Romantic or realist?
As the dust settled and senses unscrambled after England’s dramatic late victory against France, head coach Eddie Jones claimed to be a little bit of both.
Jones had just seen his England side go toe to toe with France in a frenzied, open, attacking first half before grinding their way to victory in less flamboyant style in the final quarter. Maro Itoje’s short-range try on 77 minutes eventually ensured the hosts a 23-20 victory.
Jones could see the beauty in each.
“We always want to play like that,” he told BBC Sport of the game’s free-running passages.
“We are disappointed that we didn’t have 82,000 fans in here with us, they would have got more than their money’s worth, the RFU would have been happy.
“We would love to play every game like that but sometimes it just doesn’t work like that.
“There was reasonably quick ball, there was a good surface, not much rain, so it was good conditions to play a passing game.
“The game is funny. The game dictates the game. That doesn’t make much sense I know. But it does.”
And sometimes Jones dictates the game a bit too.
Jones spoke of “tactical errors” in the final 10 minutes of the first half, that handed the lead to France.
For the admiring gasps that France’s 32nd-minute try – scored by Damian Penaud – drew from their back-room staff and replacements in an empty Twickenham, it won’t have pleased Jones.
England’s defence was carved wide open off first-phase ball as Gael Fickou’s dummy and Matthieu Jalibert’s pass gave Penaud a route into the corner.
Both defences tightened in the second half, with just a penalty scored apiece, before Itoje went over at the death.
“Tactically brilliant,” said Jones of England’s second half, seeing glitter in their gritty route to victory.
“We reset at half-time and played a real solid Test match,” added fly-half George Ford.
“You have got to play what’s in front of you, that’s what the game is about. That sometimes changes in the game.
“We played some really good stuff, it’s a Test match so you don’t know what you’re going to get. You can analyse games but you have got to be in the moment to adapt to what is going on.”
Jones reiterated his belief that such adaptability is key to England’s chances at the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.
“We need to start changing the way we are playing,” he said.
“We are moving with our plan to be at our best at the World Cup in 2023, which will have to be a combination of playing our traditional, attritional style of game and then being able to play quickly.
“All of the laws are coming into the game that are encouraging the game to be faster. We are going to have to be like that.”
England went into the match with one priority high in their mind whatever sort of game broke out.
After giving away 41 penalties in their first three Six Nations games so far, Test referees Wayne Barnes and Matt Carley were invited to England training to give them guidance on how to stay on the right side of the officials.
It certainly worked in the first half, with England only conceding their first in the 25th minute and three in total before the interval.
The discipline frayed in the second half with another nine being added to England’s tally, but Jones picked out Owen Farrell and Itoje, whose leadership and high penalty count respectively had been criticised after defeat by Wales a fortnight ago, for praise.
“I thought Maro and Owen, who have been under criticism from everyone, were absolutely splendid today.
“They played the game tough and hard, and got on with it. It’s a great tribute to their character and their playing ability.”
England will complete their Six Nations campaign with a visit to Ireland next weekend. There won’t be a happy ending to their title defence. Defeat by Scotland and Wales earlier in the tournament have put paid to that.
There might not be the same room for eye-catching attacking thrills either against an Ireland side coached by former defence specialist Andy Farrell.
Whatever route his team can find to victory though, is scenic enough for Jones.