England coach Eddie Jones has said he should have played Joe Marler ahead of Mako Vunipola at loosehead prop in the Rugby World Cup final which they lost in Japan.
England, who were chasing only their second World Cup title, were defeated 32-12 by South Africa in Yokohama earlier this month and Jones said he was left to rue his decisions.
“I accept that I made two selection mistakes for the final,” Jones wrote in his new autobiography ‘My Life and Rugby’, which is being serialised in The Times (£). “I should have chosen Joe Marler ahead of Mako Vunipola at loosehead prop and reverted to the Owen Farrell-Manu Tuilagi-Henry Slade midfield we used against Australia.
“George Ford could have come off the bench when we had got into the game. But you never know until the game starts. You use the best available evidence and rely on your gut.”
After England had dominated Australia in the quarter-final, they stunned defending champions New Zealand in the semi-final and Jones fielded the same starting 15 that beat the All Blacks against South Africa, but the move backfired. “I had been right against Australia and New Zealand but, as it turned out, in the biggest game of our four-year cycle, I got it badly wrong. Hindsight is a wonderful teacher,” Jones added.
Jones said the big challenge he faced ahead of the final was dealing with the praise that came his players’ way after the New Zealand victory. “There’s also a psychological challenge after the kind of big win we achieved against the All Blacks,” he said. “While we did play well, I thought the analysis was a bit over the top. Everyone was slapping us on the back, saying how fantastic we were, how it was the best ever performance by an England team and the best ever win at a World Cup.
“The praise was everywhere. The challenge is to bring the players back to reality. It changes the structure and narrative of the week.”
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