Eddie Jones says heavy loss to Barbarians was decent preparation for Australia
Eddie Jones isn’t panicking despite his England outfit being on the wrong side of a heavy defeat to the Barbarians.
Eddie Jones suffered the heaviest defeat of his England reign to a rampant 14-man Barbarians side, but insisted that the 52-21 hammering was “great preparation” for the tour to Australia.
The Barbarians, featuring several French grand slam winners, scored eight tries despite being down to 14 men for more than half the game after the Australian lock, Will Skelton, became the first player to be sent off for the invitational side. George Kruis, the former England lock, rubbed salt in the wounds by kicking three conversions in the final game of his career, including one that he back-heeled between the posts.
“I can’t sway fans, all I can do is coach the team,” Jones, the England head coach, said. “I’m not pleased with how we performed. I’m pleased with the intent of what we tried to do and it’s great preparation for Australia, but I’m obviously not happy with the result. We’re not going to Australia to get beaten by 50 and run the ball from our own 22, but we have a style of play we want to keep developing and we’ll pick and choose when we use it.
“We’ve got a number of good young players coming through, there’s potential for the team to get better. We used today for a particular purpose.”
Jones will name a 33-man squad for the three-Test tour to Australia on Monday, with Courtney Lawes, of Northampton Saints, likely to be the captain rather than Owen Farrell, of Saracens, who when fit has led the side since 2018. England have fitness concerns around Alex Dombrandt, who injured a knee in training on Friday and wore a leg brace, and Joe Cokanasiga, who hobbled off with an ankle problem.
Dombrandt, 25, is due to see a specialist before a decision is made on whether he can go on the tour, with the first Test taking place in Perth on July 2. Jones already has problems in the back row as he is also without Sam Simmonds, who had hip surgery at the end of Exeter Chiefs’ season, and he cannot call up the Saracens No 8 Billy Vunipola, who was concussed in Saturday’s Gallagher Premiership final defeat by Leicester Tigers.
George Ford rolled an ankle in that game too, and is out of the tour, joining Henry Slade, Manu Tuilagi, Kyle Sinckler, Anthony Watson, Louis Lynagh and George Furbank as casualties.
The demand for flights to Australia is such that the England squad will be forced to travel on four separate British Airways services between Heathrow and Perth on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Jones will finalise his squad after speaking to Joe Marler, the Harlequins prop, and the Leicester Tigers scrum half Ben Youngs about their availability. Youngs, 32, may want a summer off after his sister-in-law, Tiffany, died this month following a long illness.
Kruis, having signed off with his three unlikely conversions, is now retiring, aged 32, to concentrate on his CBD-oil business. Jones did not have a problem with his back-heeled effort, saying it was appropriate for the occasion. “It’s a festival game,” Jones, whose side have lost their past three games, said. “It’s supposed to be fun for the crowd. We had 55,000 here. Now we don’t like to get beaten by 50, don’t get me wrong, but they were here to have fun. We’ve seen that before with Barbarians teams. I think it’s great, the spirit of rugby. I love it.”
Kruis, who played the last of his 45 games for England against Wales in 2020, joked that he had not been practising his kicking. He added: “It’s been an epic week. There is a lot of crap in the rugby media at the moment and I think games like this need to be celebrated.
“We played some fantastic rugby on the back of a fantastic week. I’ve had a good career and I’m very grateful. I thought I was going to pull a hamstring with the back-heel conversion.”
The Barbarians, led by the France Six Nations grand slam-winning coaches Fabien Galthié and Shaun Edwards, spent the week in Monaco, where they socialised heavily, only undertaking a handful of rugby sessions.
“Fabien came out with some of the wisest words ever. He said, ‘When we’re training, we’re training, and when we’re not training, we’re not training,’ ” Edwards said. “The boys took that to heart. We did have some tough sessions, but otherwise it was social. They acquitted themselves as super professionals while having a good time.”
Galthié added: “It was incredible, it was a beautiful performance. We played with quality and no risk. I’m very happy — there are only positive emotions.
“For the young players it was a new experience and it was a week of learning. George helped the young players to prepare for the match. George was like a dad to the young French players along with Will Skelton.
“When Will was sent off there was only one dad on the pitch. It’s a very good period [for French rugby] but our ambition is to stay at this level. We want to stay at the top of world rugby.”