England have urged officials to prevent scheming France deliberately slowing the tempo of Sunday’s Six Nations clash at Twickenham.
Eddie Jones has highlighted the difficulty of playing at pace against Les Bleus due to the variety of tricks they employ to reduce the game to a speed that suits their substandard conditioning.
It will be among the issues raised by Steve Borthwick when the forwards coach speaks with Nigel Owens at the customary eve-of-match referees’ meeting and England are confident the Welsh official will be alert to the threat.
“It’s up to Nigel Owens. Nigel’s an experienced referee who understands the ebb and flow of games. He’ll do the best to keep the game moving I think,” attack coach Scott Wisemantel said.
Former England prop Joe Marler has revealed the go-slow tactics used by France, which include: stopping to tie up shoe laces, resetting scrums, taking as long as possible to form line-outs and launching their gargantuan forwards into the breakdown in the pretence of competing for the ball.
Jones insists there are limitations to what England can do against the type of dark arts he claims are bad for the sport.
“It’s difficult – just look at ball-in-play time,” said Jones, who enjoyed the best result and performance of his three-year reign as head coach when Ireland were routed 32-20 last weekend.
“We have just had the Japanese coaches with us for the week – Jamie Joseph and Tony Brown – and they are aiming to have a ball-in-play time of close to 50 minutes. France average 30 minutes.
“They kick the ball out a lot and look for long stoppages before scrums. They are things we really can’t control, so it’s hard to get pace in the game against them.
“It is hard to get pace in the game now the way the game is being refereed because increasingly we are getting longer stoppages, which I don’t think is healthy for the game.
“There are a couple of ways we can get a bit of pace in the game on Sunday and we have investigated those. You know the referee we have got.”
Mako Vunipola, a star of the Aviva Stadium accomplishment, echoes Wisemantel’s confidence that Owens will punish France if necessary.
“For me as a front rower I would be happy if they slowed it down,” the Saracens loosehead prop said.
“But for us it’s about controlling what we can and making sure that we take care of our job. If it is ridiculous then I’m sure the right people will step in.
“Being focused for 80 minutes is the biggest thing because this team can score from anywhere in a split second.”
England are odds-on favourites to sweep aside France and Jones is convinced they can improve on a result in Dublin that sent shock waves across the game in World Cup year.
“I think we can get better. I always remember a press conference with Tiger Woods after he took 12 months to remodel his swing,” Jones said.
“The interviewer said to him, ‘can you be as good as you were?’ and he said, ‘the reason I have taken time off is to be better’. There’s no reason why we can’t keep on getting better, no reason at all.”
Warren Gatland claimed “it could be embarrassing” if Wales replicate their performance against Italy when they face England in a fortnight’s time.
Wales backed up a Six Nations victory over France by defeating the Azzurri 26-15 in Rome thanks to second-half tries by wing Josh Adams and centre Owen Watkin.
Wales equalled the longest unbeaten run in their 138-year Test match history, making it 11 successive victories and matching the sequence set between 1907 and 1910.
But it was a stop-start performance by a Wales team showing 10 changes from the one that triumphed in Paris eight days ago.
“There are lots of things we need to improve for England,” Wales head coach Gatland told ITV.
“We all need to improve in lots of areas to beat England. They are a pretty good side at the moment. If we play like that against England it could be embarrassing.”
Speaking at his post-match press conference, Gatland added: “It wasn’t a great performance, but sometimes you have to win ugly.
“We didn’t play that well, but as I said to the boys in the changing room, we will take the win, move on and start thinking about England.”
Asked if he regretted making wholesale changes, Gatland said: “I don’t regret anything. I was looking at the bigger picture.
“For us as coaches, in our last year, we want to have as good a World Cup as we can. That was the plan all along. There is no regret.
“We are two (wins) from two, and we have a couple of weeks of training before England. It sets us up nicely for the England match.
“A lot of people will be writing us off, which is a good position to be in. Hopefully, we will go under the radar, have two good weeks of training and get ourselves mentally and physically right.
“We didn’t play as well as we would have liked. Probably part of that is that we didn’t have the continuity that we would have if we hadn’t made so many changes.
“We didn’t really get out of jail. I don’t think it ever looked like we were going to lose the game, but we weren’t as accurate as we could have been.
“You are not always brilliant, and we weren’t today. We will be a lot better against England.
“We didn’t speak about the record (11 wins) at all this week, but we will probably talk about it before England.
“If this group of players achieve that, it will be something nobody can take away from them. There will definitely be no lack of motivation in trying to beat England and break that record.”
During the game, the radio link between referee Mathieu Raynal and the television match official appeared not to work in an embarrassing episode for Six Nations chiefs, and when Raynal had to rule on try-scoring moments, a set of headphones were brought on for him to communicate with the TMO.
Wales skipper Jonathan Davies said: “I think there was a breakdown in communication with a technical fault. There is always a lot to talk about with things like that. It didn’t affect the result of the game, thankfully.”
Fly-half Dan Biggar kicked 14 points and Gareth Anscombe converted Watkin’s touchdown, but Italy, despite slipping to a 19th successive Six Nations defeat and a 13th on the bounce against Wales, battled hard throughout.
They claimed a first-half try from flanker Abraham Steyn, with fly-half Tommaso Allan kicking a penalty and conversion, before wing Edoardo Padovani crossed late on.
Reflecting on the result, Italy boss Conor O’Shea said: “I am really disappointed.
“I see a group in our changing room that are so driven and have a desire to succeed. They know the scale of the challenge, but we will just dust ourselves down.”
Brady won the Super Bowl for a record sixth time when the Los Angeles Rams were defeated 13-3 through a defensive masterclass in Atlanta on Monday.
At the heart of the win was Brady, the 41-year-old veteran whose vision and level of expertise Farrell has been compared to having as England’s attacking coordinator on the pitch.
Ireland playmaker Sexton began following Brady’s career at the advice of Leinster boss Stuart Lancaster and Farrell, who leads England against France in Sunday’s Six Nations clash at Twickenham, has followed suit.
“You’re always interested in the best and he’s someone who has been at the top for a very long time,” Farrell said.
“In that regard I have always taken a massive interest in him and probably any little insight you can get from any sort of article, podcast or book, it is always engaging and good to hear.
“He’s very in control and very calm under pressure. He is very ready – not just ready for what he thinks will be in front of him, ready for anything at the same time.”