LONDON • New Zealand coach Steve Hansen praised the renewed "work ethic" and "vision" shown by England under Eddie Jones, after they equalled the All Blacks' record of 18 consecutive Test wins by a major rugby union nation.
Jones' men head to Dublin to face Ireland in the final match of the 2017 Six Nations Championship on Saturday, knowing a win would see them become the first England side since 1991-92 to win back-to-back Grand Slams.
A win at Lansdowne Road would also see England surpass New Zealand's 18-match winning streak, which started in August 2015 and included Hansen's team lifting the Rugby World Cup, before Ireland achieved their first-ever victory over the All Blacks with a dramatic 40-29 success in Chicago last November.
England drew level with the world champions' mark in style, thrashing oldest rivals Scotland 61-21 at Twickenham last Saturday, with Jonathan Joseph's hat-trick among their seven tries.
Victory saw England win their second straight Six Nations title under their Australian coach, who has revitalised the team since taking over following their first-round exit on home soil at the 2015 World Cup.
Many have questioned the exact worth of England's achievement given they have not played New Zealand, the world's No. 1 side, in their winning sequence and are not due to face the All Blacks again until next year at the earliest.
But a sporting Hansen told BBC Radio Five on Sunday: "I'd like to congratulate England on equalling the record. It's great for rugby because we want competition and games that people want to watch and get excited by.
"Eddie has come in and installed a want and a desire that probably hasn't been there before."
However, Will Carling, England's captain when they last won consecutive Grand Slams, was in no doubt who would win if the two sides met next week. "New Zealand," he told the BBC. "They have got more world-class players and more intelligent players."
Jones' oft-stated ultimate goal with England, however, is to win the 2019 World Cup in Japan and dethrone the All Blacks.
"This is going to be a fantastic World Cup," said Carling. "New Zealand are still the best team in the world but England are improving."
England and New Zealand last met in 2014, when the All Blacks won 24-21 at Twickenham, and Hansen forecast their next encounter would be a "cracker".