England head coach Eddie Jones has backed his team’s decision to kick the ball out and accept a draw against the All Blacks rather than playing for the win.
It was a sensational comeback from Jones’s men, who were 25-6 down to New Zealand with only eight minutes to play before three quick tries brought the Red Rose level.
Will Stuart led the charge with a late brace while Freddie Steward scored the third try, but Marcus Smith was booed for kicking the ball out at the end despite England’s numerical advantage with Beauden Barrett in the sin bin for the All Blacks.
Behind the players
Jones believes those decisions are up to the players in the moment, and he claims to “trust” the decision.
“It is always up to players mate. I trust their decision-making. I am not on the field. I don’t have access to them. I just trust their decision,” Jones claimed.
“We’re disappointed we didn’t win the game but a draw is a draw and the dominance they had in the first half, we could have fell away.
“You’ve seen better teams than us fall away against the All Blacks and get beat by 40 or 50 points. I have coached teams that have done that.
“When you get absolutely pulverised by them – like we were in the first half – and you don’t stay in the fight, you can get blown away even more.
“We stayed in the fight, which I think the leadership of the team was outstanding. Owen (Farrell) did a great job in his 100th cap with (Ellis) Genge and Jack Nowell. Then the other significant thing was the support of the crowd.
“The crowd were absolutely fantastic, which definitely lifted the players, so we are grateful to the 81,641 that were there. I don’t know what happened to the other 349!
“They will be kicking themselves but we hope there is 82,000 next week complete because it will be a hell of a game (against South Africa).”
Skipper Owen Farrell played his 100th Test on Saturday against the All Blacks, and he also backed the decision to kick the ball out of play, revealing the team felt as if they had no front foot ball.
“We wanted to see where we were at off the ruck. If we could go forward, go on the front foot and we had an opportunity, then we wanted to take it. If not we wanted to make a good decision. I think that’s what was done,” Farrell said.
“I think the belief showed by the team in that second half was outstanding. I felt like we were always in the game.
“We stayed at it and had proper, proper belief today and I’m proud of the team for that.”
Jack Van Poortvliet endured a difficult time against New Zealand, but Jones believes the experience is valuable to the young star.
“Brilliant young player, brilliant young player and that is one of the best games for him where things don’t go well and you have to battle through. That’s where they learn a lot,” said the coach.
“And that’s the best 40 I’ve seen Marcus play in Test rugby. Aggressive, decisive and wanted to own the game, not as an individual but part of the team, so I thought that was a big step forward for the young man.”
Meanwhile, All Blacks head coach Ian Foster said he was surprised by England’s decision to not play for the win.
“Was I surprised? Yeah I was. All I know is flip it over, I’d have liked our guys to have a crack so not sure what their tactics were,” he conceded.
“We’ll certainly be more disappointed than them. End of the day it is a draw.
“We’ve come here and played some great rugby. In our mind we should have walked away with win.”