ENGLAND coach Eddie Jones praised the efforts of his players despite coming off second-best in the World Cup final against South Africa.
England were convincingly beaten 32-12 by Rassie Eramus’s team at Yokohama Stadium in Japan, despite being the clear pre-match favourites.
But Jones was full of nothing but praise for his “outstanding team”, while being reticent to comment on his comments earlier this week for his reign to be judged by his team’s performance at the World Cup.
“I don’t think that’s relevant at this stage,” he said. “I’m just thinking about my team, they’re hurting badly enough.
“South Africa were worthy winners but I can’t fault the effort of my players. They’ve been outstanding throughout the World Cup and played with a lot of pride and passion.
“Today we just struggled to get on the front foot. They were very aggressive around the ruck and the breakdown and obviously they had dominance in the scrum.
“It wasn’t until late in the second half that we got any power in the scrum and it’s hard playing off back-foot ball.”
Jones said he was not looking for any excuses amid reports that the bus was late to take the team to the stadium and refused to discuss his own future.
“It’s not the time to discuss it now,” he said. “That’s for the future but for this team there’s no reason why they can’t keep developing.”
England fly-half George Ford refused to blame his forwards for the the defeat.
“You always want to get on the front foot but I can’t fault the lads up front, they’ve been unbelievable all tournament,” said Ford. “South Africa just got one over on us today and we have to take it on the chin.
“It’s tough when they get a bit of a lead like that, you’re having to chase the game. They executed their game plan brilliantly.
“We were massively inaccurate in the first half when we had the ball. We couldn’t build any pressure. South Africa got us into that game which they’re very good at.”
South Africa scrum-half Faf De Klerk said: “It’s mixed emotions but obviously I’m unbelievably happy, so glad we can do it for the country and for ourselves. It means a lot to us.”
The Sale Sharks player said his team did not change their game plan from the semi-final.
“Not really,” he said. “We just exploited them out wide a bit. We’ve got great wingers and great outside backs and in the second half we just said our backline must take their backline on and they came through.
“And once again a massive performance from our boys up front. They gave me great ball and they give the backs so much time on attack.”
Off the pitch, former England coach and World Cup winner Sir Clive Woodward lauded South Africa for their victory in the final in Japan.
England were beaten 32-12 at International Stadium Yokohama and Woodward praised the winning South Africa team and also pointed to their dominance in the scrum.
Woodward, who guided England to 2003 World Cup success, told ITV: “No doubt, the better team won. At this level of rugby, if you can’t scrum properly, if you’re going to give five or six penalties at your scrum against a team like this, you’re always going to come second.
“England will be bitterly disappointed, to go down 32-12 in a World Cup final. They just couldn’t fire a shot because we couldn’t get first-phase ball.”
Former Springbok winger Bryan Habana hopes the World Cup victory will inspire a new generation of players to take up the game.
He said: “It is absolutely phenomenal. No one expected as commanding a victory. I think they won almost every big play, with their ability to do it up front, but some of the tries we saw were absolutely phenomenal.
“I’d love to see the scenes back home because this can be a catalyst. You feel for the English because they’ve been incredible throughout the whole tournament but for these boys this will mean so much more than rugby. It will be so much bigger than the sport.
“From a South African perspective, hopefully a new generation of blacks will have been inspired by a team that has carried the hopes and dreams of a nation and done it incredibly well.”
Jonny Wilkinson, England’s hero of 2003, says the Springboks had a huge emotional attachment to the game which helped snuff out Eddie Jones’ team.
“Last week the guys played a great semi-final, this week things aligned differently and England needed a different kind of performance and they just couldn’t quite find it,” Wilkinson said.
“I agree the set piece was hugely important was but what can’t be over-estimated as well was the South Africa defence and their strength over the ball. They were stealing ball and their physical one-on-one collisions meant that England just couldn’t get moving.
“I think they had a huge emotional attachment to the game in terms of what it meant for them. There a very different team to the one that beat the Welsh.”