On a weekend when the country came together to remember soldiers who have fallen during conflict, England Rugby coach Eddie Jones woke on Rememberance Sunday to find his foul-mouthed exclamation being disected and scrutinised by the nation’s media.
As England gave away a weak penalty, the TV coverage switched to a camera which caught the Australian throwing his notebook, banging the desk and shouting “F***! How f***ing stupid are we?” While nothing was audible, it was clear to read what was on Jones’ lips as he vented his frustration.
Argentina have failed to beat England since 2006 and they arrived at Twickenham as firm underdogs having won just once all year, a 45-29 home victory against Georgia in June.
Tries either side of the interval – from Nathan Huges and then Semesa Rokoduguni – eventually gave the hosts the win but it could have been a completely different story had Argentina not missed four kickable penalties and a conversion following Nicolas Sanchez’s late try.
England failed to truly entertain the thousands that spectated the meeting, but was Jones’ exclamation at an unsatisfactory performance warrented?
The Pumas had rarely threatened the hosts but with thousands watching, with England’s squad quality a comfortable win was expected. So, did Jones have an excuse for a foul-mouthed outburst?
Professional clubs pay vast amounts of money for staff to segment, analyse and prepare for upcoming matches and this is no doubt exactly what had been going on prior to the visit of Argentina. The players will have been shown clips of Argentina’s former matches, told how to react and given tactical guidance in the final training sessions in the lead-up. However one lack of concentration gave the visitors a penalty and clearly frustrated Jones.
The fixture was before the watershed so yes, there should not have been explicit language, but when you spend so much time as a coach informing your players how to act on the pitch then it would have been antagonising for Jones to see so much time go to waste.
But was it correct for the clip, shown by Sky Sports, to have been so heavily reported by the media? In a footballing context managers constantly shout expletive language from the touchline, however perhaps that is the difference between football and rugby.
Since Saturday’s match Jones has issued an apology, saying:
“I got a phone call this morning from my mother – who is 93 – rapping me over the knuckles.”
“She still tells me not to swear. I am in the dog house and certainly won’t do it again.
“I think everyone was a bit frustrated on Saturday and I was one of them and I should have shown more self-control.”
Credit must go to Jones for coming out and apologising but had the media not scruitinised him it would not have been necessary. In my view the media around rugby need to learn a lessson from football and accept that vocabulary used – no matter whether it is expletive or not – is part and parcel of sport and the emotions that engross it and while it should not be encouraged, it should not be so broadly covered as a news story.