to kick-off, the home support voiced their approval by singing La Marseillaise one more time in the closing stages of a superb 24-17 triumph.

England must now face the realisation that their Grand Slam prospects for this year are over after 80 minutes. Jones fanned the flames with his words in the media, but this rebooted France team let their rugby do the talking.

Related items

  • All Blacks great Read retires from rugby All Blacks great Read retires from rugby

    All Blacks great Kieran Read has retired from rugby.

    Read had said he would end his career at the end of the Japan Top League season, and his Toyota Verblitz side suffered a 48-21 semi-final defeat against the Panasonic Wild Knights on Sunday.

    In a post on social media, Read said: "I'm looking forward to returning to New Zealand and spending time with my family."

    "Thank you to the @toyotaverblitz team for the friendships I will hold onto for my lifetime, it's been a challenging time for everyone involved but proud of the direction we are heading," Read wrote on Instagram. 

    "Also, a massive thanks to all the fans of rugby in Japan for your support."

    Read was part of two New Zealand World Cup-winning sides, earning 127 caps for the All Blacks to put him third all-time in that regard. Richie McCaw tops the list with 148 Test caps.

    He played 52 of his Tests as skipper and was the 66th captain of New Zealand. Only McCaw (110) made more appearances as captain of the All Blacks.

    With 107 victories, Read is one of only five players to win 100 Test matches, along with fellow All Blacks McCaw, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock and Sam Whitelock.

    His run of 19 consecutive victories as All Blacks captain from 2012 to 2016 is a record.

  • Tielemans Leicester's latest hero to a symphony of Wembley delight Tielemans Leicester's latest hero to a symphony of Wembley delight

    The most notable element of a disjointed goalless first half in Saturday's FA Cup final was the organic soundtrack.

    At the Leicester end of the 21,000-strong crowd, there was a throaty collective roar when Kasper Schmeichel completed a routine catch from a right-wing corner. Referee Michael Oliver had plenty of unflattering appraisals of his work and a wildly off-target drive from Chelsea forward Timo Werner drew hearty guffaws.

    There aren't really buttons on a fake crowd noise soundboard for any of that stuff.

    The most significant crowd any of these footballers had played in front of for 14 months also seemed to have an impact on some adrenaline levels and resulting performances.

    Leicester great Gary Lineker, so poignantly emotional after his boyhood club closed out an unforgettable 1-0 win, has enjoyed an enduring post-career link up with Walkers. The Foxes' current main goal threat, Kelechi Iheanacho, played like a punter who'd collected 10 crisp packets and won the chance to try playing at Wembley.

    Iheanacho entered the game as the joint top scorer in this season's FA Cup and with 13 goals in his past 12 outings across all competitions. It counted for nothing, the Nigeria international's touch as heavy as his legs, while muddled decision making did nothing to lengthen the short leash Antonio Rudiger kept him on.

    Werner draws another blank

    Werner would give plenty for some of Iheanacho's prolific form, the type he enjoyed only last season at RB Leipzig. Here, we again witnessed the Chelsea version – tireless probing running to push the opposition defence deep and prescribe Jonny Evans a swift return to the treatment table.

    But Werner snatched at his shots, inadvertently touched a goalscoring chance away from captain Cesar Azpilicueta and then saw Wesley Fofana hurl himself into back-to-back blocks. When the ball broke clear, Werner threw himself at Luke Thomas with the same gusto but none of the expertise to be booked.

    The occasion was encouraging commitment, anxiety and a dearth of quality, with the notable exception of Mason Mount.

    Chelsea's playmaker pirouetting under a high ball to stun a volleyed pass into Azpilicueta's path was easily the most beautiful piece of play before the interval. His shot from the return ball was deflected wide by Fofana, who seemed to take any attempt to test Schmeichel as a personal affront.

     

    Azpilicueta found himself forward so often because he featured at wing-back, with the more naturally attacking Reece James on the right of Chelsea's back three.

    The Blues began their run to the final with a victory over Morecambe and, to paraphrase the Lancashire town's favourite son, it felt like Thomas Tuchel had selected all the correct right-sided defenders but not necessarily in the right order.

    In reality, however, the move came to look inspired, at least defensively as James effectively shackled Jamie Vardy's livewire running.

    Youri's glory

    The opening stages of the second half, Leicester finally managed to peg their opponents back. James still dealt with everything in immaculate fashion until, well, he didn't.

    The 21-year-old botched a routine pass, hitting it at Ayoze Perez. Thomas snaffled the loose ball and Youri Tielemans straightened his run towards the Chelsea box.

    Like Evans earlier, Thiago Silva's combination of old head and old legs persuaded him to let his opponent advance towards goal. Unlike Werner, though, Tielemans is a supreme technician at the top of his game.

    The Belgium midfielder unleashed an unerring 25-yard firecracker into the top corner. Some thunder to go with the Wembley rain. Behind the goal, bedlam. Limbs. A cup final goal for the ages.

    Tuchel decided to act and a pair of double substitutions followed, including former Leicester full-back Ben Chilwell's introduction. His every touch was booed, until he got his head to a cross from N'Golo Kante – the Foxes' 2015-16 title-winning hero, who endured no barracking.

    That moment was one for a sharp intake of breath but Schmeichel plunged to his right for a stunning save. His later stop from Mount was even better.

     

    Captain Morgan's VAR cocktail

    The dying minutes meant time for another of Claudio Ranieri's old stagers as Wes Morgan came on for his first action since December, immediately barking instructions. The band, or what remains of it, were back together.

    When he hoisted the Premier League trophy aloft five years ago, Morgan or none of the rest of us lived in the altered reality of VAR. But it saved him here after Chilwell tore off in villainous celebration, his attempt having cannoned in off his old captain after Caglar Soyuncu had tried to hack it clear. The replays showed a tight but obvious offside.

    Morgan, Schmeichel and Vardy have a first FA Cup to go with their club's first league title. They are sporting immortals of the east midlands.

    The Leicester faithful also have a new trophy-winning hero in Tielemans after his majestic man-of-the-match showing. Following Eden Hazard in 2018 and Kevin De Bruyne in 2019, another Belgium playmaker scored in an FA Cup final victory. A niche and far more palatable new normal.

    And that was the best thing about the rash tackles, the blocks, the screamer, the bedlam, the shredded nerves, the drama, the villains and the heroes. The wonderful atmosphere in which it unfolded was all so instantly and beautifully normal.

  • Super Rugby: Crusaders & Chiefs cling on as Blues thrash Rebels Super Rugby: Crusaders & Chiefs cling on as Blues thrash Rebels

    Super Rugby Aotearoa champions the Crusaders survived a second-half fightback from the Brumbies to start their Trans-Tasman campaign with a dramatic 31-29 win.

    The Crusaders appeared to be on course for a comfortable victory when they led 19-7 at the interval thanks to tries from Ethan Blackadder, Richie Mo'unga and David Havili.

    Irae Simone's try and five points from the boot of Noah Lolesio trimmed the gap to two points after the break, only for Brendon O'Connor and Cullen Grace to cross to restore the Crusaders' measure of command.

    But Tom Banks' try and Lolesio's conversion restored hope for Super Rugby AU runners-up the Brumbies, who then moved within two points of sending the game to extra time when Tom Wright's inside pass sent Rob Valetini over in the last minute.

    However, this time Lolesio could not find the desired accuracy from the tee, his kick from the sideline sailing just wide of the left-hand post as the Crusaders clung on.

    There was a markedly similar end to the Chiefs' 20-19 victory over the Western Force.

    The Chiefs led 10-7 at half-time and tries from Nathan Harris and Jonah Lowe appeared to put them in control.

    But Luke Jacobson's 66th red card, which came after he received a second yellow for slowing the ball down at the ruck, gave the Force new life.

    They made their one-man advantage count three minutes later as Richard Kahui went over and had a chance to snatch victory at the last after Domingo Miotti crossed.

    Miotti, though, could not convert his own try, sending the attempt agonisingly wide of the uprights.

    That kick ensured it was a clean sweep for New Zealand sides over their Australian opponents, the Blues having run in eight tries in trouncing the Rebels 50-3 earlier in the day.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.