Eddie Jones is preparing his side for a “World Cup final” when England travel to Ireland this weekend for the historic Six Nations Grand Slam decider, and insisted that they recently-crowned champions will not be beaten on their quest to re-write the record books.
All the criticism of England underperforming disappeared last Saturday when England thrashed Scotland 61-21 at Twickenham to retain the Six Nations title that Jones one in his first year with England, and the Australian now has the chance for his team to become the first to win consecutive Grand Slam titles in the Six Nations era, but also break New Zealand’s record for the most consecutive victories in international rugby.
Saturday’s rout saw England tie the All Blacks with their run on 18 successive wins stretching back to the final pool match of the 2015 Rugby World Cup, and history beckons if they can win at the Aviva Stadium in Saturday’s final encounter.
But Jones is refusing to take Ireland lightly, and will prepare his side for the equivalent of a World Cup final, something he has stressed remains the main target as he keeps one eye on the 2019 tournament.
“We’ve got to be really well prepared,” he said. “The more preparation we have, the more knowledge we have of what Ireland are likely to do we can anticipate, react with speed and create pressure.
“It’s a great opportunity and a great experience. We’re building up to a World Cup and this is like a World Cup final – winner takes all. To have this experience is only positive for us.”
Jones also touched on comments made by England’s World Cup-winning coach, Sir Clive Woodward, who expressed his belief that anything less than the Grand Slam would constitute a failure for the pre-tournament favourites and No 2 ranked side in the world.
“If we were to get beaten – and we won’t – is it a failure? We’re still Six Nations champions,” insisted Jones.
He added: “We didn’t celebrate [after beating Scotland]. We haven’t got anything to celebrate yet. It is all ahead of us.
“Last year we were nervous and I expect us to be nervous this year. It is a big occasion. You don’t get a chance to win a Grand Slam back to back too many times but experience helps.
“The players have experienced that the year before so I’m sure they will cope with that.
Six Nations team of the weekend – round four
“Every year winning is difficult. There’s a perception that this Six Nations has been better and it probably has been, but you’ve still got to win and to win it you’ve got to stay undefeated.
“You have to be around your best for five games in a row. That’s an achievement.”
The Australian expects to meet a wounded Ireland side, having suffered a disheartening 22-9 defeat in Wales last Friday night that not only ended their own chances of winning the title but opened the door for England to seal it with a win against Scotland, a week ahead of the anticipated shootout in Dublin.
“Ireland are an extremely well coached side and they’ll be grossly disappointed by their performance on Friday,” Jones said. “I’ve just been reading all the predictions at the start of the tournament and a number of people tipped them to win the competition.
“They were favourites but they haven’t won the Six Nations and they’ll be carrying the expectation of their country to do well.”