Jones: Attack is the only way to defend a Grand Slam
Coach plans to take game to rivals in bid to back up English dominance of northern hemisphere rugby
ONLY five teams have successfully defended the Grand Slam and in seeking to become the sixth, Eddie Jones’s England have pledged to adopt a bold approach.
The RBS 6 Nations title launched Jones’ regime with Twickenham’s first silverware for five years and by the end of 2016 the Australian had presided over a sequence of 13 successive Test victories.
England are now second in the global rankings and the next stage on their mission to supplant New Zealand at the pinnacle of the sport is to rid themselves of any conservatism against their European rivals.
“You don’t defend a Grand Slam, you’ve got to win it again and that’s why we’ve got to be absolutely daring going into the Six Nations,” Jones said. “It’s a big part of how we want to develop our game because we want to be a side that has the courage to play our sort of rugby from the very first game of the tournament.
“Daring doesn’t mean flair. Flair to me is Allan Lamb batting – trying to do the most outrageous things. Or a Twenty20 reverse sweep. Daring to me is having the mindset of going out to win the game, not relying on the opposition to make mistakes.
“Going out there with a proactive gameplan whereby we take it to the opposition, this is what we’re going to do and if we do it well enough then we’re going to win the game.
“It means that, rather than waiting, holding, hoping that they’re going to make mistakes. Will it be hard to convince the team to play like that? We’ll find out.
“For the first couple of games last year we were quite reticent to play any rugby. We got better against Ireland and Wales and then went back into our shell against France.
“That’s the challenge ahead. We’ve got a short period of time to change mindsets but I think we can do that.”
Aside from the startling transformation of England from a team that flopped at their own World Cup into masters of the northern hemisphere, 2016 was a Championship notable for its lack of quality.
The Northampton hooker Dylan Hartley will be captaining the team, despite his fears that the third career red card that he received in the European Champions Cup match against Leinster might jeopardise his position.
Jones, however, hopes that by lifting the standard of the rugby to match the colour, noise and passion of the age-old rivalries that drive its success, the Northern Hemisphere will be able to cherish a special competition.
“The Six Nations is unique because of the intensity of the rivalry, so if we can get the rugby at a great level then it will be the greatest tournament in the world,’’ Jones said.
“I thought that in the first few rounds of the Six Nations in 2016, teams were frightened to lose and they played like that. Teams played well within themselves and didn’t want to take any risks. I thought that in the last two rounds the quality of rugby was so much better, but we want to change that.
“The last side that played well in the first round of the competition was England in 2006. I think England beat Wales 47-13. Before that you go back to the great side of 2001/2002/2003.”
Even as an Australian steeped in the art of sledging, Jones was surprised by the level of the antipathy felt for England during his first Six Nations.
“There’s a fair bit of hatred towards England – and you feel that. I’m an Australian so I didn’t realise how intense it was. And that adds to the tournament,” Jones said.
“I don’t see that as being a negative, I see that being a very positive part of the tournament. That’s what gives it the allure of this intense rivalry, these countries that live next to each other. It’s small brother versus big brother.”
TAKING THE LEAD: Dylan Hartley will captain England, despite being given his third red card of his career.