Owen Farrell could face a Six Nations investigation after being allegedly involved in a tunnel bust-up before England’s shock 25-13 defeat by Scotland at Murrayfield, with the fly-half understood to have clashed with a number of Scotland players as they returned from the warm-up.
It’s unusual for both sides to head back into the changing room at the same time for fear of such skirmishes, and television cameras appeared to pick-up a fracas between an England player that appeared to be Farrell and a group of Scottish players.
The Six Nations could not confirm the incident immediately after the match, which sees England’s Grand Slam hopes over and their title defence hanging in the balance, while head coach Eddie Jones also stressed that he had no idea about the incident. However, broadcasters the BBC reported that a clash had occurred before the game that required those in question to be forcefully separated.
“I’ve been coaching a game, I’ve been pretty busy,” Jones said after suffering just his second defeat in 26 matches in charge of England. “Are you aware of it? You can show it to me after the press conference, then we can have a chat about it. In all seriousness, I don’t know about it.
“If there was, we shouldn’t let that detract from a great Scotland victory. Don’t get distracted by other things. Have you got an iPhone 10? The visions better on an iPhone 10.”
Jones was keen to praise opponents Scotland afterwards, and admitted that the home side deserved the victory that now leaves Ireland as heavy favourites to win the Six Nations for the first time in three years.
“Full credit to Scotland. They deserved the victory and played very well,” Jones said. “As we said before the game, they are a good side and we respected them. We knew it was going to be a tough game. “
England were facing an uphill battle as early as the 15th minute when Huw Jones crossed for the opening try of the match, and by the time the centre had bagged his second two minutes before half-time to sandwich Sean Maitland’s score, the reigning champions found themselves 22-6 behind.
Farrell added to his two first-half penalties with a converted try four minutes after the break, but even though Finn Russell added a penalty of his own to crown what was a brilliant performance in the wake of a fortnight worth of criticism, the first-half deficit proved too much for England to handle – with Sam Underhill’s 68th-minute yellow card only making their quest that little bit harder.
“For some reason at the start of the game, we lacked intensity,” added Jones. “We invited them to the game and they took full advantage. They raced away. It is hard to get back 22 points. I am really proud of effort in the second half. I think we showed a lot of courage and character to get ourselves back in a position where we could have conceivably won the game. Full credit to Scotland, they were outstanding today.”
The Scottish side also talked down the pre-match incident, with Gregor Townsend admitting he was unaware of any incident, while Russell said that he would “leave it to the big boys” when asked about it, with the fly-half unaware of any incident.
Given that the clash was picked up by TV cameras, the silence from both teams seemed somewhat peculiar, with Joe Launchbury adding “I know nothing about it” afterwards. However, with the England lock making his 50th appearance, he could not hide his disappointment.
"There is a lot of disappointment around,” Launchbury said. “We thought we were ready for it and had plenty of time to prepare for what is always a very emotion-packed and passionate game for both sides.
"We started poorly and gave ourselves a mountain to climb. We can be proud of ourselves to come out for the second half and show some fight but it wasn't enough.
"We got behind and it was hard to reverse the momentum. Things seem to start going against you when perhaps you try so hard to catch up.
"These disappointments are not planned. We came into the tournament aiming to win as many games as we can. We lost today but this is a journey and we have a lot of growth left in us.
"We just need to use this as a harsh lesson for what can happen if you don't play your very best. It's a huge loss but we have to look at what went wrong and put things right. It's about how you react to these losses and learn from them.
"We have a massive two weeks now leading up to the game in France and we need to get that preparation right."