Eddie Jones wants to go into Six Nations with South Africa scalp

  • England head coach pleased with 32-15 win over Australia
  • Marcus Smith-Owen Farrell axis offers hope for future

Eddie Jones has targeted a “South African scalp” to round off England’s autumn internationals campaign after an eighth-straight win over Australia but faces an anxious wait to discover the extent of Owen Farrell’s ankle injury.

Tries from Freddie Steward and Jamie Blamire, as well as 17 points from Farrell, steered England to victory against an ill-disciplined Australia side after a week blighted by a Covid-19 outbreak that ruled Joe Marler and Ellis Genge out of the match. Farrell and Marcus Smith dovetailed as part of England’s new-look 10-12 axis but the captain’s injury will be a worry for Jones with the Springboks due at Twickenham next Saturday.

Farrell expressed hope he would be fit but on Saturday night admitted it was too early to judge the extent of the injury, adding only that “we’ll see what it turns up tomorrow”. Jones will be desperately hoping his captain comes through, however, with England preparing for a first match against South Africa since the 2019 World Cup final defeat.

“They are the World Cup champions and we are not,” said Jones. “It is going to be an important Test and we want to finish off the autumn well – it is the final game of the autumn and we will see it as a final and we want to take them on. We will have to play differently to beat them. It’s the final game and we want to go into the Six Nations with a South African scalp.”

While England wait to learn the seriousness of Farrell’s injury, the outlook is worse for Jamie George, who went off injured at half-time. With Kyle Sinckler battling through a dead leg and Bevan Rodd playing 72 minutes on debut after he was a late call-up with Marler and then Genge ruled out with Covid-19, it was England’s resilience that pleased Jones most.

“We had two Covid positives, we had a young prop come in on Thursday and made him a starting guy and we lost Jamie at half-time,” he said. “Kyle Sinckler got a bad dead leg in the first half so we had to battle really hard and I was really pleased with the attitude of the players. We predicted more of a free-flowing game, as Australia like to play but it turned out to be a heavy penalty game and I was pleased how we adapted.”

Should Farrell be passed fit to face South Africa, he could continue his burgeoning partnership with Smith, which shone in glimpses against the Wallabies – notably when the latter released Steward for England’s opening try. “They are a bit like two opening batsmen who haven’t batted together and are facing the new ball for the first time,” said Jones. “Every time they bat together after this they will be better. But I thought our first try was one of the best I have seen from an England side. Our handling, the lines we were running, hitting the holes was absolutely outstanding and we want a bit of that. It is not going to happen all the time but it was really promising from those two guys.

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“They have both got to get picked. But the competition in this squad is red hot, we know Owen is a good player, that was his 100th Test including the Lions and he is getting close to 100 with England, we know he is a bloody good player and we know Smith will be a good player if he keeps working hard.”

Australia, meanwhile, pinpointed the 18-9 penalty count as key to their undoing, with both Tom Wright and Angus Bell sent to the sin-bin. The Wallabies head coach, Dave Rennie, refused to point the finger at the referee Jaco Peyper, however. He said: “We just couldn’t get anything going – we got hammered in the penalty count and we just made too many errors and dumb penalties. If we could have strung a few phases together we could have put them under some heat. But most of the issues were our own doing.”

Contributor

Gerard Meagher at Twickenham

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