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Dublin: 11°C Friday 16 April 2021

'We wanted to play with a bigger dead-ball area' - England plan backfires

England’s decision to make the in-goal area longer made a difference in the end.

Murray Kinsella reports from Twickenham

WITH SNOW FORECAST and falling in London today, the RFU cleverly decided to repaint the lines of the pitch at Twickenham blue in order to help with visibility.

England boss Eddie Jones was naturally consulted and – as he confirmed after Ireland had secured their Grand Slam – they opted to extend the in-goal area a couple of metres beyond its usual dimensions.

Screen Shot 2018-03-17 at 19.32.33 Stockdale stretches out to score.

“We wanted to play with a bigger dead-ball area,” said Jones, who had just wholeheartedly congratulated Ireland for their excellent performance.

Well, it’s impossible to view the plan as anything other than one that completely backfired on England.

Jacob Stockdale’s try just before half-time was a crucial moment in this contest, allowing Ireland to move into a commanding 21-5 lead, and he wouldn’t have scored it without the extended in-goal area.

The Ulster wing chipped over the head of Mike Brown with the clock in red before the interval and then nudged it forward over the tryline with his knee as Brown and Jonny May attempted to stop him from scoring.

On any other day at Twickenham, the ball would have gone dead as Stockdale kept his feet and tore after it, but not on this Grand Slam-sealing day.

The 21-year-old just made it in time, but he was able to stretch out and ground the ball with his left hand in the split second before it could cross the dead-ball line and signal half-time.

“I didn’t,” said Stockdale afterwards when he was asked if he had known about the bigger in-goal area. “I was told afterwards. I wish I could act like it was all planned!”

Meanwhile, Jones pointed out that sometimes the bounce of the ball just goes against you.

“Not really,” said the England coach when it was put to him that the plan had backfired. “It’s just part of the game.”

Source: Six Nations Rugby/YouTube

Joe Schmidt was happy to admit that – as he had predicted – Lady Luck shone on Ireland in that moment.

He did also point out that scrum-half Conor Murray had produced a lovely pass and that Stockdale had plenty to do to create the chance.

“I said all week, we will be absolutely committed, we’ll have a plan, but we’ll need a bit of luck,” said Schmidt.

“I mentioned Alex Ferguson – I remember him speaking at Harvard and he said you need to get this, this and this in order, and then you need a bit of luck.

“In really big games, when you know you’re up against a team that are at least as good as you are, those moments make a difference.

“I think Jacob finished it superbly. The timing of the pass from Conor Murray created the initial opportunity.”

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Murray Kinsella

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