No time to relax as Eddie Jones sets sights on Australia after England’s grand slam win
Coach ‘ecstatic’ but already preparing for summer tour to his homeland
England coach Eddie Jones said he was “ecstatic” to have won the Six Nations grand slam, but immediately turned his focus on the summer tour to Australia.
The Australian has overseen five straight wins since taking over from Stuart Lancaster following England’s disastrous World Cup, his team recording wins over Scotland (15-9), Italy (40-9), Ireland (21-10), Wales (25-21) and finally France (31-21) to wrap up a first Grand Slam since their World Cup-winning year of 2003, when Jones was in charge of losing finalists Australia.
“Winning the grand slam means you’ve beaten every team in the competition and it means you’re the most dominant team. Everyone’s ecstatic to be the most dominant team in Europe,” said Jones.
“That’s a nice first step for us but it’s only a small step because we’ve got much larger steps to go and that starts with the Australian tour.”
Jones said he thought the first half was “pretty ordinary”.
“Mentally, I think we were too worried about the result and not playing. But the second half was a pretty good effort, we overcame that mindset and played with a lot more conviction and courage and won the game in the end.
“It was always going to be a difficult game having won the Six Nations and coming to play against a French team that had nothing to lose so I’m proud of the team.
“Over the eight weeks they’ve improved a lot, but we’ve still got a long way to go.”
It certainly was not easy going at the Stade de France for England, who scored three tries through Danny Care, Dan Cole and Anthony Watson with Owen Farrell contributing 16 points with the boot.
A rash of ruck infringements allowed France to keep in the game through scrum-half Maxime Machenaud, who booted seven penalties in a flawless kicking display, four in the first-half.
But Jones had confidence in his young team, with an average age of 24, and backed them to soon start pushing three-time World Cup champions New Zealand.
“Can we beat the All Blacks? Of course we can. We can’t now but we will in the future,” he said with a smile.
“Why else would you play Test rugby if you don’t think you can beat the All Blacks?
“These boys are talented. We’ve got the talent to beat the All Blacks, maybe not now but in two or three years, we will.”
France coach Guy Noves praised his “courageous” side, but was left ruing too much lost ball and a malfunctioning line-out late in the game that gave an under-pressure English side a foothold to dictate their own rhythm.
“In the first-half we were consistent with our ambitions, we broke through the defence six times. However, we also lost the ball six times,” said Noves whose team finished in fifth place in the table.
“We showed a lot of movement, we showed the rugby that we wanted to play. But we later lacked a bit of patience and lucidity.”
South African-born full-back Scott Spedding was at the forefront of many attacks along with Fijian-born winger Virimi Vakatawa.
“I didn’t have the impression we were dominated by the England team. The first try was just a big mistake, we were not paying attention at the ruck and the scrum-half broke free to score under the posts.
“The second was a television official decision and there was an obstruction. Either way it was made easy for the English team and they took the opportunity.
“Our line-out, which was so good throughout the tournament, was terrible in the second-half and we also lost a lot of ball at the ruck and breakdown.”
Noves added: “There’s a much bigger difference between us and England” than the other teams making up the Six Nations.
“The English were very rigorous,” he said. “We have potential, I’m disappointed, but the players are improving, maybe they won’t win tomorrow but it will come.”