The England captain, Courtney Lawes, has revealed that Australia’s pre-match trash-talking provided the fuel to fire his side to a third Test victory and clinch the series against the Wallabies.
Tries from Freddie Steward and Marcus Smith helped England to a dogged 21-17 win in Sydney, founded on a resolute defensive effort, most notably in the closing stages when the Wallabies were threatening a late comeback. Lawes has spoken of the gruelling nature of the season, having finished the British & Irish Lions series last August, and Eddie Jones paid tribute to his captain’s resilience after the match.
Lawes also highlighted how Australia had talked about “shutting the Pommies up” in the buildup while the scrum-half Nic White had pointed out England’s off-the-ball antics and taken issue with an incident involving Ellis Genge in the second Test in Brisbane.
As a result and despite the end-of-season fatigue, Lawes revealed England were provided with the perfect motivation to go back to the well once more. He said: “We saw plenty of stuff in the press from their players and what they were saying – some people targeting Gengey and some people calling us Poms and whatnot.
“It’s all good fuel for our tank and any good team uses that as motivation. We just stayed in it. We have fought for each other … I mean, they give us a good bit of fuel in the press to be fair. They were talking smack about us. That motivated us a bit but the boys stuck together, stuck to our guns.
“It was tough. I’ve spoken through the whole tour about how, as a team, we want to have that feeling of playing for each other. When you are in those kinds of scenarios, that’s the only thing that gets you through. Your body is broken, you’ve played for 11 months, you’re at the end of a tough tour and you’re under the cosh. What are you going to do? You’re going to dig in for your mates. I think we showed what it means to us.”
Genge echoed Lawes’ comments, adding: “They came out in the press with a bit of smack and it got us up for the last one.”
Jones – who made the bold and decisive call to replace Danny Care with Jack van Poortvliet before half-time – has now guided England to two series victories in Australia, having led a 3-0 whitewash in 2016. That triumph came on the back of a Six Nations grand slam, however, and Jones believes this series victory was harder to achieve.
“This was tougher,” he said. “We had a more established team in 2016 coming on the back of the grand slam and coming on the back of a 2015 team. We are nurturing this team at the moment, we have got a good group of senior players and we have got all these guys coming through so it was an entirely different experience. We had to fight like anything today, we kept in there, we weren’t at our best which sometimes happens, that is rugby, and when you fight like that and win a game like that it is a big achievement from the team.”
Jones will now take his assistants to Melbourne to visit AFL and NRL teams in an effort to develop his staff’s coaching methods but, reserving special praise for Lawes, urged his captain to put his feet up over the summer. “I just want to say on Courtney, for a Lions player who played their last Test in August, to play a game like that in July is an unbelievable effort,” added Jones. “It just shows what you can do, but he needs a good rest now.”
July 16, 2022 at 09:24PM Gerard Meagher at the Sydney Cricket Ground