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

The Herald - Herald Sport - - RBS 6 NATIONS, CRICKET - DUN­CAN BECH

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.”

Pic­ture: Getty

TAK­ING THE LEAD: Dy­lan Hart­ley will cap­tain Eng­land, despite be­ing given his third red card of his ca­reer.

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