England will go to Paris this weekend as guaranteed champions courtesy of Scotland’s 29-18 victory over France at Murrayfield on Sunday on Sunday.
It is England’s first championship crown since 2011 but Jones, whose side beat Wales 25-21 on Saturday, has stressed that a clean sweep remains the ultimate goal. “It’s obviously nice to win the championship but as a team we feel we haven’t yet achieved what we want,” said Jones, having steered his squad to the trophy at the first attempt. “If we prepare well, we’ll do the business. We’ll go to Paris confident. France are capable of some sublime moments. We just have to make sure there aren’t too many of them.”
Given England failed to make it out of their pool at last year’s World Cup, the turnaround under Jones’s stewardship has been particularly striking. The Australian insisted, however, that his players deserved the bulk of the credit and singled out the former captain, Chris Robshaw, as his player of the tournament so far. “I think it’s a fantastic achievement by the team. If you look at the squad it’s still very much the same as the World Cup. I think Robshaw has been absolutely outstanding … to go from where he was at the end of the World Cup to where he is now is a fine achievement. He’s been colossal for us. Wales couldn’t live with us for the first 40 minutes. If we can extend that out to 60 or 70 minutes, we’re going to be a bloody good team.”
Jones claims he has simply tried to “make the players more responsible, create a style of game that suits the resources we’ve got and try and get the players to enjoy it”. His determination to jolt the squad out of their individual comfort zones has also been vital, with his appointment of Dylan Hartley as captain also triumphantly vindicated. “We didn’t know whether to shake hands or give each other a hug, so we shook hands,” said Jones.
After sharing “a couple of beers” at their Bagshot hotel on Sunday night the squad’s attention will swiftly turn to Saturday night’s concluding game at Stade de France. The scrum-half Ben Youngs, among the survivors from the 2011 side chasing a grand slam, who were thumped in their final game in Ireland, is determined to avoid such a “bittersweet” experience. “We want to win it the right way,” he said. “I don’t want to feel that weird sensation again. We just have to approach it as another game. If you get too hyped up and over-think it you might freeze and it will be doubly disappointing.”
The Wales prop Tomas Francis could be facing a lengthy ban after being cited on Sunday for making contact with Dan Cole’s eye area late in the game at Twickenham. The match citing commissioner, John Cole, also issued a formal warning to the England back-row James Haskell for a dangerous “neck roll” tackle.
Joe Marler should be available for Paris after avoiding further disciplinary censure for calling Wales’s Samson Lee “Gypsy boy”. The comment was heard over the referee Craig Joubert’s microphone.
The Rugby Football Union said in a statement that Marler had apologised to Lee at half-time and had been “reminded by Eddie of his responsibilities as an England player after the game”.
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