LONDON (AP) – England outclassed Georgia 40-0 in their Autumn Nations Cup starter at the expense of an injury to Jonathan Joseph at Twickenham on Saturday.
Joseph hurt his back while setting up the last try of the first half and had to be helped off. Coach Eddie Jones was “cautiously optimistic” he will available to play Ireland next weekend.
In an experimental team with an eye on the 2023 Rugby World Cup, Joseph was bumped from the centres to the right wing but told by Jones to be a floating centre, to go where he wants. He was busy as always, and made his biggest contribution while Georgia was thinking of the approaching interval.
Ollie Lawrence acted as a decoy, Joseph floated through a hole 40 metres out, slipped one defender, drew the last one, and sent in fullback Elliot Daly for the team’s fourth try.
Owen Farrell’s conversion made it 26-0 that England converted into 40-0 with six tries in total.
The best team in Europe outside of the Six Nations was no match for the new Six Nations champion, and followed a 48-7 pasting from Scotland last month in a warmup. The Scots were merciless with the lineout maul, and England also used it as an effective weapon to set up all three of hooker Jamie George’s tries.
“This was much better than against Scotland,” Georgia captain Merab Sharikadze said.
“Every time we had the ball we were under so much pressure. It was a very good experience and I hope that the next game we will be better at handling pressure. If we want to improve, that’s the key. Otherwise you can’t.”
Played in wet conditions, the match was bogged down by 50 set-pieces — 19 scrums — that suited the monster pack Jones picked to outmuscle the similarly sized Georgians.
“We wanted to prove a point that they wouldn’t be able to out-scrum us,” Jones said. “We would have liked to have executed a bit better because we maybe left 20 points out there.”
Props Ellis Genge and Will Stuart, making his first test start, had the upper hand early in a lengthy series of scrums near the Georgia tryline. Flanker Jack Willis, on debut, had the first try chance disallowed but his second attempt was allowed in the 15th minute.
George scored the next two tries. After throwing in, he joined the back of the lineout maul, and the England players were too tight and organised to be stopped as Georgians spun off them.
Rain returned at halftime, and combined with constant substitutions who made little impact, the match stuttered even more.