Six Nations: Eddie Jones says he wants England to be ‘the greatest rugby team the world has ever seen’
There’s no reason why not to “shoot for the moon” as they say and you can only applaud and wish well those who do.
“The greatest rugby team the world has ever seen,” is the never knowingly understated Eddie Jones’s simple objective for England in the coming year.
It’s easy to scoff and we all know Jones loves to give the media a soundbite as much as he occasionally likes to give the media a simple bite from his no-nonsense, often prickly, Aussie mouth. He has tools to work with, though.
There will always be a hard-core ABE (Anyone but England) percentage of the Scottish population but amongst the less fanatical there were probably many here who found themselves in the rather disconcerting situation of backing the men in white on 2 November on the morning of that World Cup final against South Africa in Yokohama.
There is much to admire about this England team and anyone who knows anything about rugby would say that 19-7 win over New Zealand in the semi-finals was a performance out of the very top drawer, with lock Maro Itoje producing arguably the display of the tournament.
It was a peak too soon in the end as the Springboks timed their run to perfection and proved too much in the final game.
Jones claims he hasn’t watched the final back. “Our focus is on France now,” he said at last week’s official launch of the Guinness Six Nations in London. “Le Crunch” will round off the first weekend of the tournament in Paris next Sunday afternoon.
“We want to be the greatest rugby team the world has ever seen and to do that we need to change the way we train,” said the coach, whose England contract runs until next August.
That training is currently taking place in Portugal. Ireland will be there too and Scotland are off to Spain in what is becoming a trend.
Jones already had his hackles up about being constantly questioned about the situation surrounding Saracens, the crisis club of both his captain Owen Farrell and star forward Itoje.
When he was asked if some of these training camps can be quite “grim” for the players, he hit back: “If they find it grim they don’t have to come. Tell them not to come, mate. That’s a ridiculous question.
“Test rugby is hard, mate. Do you know how hard it is? Do you think it’s just have a walk and stroll around the park and have a ham sandwich? Of course we train hard. Come on.”
After the French match it will be a trip back to BT Murrayfield where the Calcutta Cup has now resided for two years, its longest stay north of the Border since the mid-1980s.
Jones may be a Marmite character but he speaks honestly and always adds an interesting dimension and point of view in what is often a world of cliche and hot air. When his seemingly invincible England side were famously thumped by Scotland in Edinburgh two years, ago he was gracious in defeat, which made the events of him being harangued by boozed-up Scottish idiots on a train journey to Manchester the following day utterly shameful.
Jones now has a former Scotland player on his staff in the shape of Matt Proudfoot, who featured four times in a dark blue jersey between 1998 and 2003.
The South-Africa-born prop, who qualified through a Dumfries grandfather, played for Edinburgh and Glasgow and was assistant coach for the World Cup-winning Springboks. He said the atmosphere in the England camp is “good”, despite the Sarries fiasco. “I’ve been trying to forge relationships with the players and been watching them sitting around the table talking,” he added. “They’ve been very jokey like any rugby players are. I took that as being very positive.”
After the France game he will get a chance to reunite with former team-mate Gregor Townsend.
“Matt and I roomed together on his first cap [against Fiji in Suva],” recalled the Scotland head coach. “It’s been great to see him develop as a coach. What a performance by the Springbok pack throughout the World Cup, especially in the final. We wish him all the best, we hope he goes really well apart from one game. I’m sure he will. He’s got really good experience now at international rugby.”