Eddie Jones was happy to see England adapt after another disrupted week to beat Australia by a 32-15 score to retain the Cook Cup at Twickenham.
oe Marler tested positive for Covid-19 on Monday and fellow loosehead prop Ellis Genge joined his team-mate in contracting the virus three days later which forced Bevan Rodd into an unexpected debut despite only joining the squad on Thursday.
There was another forward injury to deal with during the contest with Jamie George forced off but tries by Freddie Steward and Jamie Blamire bookended a hard-fought contest with the Wallabies, who suffered an eighth straight defeat to England.
Jones said: “We have had a fairly disrupted week. We have had two Covid positives and a young prop come in on Thursday, have one training run and get promoted to starting guy.
“We lost Jamie George at half-time, Kyle Sinckler got a bad dead leg early in the first half so we had to battle today. We had to battle hard and I was really pleased with the attitude of the players.
“We predicted it would be more of a free-flowing game like Australia like to play but it turned out to be a penalty-heavy game, a lot of set-piece contests and kicking. I was pleased with the way we adapted our game and fought through it. I was also really pleased with the way our finishers finished the game.”
Blamire was one of the England replacements to make his mark, crossing over for the sixth time for his country and continuing his record of scoring in all four international appearances.
Debutant Rodd also received praise from Jones for a “remarkable effort” but the majority of eyes ahead of kick-off were on the new 10-12 axis of Marcus Smith and captain Owen Farrell.
The duo combined impressively to send Leicester full-back Steward away after seven minutes and while they kicked a combined points total of 22, Jones knows there is plenty more to come from the pair.
He added: “They are a bit like two opening batsmen who haven’t batted together facing the new ball for the first time. Every time they bat together after this, they will be better.
“I thought the first try we scored is probably one of the best tries I’ve seen from an England side; our handling, our running lines, hitting the holes, it was absolutely outstanding and we want to do more of that.
“We are aggressive about wanting to do more but it’s just not going to happen all the time. I thought that was really promising from those two guys.”
England will need to assess George after his knee injury but captain Farrell, who was also forced off, insisted his withdrawal was only due to a “bang on the ankle” with attention turning to South Africa’s visit to HQ next week. Jones may have Marler available too with his isolation set to end on Thursday.
For Australia, they were left to lick their wounds after a second consecutive Autumn Nations Series loss following their narrow defeat to Scotland earlier in the month.
Head coach Dave Rennie admitted: “We just couldn’t get going. We got hammered in the penalty count. I have seen the possession and territory stats are in the sixties (for England).
“We just made too many errors and we gave away dumb penalties. It is frustrating. We showed a lot of character and at half-time it was 16-12 and we had fought hard.
“I felt if we were able to string a few phases together, we could have put them under pressure but we were not accurate enough tonight.”