Jones sets All Black bar for Grand Slam winners
England coach believes sky is the limit for his youthful ‘All Whites’
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