Jones wants Six Nations treble as he wades into France-Wales row

Julian GUYER
England's head coach Eddie Jones addresses members of the media during a press conference at Twickenham stadium in south west London on March 20, 2017

England may have missed out on a record-breaking win against Ireland last weekend but Eddie Jones urged them to make rugby history of a different kind as he had his say on France's controversial win over Wales.

Already the Six Nations champions, England's 13-9 loss to Ireland in Dublin on Saturday meant they missed out on back-to-back Grand Slams and what would have been a record 19th Test win in a row by a major rugby union nation.

But if they retain the title, England will become the first team in more than a century of combined Five/Six Nations history to win three successive Championships outright, with other sides having shared titles as part of runs of three in a row or better.

Jones, who denied Monday his team had been "scarred" by their Lansdowne Road loss -- the Australian's first defeat as England coach -- told a Twickenham news conference on Monday: "The great thing for us is we've won back-to-back Six Nations.

"If you look through the record of Five to Six Nations, no one has outright won three in a row so we are in a position where we can still create a record in the Six Nations."

Kick-off in the Ireland-England match in Dublin was delayed by remarkable events in Paris, where referee Wayne Barnes allowed an extraordinary 20 minutes of extra time before France won 20-18 thanks to a converted try in the 100th minute.

The French camped out in the Welsh 22-metre area and a series of scrums followed amid numerous replacement changes.

Wales coach Rob Howley was particularly angered by France bringing preferred tighthead prop Rabah Slimani, known for his devastating scrummaging power, back on for Uini Atonio.

France coach Guy Noves insisted it was a genuine call by his medics following a head injury suffered by Atonio, a situation where a referee must allow a substitution under strict concussion rules that allow teams to replace injured props with front row team-mates who have been already subbed off.

But Howley accused France of fabricating the head injury call, with Six Nations officials saying Sunday they would investigate the incident.

- 'Rotation' -

Jones, while talking up France as title contenders in a 2018 Six Nations that will be "tougher than this year", said: "I just look at the way France played against Wales and, if France get certain things right, they are going to be a very difficult side to beat -- particularly if the game goes for 100 minutes.

"You've got rotation now in replacements so it's easy! I might get fined by World Rugby now," Jones jokingly added.

But on a serious note, Jones backed referee Wayne Barnes, criticised for losing control at the Stade de France.

There were suggestions the English official could have ended the match far earlier by awarding France a penalty try but Jones disagreed, saying: "Wayne Barnes did a super job.

"That was a difficult game. In those games you've got one strong scrum (France) and the other scrum (Wales) is weaker, but not weak enough to give away a penalty try.

"The strength of the French scrum wasn't enough to convince Wayne that it should be a penalty try. That makes it a really difficult game."

As for the row over France's use of substitutions, Jones added: "In terms of the replacements, as I've said all along, I think that the HIA (head injury assessment), the way it operates in rugby is absolutely first-class.

"You've got an independent doctor there making a decision on whether the player has concussion or not. The welfare of the player is always treated first," explained Jones, who cited the example of England prop Joe Marler in Dublin.

"Joe Marler had to come off at the weekend and he said 100 percent that he was alright to continue, but the welfare of the player came first."