England gunning for Grand Slam finish

England captain Dylan Hartley holding the Triple Crown trophy, flanked by Prince Harry (left) and Rugby Football Union president Jason Leonard, after they beat Wales 25-21 in the Six Nations on Saturday.
England captain Dylan Hartley holding the Triple Crown trophy, flanked by Prince Harry (left) and Rugby Football Union president Jason Leonard, after they beat Wales 25-21 in the Six Nations on Saturday. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Eddie Jones says his England rugby team remain hungry for a first Grand Slam in 13 years, despite having clinched the Six Nations title with a week to spare.

England will go to Paris on Saturday as guaranteed champions, courtesy of Scotland's 29-18 victory over France at Murrayfield on Sunday.

It is England's first Six Nations crown since 2011 but Jones, whose side beat Wales 25-21 on Saturday, stressed that a Grand Slam 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 the Australian, having steered his squad to the trophy on his first attempt.

"If we prepare well, we'll do the business. We'll go to Paris confident. France are capable of sublime moments. We 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, their turnaround under Jones' stewardship has been impressive.

However, he insisted 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.

He said: "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."

The coach claims he has simply tried to "make the players more responsible, create a style of game that suits the resources we've got 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.

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 15, 2016, with the headline 'England gunning for Grand Slam finish'. Print Edition | Subscribe