England thrash France, set their sights on ‘greatest Welsh side ever’

LONDON – Eddie Jones said England would have to be at their “absolute best” to defeat the “greatest Welsh side ever” in what looms as a Six Nations title-decider later this month.

England thrashed France 44-8 at Twickenham on Sunday, with Jonny May’s hat-trick in the opening half-hour providing three of their six tries.

Victory meant England had won both their opening two matches this Six Nations following a 32-20 success away to reigning champions Ireland last weekend.

Wales are the only other side with a played two, won two record after a 25-15 victory over Italy in Rome on Saturday.

It was Wales’ 11th successive victory, matching their record winning streak set between 1907 and 1910.

Now all eyes will be on Cardiff for Wales’ match against England when the Championship resumes on February 23.  

“We’re playing the greatest Welsh side ever,” said England coach Jones.

“We’re going to have to be at our absolute best. Preparation starts on Wednesday.”

Warren Gatland will stand down as Wales coach after this year’s World Cup in Japan and Jones praised the New Zealander by saying: “You know you’re playing against a Warren Gatland side. 

“He’s been at the top of the tree in European rugby for the last 15 years, through his club and country and the (British and Irish) Lions,” the Australian added.

“You’re playing against a tough, physical team. They contest hard at the breakdown. You’ve got to earn every point against them.”

But the former Australia and Japan coach added: “We’re looking forward to going down there. Should be fun.”

May dotted down for his opening try in just the second minute, the first of several scores created by kicks behind the French defence.

The Leicester flyer has now scored 22 tries in 42 Tests and Jones said: “Jonny May is one of the hardest working guys in our team. His improvement is all due to his desire to be the best and be part of a team that wants to be the best.”

Jones, who highlighted the astute tactical kicking of England captain Owen Farrell and full-back Elliot Daly, added: “Your kicks are only as good as your chases. Some of the chasing today was outstanding. 

“Jonny May’s like when you go to the park and you see someone with a tennis ball and they throw it, the dog runs 100 mph and chases it and brings it back. He does that pretty well.”

But a modest May said: “I was lucky today to get on the end of some really good team play. 

“My job is to put the ball down over the line, it is probably the easiest job when the guys inside me are doing a brilliant job.”

France wing Damian Penaud had a torrid match, despite scoring the visitors’ lone try, as May surged past him time and again.

Meanwhile Yoann Huget – played out of position at full-back – was substituted at half-time by France coach Jacques Brunel.

When centre Henry Slade ended the first half by scoring England’s fourth try, Jones’ men – who are now two points clear of Wales – had a bonus-point score with 40 minutes still to play.

England were 30-8 up at half-time but Jones said: “The second half I thought our performance was even better – our focus and our discipline to keep France scoreless was outstanding.”

France are in England’s pool at the World Cup but Brunel insisted: “Lots of things can happen in the meantime. The conditions (in Japan) will not be the same.”

This was France’s second defeat of the tournament after they squandered a 16-0 half-time lead in a 24-19 loss to Wales in Paris last week.

“I’m very disappointed of course, especially in our first half,” said Brunel following France’s 10th loss in 13 Tests. “Today the English were stronger than us.”

France captain Guilhem Guirado, whose side next play Scotland in Paris, said this latest reverse had been particularly damaging.

“It’s very painful conceding try after try,” the hooker said. “Tonight is a lesson, but still, it hurts a lot compared to last week.”


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