Eddie Jones shouldered full responsibility for England’s latest Grand Slam implosion in Dublin – then admitted he cannot wait to take on New Zealand.
Ireland ended England’s world record-equalling winning run at 18 matches with a fine 13-9 victory at the Aviva Stadium, to deny Jones’ side a second-successive grand slam.
England might have left Dublin as RBS Six Nations champions, but without the outright record run of 19 consecutive wins, with Iain Henderson’s try decisive for Ireland.
Jones branded New Zealand “there for the taking” for the British and Irish Lions this summer, then confirmed his desire for the Rugby Football Union (RFU) to set up a match with the All Blacks nearer the end of the year.
“I expect at least 15 of our guys to go on the Lions tour, I’d be disappointed if we don’t have that many guys in,” said Jones.
“And I think they’ll have a massive shout (of winning a first series in New Zealand since 1971).
“New Zealand, as Ireland have shown, are there for the taking.
“I can’t wait for us to play them either. We’re very keen to play them, I’ve had a discussion with Ian [Ritchie, RFU chief executive] and we’re raring to go.”
England are not currently slated to face back-to-back world champions New Zealand until 2018, but the RFU is battling to secure a prestige November 2017 fixture with the All Blacks at Twickenham.
Jones’ clear desire for England to face New Zealand merely underscores his aim to turn his side into the world’s best.
“There’s a lot of discussions to go,” said Jones.
“A lot of discussions with New Zealand and within the rugby community, there’s still a lot to go.
Of yesterday’s match, the Australian said: “You have these days, Ireland played superbly and they were too good for us on the day. And we weren’t good enough.
“We’re all human beings, we’re not perfect, and that’s why world records finish at 18 games because it’s hard to keep.
“They used the conditions superbly we probably didn’t.
“They played above themselves; we played below our usual level.
“I didn’t prepare the team well enough today, and the next Test we play I’ll prepare them better.”
When asked what he had done wrong in Dublin in preparing England, Jones continued: “I’m not sure, if I knew I’d do it. I’m human like everyone else, I make mistakes. So I’ll look at that.”
Ireland scrambled a second-place finish in the Six Nations, as well as ending a second record long run of victories.
Joe Schmidt’s men downed New Zealand on a run of 18 consecutive wins in Chicago in November, and have now added the record-equalling England to that scalp.
Jones insisted there was no relief in England losing their winning streak. Asked if losing the winning run could alleviate pressure, Jones replied: “No. I think it’s fantastic having the pressure to perform.
“To win the World Cup you’ve got to win seven in a row, you’ve got to cope with that pressure.
“That was like a World Cup final today and we weren’t good enough.
“We’re 14 months into a four-year project.
“We’ve been chuffed with the results we’ve had. We were caught in certain areas today.
“Full credit to Ireland, they were brilliantly coached and executed their plan well.
“We’ll have more setbacks as we move towards the World Cup.
“How many teams average a 90 per cent win rate? Not many, only the All Blacks.”
England have now lost three grand slam deciders in Dublin since 2001, but Jones insisted his players had not been overawed by the occasion.
Asked if the final showdown in Dublin had caught his players cold, Jones said: “I don’t think so at all mate, I thought our effort today was good. Ireland played superbly.”
Vice-captain Jamie Heaslip pulled out of Ireland’s team after suffering a last-minute hamstring problem in the warm-up.
Peter O’Mahony stepped in and produced a man-of-the-match showing, but Ireland boss Schmidt insisted Heaslip’s withdrawal was enforced and not due to a late change of hearts on the tactical front.
“That couldn’t be a more flawed theory,” said Schmidt, when asked if the late change was tactical.
“It’s not something we do, we pick a team and they go out and play.
“Jamie’s just pulled his upper hamstring and he was not able to play.”