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
Six Nations team of the weekend - round four
1/15 15. Leigh Halfpenny (Wales)
The full-back flourished in bringing George North into the game as he repeatedly joined the back line to give Wales an extra man in attack. He tackled well, with a memorable stop on Rob Kearney halting an Irish attack in full flow. Has put himself back into the running for the Lions berth.
2/15 14. George North (Wales)
Back to his devastating best with two tries this week. His first was a brutal display of power as he carried both Simon Zebo and Keith Earls over the try line to score, while his second was the result of a great drive from the Welsh pack. A mazy run towards the end of the victory over Ireland triggered one last attack as his side searched in vain for the bonus point.
3/15 13. Jonathan Joseph (England)
A brilliant performance provided a timely reminder of what he is capable of. Three tries, each of differing styles, paved the way for England’s stunning 61-21 victory over Scotland. The first try saw Joseph display his pace and power, the second one came from dazzling footwork and the third saw him cut a lovely inside line to break cleanly from short range.
4/15 12. Owen Farrell (England)
After his horror show against Italy, Farrell was back to his best again to convert all but one of his kicks at goal – the one he missed was from his own half – and he was much smarter with his kicking to touch following the errors that littered his display a fortnight ago. Brought Joseph into the attack superbly, and finished the game at 10 once more.
5/15 11. Virimi Vakatawa (France)
A great week for the French wing as he scored a devastating try that put Italy out of the game and racked up more metres than anyone else this week, making an average of more than 10m per break. He beat eight defenders and made four clean breaks, and provided a display that proved just what a dangerous open-field runner he can be.
6/15 10. George Ford (England)
Ford was able to take the fight to Scotland with the pack providing him with front-foot ball to work with. The fly-half linked up superbly with Farrell outside him, and also brought his three-quarters into the game with devastating results.
7/15 9. Rhys Webb (Wales)
A strong performance from Webb saw him create the first try for North with a smart supporting run to take an offload from Scott Williams and release a beautiful wide pass for Halfpenny to run on to. He was alert in defence and got the better of Ireland scrum-half Conor Murray in their battle for the Lions No 9 shirt.
8/15 1. Rob Evans (Wales)
A strong performance from the loosehead against an Irish scrum that until now had gotten the better of all its opponents. Carried multiple times, albeit with little success, but that took its toll on the Irish defence as it tired.
9/15 2. Guilhem Guirado (France)
The standout hooker this week as the French captain led by example, making an impressive 31 metres with the ball in hand and 11 tackles in defence, not to mention sealing a turnover in the process.
10/15 3. Rabah Slimani (France)
Joins his skipper in the front row after displacing Uini Atonio in the side and delivering much better performances. An impressive showing in the loose.
11/15 4. Joe Launchbury (England)
A candidate for player of the tournament. Launchbury has excelled on his return to the Test fold, and he once again led by example as he made a phenomenal 22 tackles against Scotland, as well as enjoying success with the ball in hand.
12/15 5. Alun Wyn Jones (Wales)
Return to form this week as he put his body on the line, making 18 tackles and 14 carries. He also disrupted the Irish lineout, stealing one throw on his own 5m line, but his best performance came in terms of his decision-making as he got all the big calls right.
13/15 6. Sam Warburton (Wales)
A brilliant performance in defence saw Warburton set the tone for Wales’s physical dominance over Ireland. He made more tackles than anyone else on the pitch in Cardiff, and he looks to be suited to not having the burden of the captaincy hanging over him.
14/15 7. Kevin Gourdon (France)
France have found their natural replacement for Thierry Dusautoir as Gourdon once again displayed his talents in the win over Italy. He carried well for more than 50 metres, and did his job in defence to slow down the Italian attack at the breakdown.
15/15 8. Nathan Hughes (England)
Scotland made the mistake of not double-marking him, and he ran riot as a result. The Wasps No 8 appeared to send out a message that the returning Billy Vunipola would not be taking his shirt easily, and made an impressive 74 metres from 11 carries.
"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."Reuse content