England head coach Eddie Jones has urged critics not to be too harsh on Chris Robshaw, who was one of the Barbarians players who broke coronavirus protocols, forcing Sunday’s match at Twickenham to be cancelled.
Former England captain Robshaw was among a group of Baa-Baas players who left their team hotel to go for a meal out in London last Wednesday.
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With England’s opponents unable to secure enough replacements to field a team in time, the game had to be called off, leaving England without a warm-up match ahead of their crucial Six Nations fixture in Italy this weekend.
Despite admitting he was disappointed to see the match called off, Jones offered his backing to Robshaw and insisted England will still be ready to face Italy on Saturday, knowing that a bonus-point victory in Rome could see them crowned Six Nations champions for 2020.
“I really haven’t followed it. Once it was done and dusted, then it was on to find the best preparation for Italy,” Jones told Sky Sports News when asked about the Baa-Baas game.
“I’m sure if Chris was involved, he’ll be sorry for his actions. Chris is a good young man. He’s served his country well; let’s make sure we don’t take it out on him too badly.”
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The cancellation meant a quick change of plans for England’s backroom staff and Jones was pleased with how they and the players reacted positively to the change in circumstances.
Jones added: “I raced up to my room and started drawing up a new plan. I’ve been around rugby long enough to know that these things happen. Everybody’s disappointed with it but you’ve just got to get on.
“If you’re with the team, you’ve just got to work out what to do with that team if you had a game cancelled, then you’re working out how to get the match fitness in your players to be ready for Italy and that’s what we did.
“I’m really pleased with how my staff and players responded, we had a really great session on Saturday morning, an unbelievably good session.
“The players have now had a little bit of a break and they are ready to go for the Italian game.”
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Robshaw ‘sincerely remorseful’ for breaching rules
Robshaw released a public apology on Friday – confirming he was among the group of players that breached the coronavirus protocols.
“I want to express my deepest apologies for breaching the Barbarians Covid-19 restrictions by leaving the hotel post training with some of my team-mates,” Robshaw said, in a statement on Twitter.
“A huge effort went into conducting this match in a safe fashion and it was irresponsible of me to break the protocols which are put in place to protect players, staff and the public.
“I understand that my actions have ultimately contributed to the cancellation of Sunday’s match and I am sincerely remorseful for my role in undoing all the amazing work that went into trying to make it happen.
“I promise that I will learn from this mistake and ensure something like this never happens again.”
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