St Pa­trick’s Day mas­sacre

Ju­bi­lant Ir­ish win Grand Slam in the snow Jones’s men lose three in a row to come fifth Wales beat France and Scot­land pip Italy ( just)

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Front Page - By Mick Cleary at Twick­en­ham

Eng­land coach says some play­ers may miss World Cup

Jones jeered af­ter Ire­land se­cure his­toric tri­umph

Eng­land’s 24-15 de­feat by Ire­land, their third cham­pi­onship loss in a row, prompted Ed­die Jones to warn his squad that some of them may not make it to the 2019 World Cup. It is Eng­land’s worst run since 2006. France’s los­ing bonus point in their 14-13 de­feat by Wales in Cardiff con­signed Eng­land to a fifth-place fin­ish in the 2018 NatWest Six Na­tions Cham­pi­onship, their low­est po­si­tion since 1983.

Jones ac­knowl­edged Ire­land’s achieve­ment in se­cur­ing only the third Grand Slam in their his­tory, but was at pains to point out that Eng­land’s fall from grace was mis­lead­ing in that he had never be­lieved his team were as good as their record (23 wins in 24 Tests prior to this los­ing se­quence) had sug­gested. Jeers rang around Twick­en­ham at the final whis­tle.

Eng­land have a three-Test tour in South Africa and it is clear there will be changes. “Some [play­ers] may strug­gle to par­tic­i­pate in the fu­ture,” said Jones, who ex­pe­ri­enced his first de­feat at Twick­en­ham as Eng­land coach.

“There are some guys who are start­ing their in­ter­na­tional ca­reers and they need time. I have to de­cide whether I have time to get them ready for the World Cup.

“We weren’t happy be­ing the team we were be­cause we knew what­ever we had won [in terms of pre­vi­ous re­sults] we weren’t good enough to get to where we wanted to get. We knew we had to change and some­times that hurts. It’s not nice but it is part of the process of be­ing a bet­ter team.

“You never find out about your­self un­less you have these runs. When you take over it is quite easy to im­prove be­cause you can fix things quickly. But in­ter­nal mech­a­nisms take time to fix. Un­less you fix them they catch up with you when you get to the big tour­na­ments, such as the World Cup. So for us it has been an enor­mously ben­e­fi­cial tour­na­ment, if dis­ap­point­ing.”

Eng­land were al­ways “chas­ing tails”, as Jones put it, af­ter Garry Rin­grose scored the first of Ire­land’s three tries in the sixth minute. Wing Ja­cob Stock­dale touched down on the stroke of half-time for his sev­enth try in the tour­na­ment, a Six Na­tions record. The 21-year-old got his hand to the ball with only inches to spare. Eng­land had (legally) ex­tended the in-goal area for this match. Jones did not feel that this had back­fired on the hosts.

“Not re­ally, it’s just part of the game,” said Jones, who was un­aware of fans jeer­ing him dur­ing his post-match in­ter­view on the pitch. “I didn’t hear it. Have you got a record­ing of it? I’ll lis­ten to it later. It’ll help put me to sleep tonight.” Jones re­jected the no­tion that Eng­land have re­gressed dur­ing the cham­pi­onship. “I don’t think we have,” he added. “In terms of re­sults, we have, but in terms of where we want to go as a team, we are mov­ing for­ward. I know that is hard to see. These things are sent to test you, it tests your re­solve, it tests your team and that is what we are go­ing through at the mo­ment.”

For Ire­land, there was un­der­stand­able joy, es­pe­cially for cap­tain Rory Best, one of only two sur­vivors (Rob Kear­ney was the other) from their last Grand Slam in 2009. “It is a lit­tle more spe­cial for me,” said Best. “To win some­thing as cap­tain, in that spe­cial green jersey, is some­thing dreams are made of. This is up there as the big­gest high­light of my ca­reer.”

Tu­mult for one, calamity for the other. For Ire­land the Grand Slam, thor­oughly de­served with a slick, su­perbly crafted vic­tory, one that sent their sup­port­ers head­ing to­wards the bars to toast their emer­ald he­roes with gal­lons of the black stuff.

Ru­mour has it Ire­land won the drink­ing games, too, with The Fields of Athenry echo­ing round the sta­dium long be­fore the final whis­tle, Twick­en­ham no longer a fortress but Party Cen­tral for those sport­ing green. Ire­land owned the turf and, later, the Twick­en­ham en­vi­rons, a takeover mis­sion that brought re­ward from morn ‘til dusk.

For Eng­land, it was black stuff of a dif­fer­ent or­der, a dark stain on their rep­u­ta­tion. Jonny May’s added time try spared this be­ing a record Ir­ish win at Twick­en­ham but it could do lit­tle to spare blushes.

It was not just the el­e­ments send­ing a bit­ter chill through the bones of Eng- lish rugby, so too did this loss, their first at Twick­en­ham in the cham­pi­onship in six years, a salu­tary and sober­ing turn of events. Their 2019 World Cup plans are in tat­ters, their morale shred­ded and their prospects bleak with three tests to come in South Africa in June.

It has been quite a fall from grace and the con­trast was stark. Ire­land were as­sured and po­tent while Eng­land were ragged and slip­shod, in­fused by the wrong sort of des­per­a­tion. In the clos­ing stages alone there were sev­eral snap­shots il­lu­mi­nat­ing their cur­rent lack of poise and be­lief, Owen Far­rell fir­ing one long pass straight into touch and mo­ments later be­ing swamped by what ap­peared to be a 100-strong mob of Ir­ish shirts fol­low­ing an­other fum­ble.

It has been a hor­ri­ble time for Eng­land, be­wil­der­ing for their fol­low­ers who had thoughts only of a sup­posed global shoot-out with New Zealand in Novem­ber. The All Blacks will be sleep­ing easy in their beds.

Ed­die Jones has gone from mes­siah to the man with his fin­ger in the dyke as the wa­ter comes pour­ing through. The head coach made 10 changes here (three po­si­tional) but the outcome was no dif­fer­ent from that which it had been in Mur­ray­field or the Stade de France. Sure, Dy­lan Hart­ley, played a cap­tain’s part while wing El­liot Daly was busy and Far­rell did as Far­rell does, with heart and head aligned, his break and sub­se­quent kick through cre­at­ing Daly’s try in the 32nd minute.

But these were glim­mers, spo­radic up­beat bits of ac­tion. Ire­land had far too much class, far too much col­lec­tive un­der­stand­ing, too much clev­er­ness in all that they did to be un­duly both­ered by any­thing that Eng­land threw at them.

They were in con­trol from the mo­ment Garry Rin­grose touched down in the sixth minute. Grand Slams are never eas­ily earned and, of course, they had to scrap and toil but there was an author­ity and pur­pose about them that Eng­land were never able to match. They were im­mense across the field, from Tadhg Furl­ing in the front row through their game-shap­ing half­backs, Conor Mur­ray and Johnny Sex­ton, to the sen­sa­tion of this cham­pi­onship, 21-year-old wing, Ja­cob Stock­dale, and his record-break­ing sev­enth try of the tour­na­ment.

What an item Stock­dale is, from novice to mas­ter in one ex­hil­a­rat­ing sea­son, fast, ea­ger, op­por­tunist, liv­ing the dream. Ire­land have a clutch of such tal­ents: Rin­grose, lock James Ryan, a team not just for now but also for the fu­ture. By con­trast, Eng­land have to re­view all as­pects of their game.

Con­fi­dent sides do not con­tinue to get pe­nalised. Con­fi­dent sides do not com­pound er­ror upon er­ror. Eng­land were guilty on all charges. There were three in­fringe­ments against them, for ex­am­ple, in the clos­ing two min­utes of the first half alone. Lit­tle things have big con­se­quences. Ire­land es­caped from their half and within the blink of an eye, Stock­dale had shown what a preda­tory force he is when touch­ing down af­ter a chip-and-chase in added time. De­tails mat­ters. Ire­land are mas­ters of their brief.

Eng­land are in a rut of in­de­ci­sion and men­tal frailty. They had to come back strongly from Rin­grose’s early try, show com­po­sure and clear heads.

They had a penalty shot well within the range of Far­rell yet opted for touch. That was a du­bi­ous call but it was in­de­fen­si­ble that Far­rell’s kick still left them 15 me­tres from the Ire­land try-line. It was no surprise that they were then turned over.

A free-kick for mess­ing around with the line-out for­ma­tion, Far­rell mis­cu­ing a clear­ance kick straight into the back of James Haskell’s head, Ge­orge Kruis knock­ing on – mis­take af­ter mis­take left Eng­land on their up­pers, shorn of as­sur­ance and sta­bil­ity.

When the gods are agin’ you, they show no mercy. Even Stock­dale’s record-clincher would not have hap­pened if Eng­land hadn’t in­ad­ver­tently ex­tended the in-goal area when paint­ing new blue-coloured lines in an­tic­i­pa­tion of the snow.

Eng­land had done lit­tle to earn any good for­tune, though, and when Sex­ton’s penalty pot in the 24th minute hit a post, they might have ex­pected to have earned a re­prieve. Not so. From the line-out, Bundee Aki carved through Eng­land’s de­fence fol­low­ing a lovely flip-on pass from prop, Fur­long, the cen­tre steam­ing to­wards the line and feed­ing his No.8, CJ Stander, who com­pleted the job, Sex­ton con­vert­ing.

It was a trough of mis­ery for Eng­land, deep­ened when they made a mess of re­peated pres­sure on Ire­land’s line, enough to see Peter O’Ma­hony sin­binned for pulling down the drive, but on the fourth penalty line-out, Eng­land bombed the po­si­tion by throw­ing too long.

It was a gilt-edged chance and they did not take it. Ire­land were sharp, re­lent­less and de­ci­sive. Eng­land, quite sim­ply, were not.

Noth­ing went their way and noth­ing de­served to. Right from the mo­ment when An­thony Wat­son fum­bled in the air from Sex­ton’s wicked kick in the sixth minute, jos­tled le­git­i­mately by that Gaelic-reared foot­baller, Rob Kear­ney, the ball fall­ing to the turf and Rin­grose be­ing alert enough to cap­i­talise, Eng­land fret­ted and frit­tered. TV re­plays sug­gested the ball had come off Kear­ney but the rub of the green was with the men in green.

Eng­land had too much ground to make up. Daly did get his sec­ond in the 65th minute with a smart out-the-back pass from Mike Brown and May’s late ef­fort put a spin on the score­board but it was catch-up rugby and Ire­land were too far in front. The day, and the Grand Slam, be­longed to them.

Scores 0-5, Rin­grose try; 0-7, Sex­ton con; 0-12, Stander try; 0-14, Sex­ton con; 5-14, Daly try; 5-19, Stock­dale try; 5-21, Car­bery con; 5-24, Mur­ray pen; 10-24, Daly try; 15-24, May try.

Slammed: Eng­land’s play­ers re­flect on a third suc­ces­sive de­feat; (left) James Ryan and Jor­dan Lar­mour cel­e­brate Ire­land’s vic­tory

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