Eddie Jones criticised the referee, Ben O’Keeffe, for sending off Manu Tuilagifor a dangerous tackle on George North four minutes from the end of the victory over Wales, the first time an England player had been dismissed in a championship match, describing the decision as “absolute rubbish”.
The England head coach usually declines to talk about major refereeing decisions but he made an exception after a match in which England finished two players down with the prop Ellis Genge in the sin-bin for his side’s persistent infringing as Wales mounted a late fightback.
“It was 13 versus 16 at the end,” complained Jones who, when asked who the 16th was, replied: “You work it out. I usually do not comment on incidents like this but I am breaking my rule because I found the red card bizarre. I do not know how you are meant to make a tackle when a guy is falling after a chop tackle.
“Manu was coming over the top to kill the tackle. It’s absolute rubbish and there is no common sense in such situations. Come on.”
The Wales head coach, Wayne Pivac, disagreed, saying: “It was the correct decision.” Tuilagi made contact with the head of North with his right shoulder as the wing neared England’s line, ducking into the challenge after being tackled by Henry Slade.
The Wales captain, Alun Wyn Jones, felt England were fortunate not to finish the match with 12 men as the prop Joe Marler – a Lions colleague on the 2017 Lions tour to New Zealand who was banned after making an insulting remark to the Wales prop Samson Lee here in 2016 – grabbed his testicles after Owen Farrell had sparked a first‑half flare-up.
“After 138 Tests I know that, if I react, it is a red card,” said Jones. “It’s tough. I hope World Rugby have a look at it. Joe is a good bloke and a lot happens on a rugby field. It is difficult as captain because you cannot speak to a referee about anything. I looked at the touch judge but he did not see anything, which is fine. It is frustrating because a lot is talked about television match officials and footage but not much happens.”
Tuilagi is facing a six-week ban, which would not affect England whose Six Nations campaign is over for the moment because next weekend’s match against Italy in Rome was postponed because of the coronavirus. Jones said he was not thinking about whether or when it would be rearranged but England’s next Test against Japan in Oita in the summer.
“We have improved throughout the tournament and I think we are a better team than we were at the World Cup,” he said. “I was pleased with the toughness we showed early on against Wales and we had plenty of options in attack.
“Wales were tough opponents and Wales supporters should be pleased with the spirit they showed. Wayne Pivac will be feeling the heat but he is doing a really good job and people have to be kind to him.”
Wales will be without the second‑row Jake Ball, who needs shoulder surgery, for their final match at home to Scotland in Cardiff on Saturday while Leigh Halfpenny had to give up the kicking duties before half-time after suffering a gash on his knee.
“It is an important game for us,” said Pivac. “England made it hard for us with the defence and they were very physical but we did not make it easy for ourselves. We did not get the balance right and tried to play a bit too much rugby. Our game management was not at its best in the first half but we kept going and built pressure at the end.”