Jones sets All Black bar for Grand Slam win­ners

Eng­land coach be­lieves sky is the limit for his youth­ful ‘All Whites’

The Herald - Herald Sport - - SIX NATIONS - DUN­CAN BECH

VIC­TO­RI­OUS Eng­land coach Ed­die Jones be­lieves his All Whites can prove a match for the All Blacks if the newly crowned Grand Slam cham­pi­ons con­tinue to im­prove at their cur­rent rate.

“The good thing about it is that there’s still a long way to go,” Jones said post-match af­ter Eng­land beat France at the week­end. “Win­ning a Grand Slam means you’re the dom­i­nant team in Europe.

“It’s a nice first step for us but that’s a small step and there are much larger steps to come, start­ing with the Aus­tralian tour. Can we beat the All Blacks? Of course we can.

“We can’t now but we will in the fu­ture. Why else play rugby if you don’t think you can beat the All Blacks?”

Tries from Danny Care, Dan Cole and An­thony Wat­son and the deadly ac­cu­rate kick­ing of Owen Far­rell put paid to the home side’s hopes but the French spirit, cou­pled with flashes of their at­tack­ing men­ace, made for a tense evening.

Wat­son’s touch-down in the 56th minute gave Eng­land some breath­ing space and they con­trolled the fi­nal half hour with two late penal­ties from Far­rell fi­nally eas­ing the ten­sion.

Grand Slam fail­ures en­dured at the fi­nal hur­dle lit­ter Red Rose his­tory, but on Satur­day night they held their nerve in a piv­otal phase of the match to end a run of four suc­ces­sive run­ners-up fin­ishes.

That strength of char­ac­ter, cou­pled with a youth­ful age pro­file among Eng­land’s Grand Slam squad, had their Aus­tralian coach cast­ing an eye to­wards his home­land’s great An­tipodean ri­vals.

Jones added: “The ex­cit­ing thing for us is we have an av­er­age age of 24 and the win­ning tro­phy age for Test-match rugby is about 28, so we’re three or four years away from peak­ing.”

Ge­orge Ford backed his coach’s view that a first Grand Slam in 13 years could un­lock Eng­land’s “end­less po­ten­tial”.

Satur­day’s tri­umph in Paris at least par­tially ex­or­cised the shades of last au­tumn’s dis­mal World Cup show­ing and left the newly-crowned Six Na­tions cham­pi­ons rel­ish­ing, not fear­ing, a three-Test se­ries against Aus­tralia in June.

Bath fly-half Ford was typ­i­cally bullish. He said: “This is only the start for us and while we’re glad to have done this, we un­der­stand we need to get bet­ter as well.

“There’s so much more time to come. The po­ten­tial is end­less. This is a small start to be­com­ing a bet­ter team but if we stay hum­ble and grounded then this team can go places.”

Ac­knowl­edg­ing that World Cup dis­ap­point­ment had stiff­ened Eng­land’s re­solve for the Six Na­tions, Ford added: “Af­ter the World Cup we went away, stuck to­gether and most of that squad was in­volved in this.

“Some­times you have to take things like what hap­pened then on the chin and stay grounded.”

Yet stay­ing grounded has helped Eng­land soar. In 120 days, Jones has trans­formed what is largely the same group of play­ers into top dogs in the north­ern hemi­sphere. “He’s in­stilled a way of play­ing into us and wants us to at­tack teams. That’s the way the lads like play­ing,” the 23-year-old con­cluded.

EYES ON THE PRIZE: Ed­die Jones gazes fondly at Eng­land’s RBS Six Na­tions tro­phy

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.