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'My opinion is the only one that counts' - Jones has no regrets over taking off Smith

The England out-half was replaced by George Ford in the latter stages of their Calcutta Cup defeat to Scotland.

England head coach Eddie Jones.
England head coach Eddie Jones.
Image: PA

EDDIE JONES INSISTS he has no regrets over the decision to replace Marcus Smith with George Ford in England’s Calcutta Cup defeat by Scotland.

Jones says he relies on “gut feel” rather than data or a pre-planned strategy when it comes to making changes as he continues to face criticism for Smith’s early exit from the 20-17 Guinness Six Nations loss at Murrayfield.

The fly-half was removed in the 63rd minute, fresh from scoring a dynamic try and landing a penalty as part of accounting for England’s entire score, only for a mismanaged final quarter to surrender a seven-point lead.

Hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie conceded a penalty try and was sin-binned as part of the implosion, but it is the withdrawal of Smith that has provoked the greatest debate.

Sir Clive Woodward and Danny Cipriani view it as a blunder, while Tabai Matson – Smith’s Harlequins boss – felt it was pre-meditated.

Jones is still satisfied with the call he made, however, and said: “I’m in charge of it so my opinion is the only one that counts. We have a plan, like very coach does, but we adjust it to what is happening in the game.

“Everybody has got a judgement but I’ve been a television commentator and I was the smartest coach in the world, I got everything right. And it’s easy with the hindsight of replays to get everything right.

“I don’t have any regrets about what happened on Saturday in terms of the replacements we made.

“There were a number of circumstances that happened… as you know, we got a yellow card which upset the apple cart a little bit and which we weren’t planning on.

“The big thing for me is that we have got a squad of 23 and we want to maximise the squad of 23. How much time a replacement gets depends on the performance of the starting guy and what he has been showing at training.

“We are always weighing those things up, looking at the game and it’s quite a complicated equation of what we look at and it’s not as simple as maybe it is made out to be.

“We get basic stats on actions, but they don’t tell us any more than we know. We don’t get any live GPS because of the stadiums – we don’t have the technology to do that.

“Information, in reality, hasn’t changed much for 25 years during the game. It’s about your observation, your gut feel, which is based on some data.

“For instance, each of the players have a stress signal of when they’re tired. We learn that about the players.

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“When we take a player off it’s because they’ve shown us they’re in physical distress and don’t have much left in the tank. There’s a little bit of science, but a lot of it’s still gut feel.”

When asked if Smith was showing signs of distress, Jones replied: “His was more… again I’m not going to go back into the game, but I felt at that stage, we needed to change things.”

England hope to have Lewis Ludlam back from a rib injury for the round-three clash with Wales, but the Northampton flanker is definitely ruled out of Sunday’s trip to Italy.

Courtney Lawes is unlikely to be involved in Rome as he continues to recover from concussion, but veteran lock Joe Launchbury has been recalled to the squad after overcoming a serious knee injury.

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