Eddie Jones used Owen Farrell as a stick with which to beat his critics in the aftermath of England’s impressive win over Ireland.
The Red Rose skipper was superb in his 22nd match in charge, kicking everything and setting the belligerent tone for a 14th win in the armband.
“Captaincy is hard,” said Jones. “You have a room of all different sorts of people, all different wants and you have to try to find the same page for them.
“That takes experience and Owen is not even two years into the job. But every game he captains, he gets a little bit better.”
Jones said the Ireland game was less about what Farrell did on the Twickenham pitch as off it in the run-up to the game.
“It was outstanding how he led the team in the lead-up and we saw that when the players got on the field,” said the Australian.
“We had great focus. We had great clarity about how we wanted to play and, as a result, you can play with great energy. He’s doing a great job.”
Jones could have left it there, but was unable to resist a swipe at the media – days after being forced to apologise to a reporter for an inappropriate remark.
“Remember last week he couldn't captain,” he said. “People who read the papers told me that was the problem with him. He couldn't captain.”
There was ONE piece, three weeks ago, which did claim Farrell is the wrong man for the job. It was written by a former England fly-half. To suggest there is a blanket view that Farrell ‘can’t captain’ is plain wrong.
Jones was not finished. Asked whether his remark that ‘England could have “declared” at half-time had it been cricket’ summed up how far ahead of Ireland he felt his team really were, he went again.
“It’s probably a throwaway line, mate," he said. "I probably need to apologise for it again. Sorry, sorry, sorry.
"I know you’re not allowed to say anything that’s a little bit different here so I’ll apologise. I’ll apologise for making a comment that’s not in the rugby sense. Apologies.”
There was more. Did he truly believe rookie flanker Ben Earl can play Test rugby in the backs as he claimed on the eve of the game?
“100 per cent,” he said. “But you’re not allowed to say these things in rugby, because then you become a trash talker and an idiot and all those things.”
England have the second of two days off today. The pause in proceedings has probably come at a good time.
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