Monday 1 May 2017

Jones sets Six Nations target with blunt warning to players

England 37 Australia 21

Jonathan Joseph goes over for England's fourth try during the Autumn International match at Twickenham. Photo: Paul Harding/PA
Jonathan Joseph goes over for England's fourth try during the Autumn International match at Twickenham. Photo: Paul Harding/PA

Daniel Schofield

England head coach Eddie Jones yesterday warned his squad that their perfect record in 2016 counts for nothing and the fight for Six Nations places begins again this week.

On Saturday, Jones's team beat Australia to become the first England side in the professional era to win every match in a calendar year as well as equalling the national record of 14 consecutive victories, set under Clive Woodward in 2003.

But Jones refused to draw satisfaction from the landmarks, with his focus instead trained on displacing New Zealand as the No 1-ranked team in the World.

That message was reinforced yesterday in collective and individual sessions at Pennyhill Park before the players returned to their clubs for a double-header of European matches.

Sefa Naivalu scores Australia's first try. Photo: Henry Browne/Reuters
Sefa Naivalu scores Australia's first try. Photo: Henry Browne/Reuters

Jones said: "It'll be about the fact that if you don't keep performing, you won't be in the team. No one owns an English jersey, you borrow the jersey for 80 minutes. You're lucky to get it again, you have to work hard to get it and if you don't have the right attitude, then you won't get it. If players aren't hungry and you see it in their performance straight away, then they won't be here. We have enough depth to change the squad if we need to.

"You want intrinsically the players to want to do [have that hunger]. We're developing players like that. There's a tipping point in the team when you get six, seven, eight players with that absolute desire to want to do well. Then, if you're not in that group, you tend to fall out. That's how great teams keep on getting better. We haven't got that tipping point yet but we're moving towards it."

England's accomplishments this autumn in beating South Africa, Fiji, Argentina and Australia have been all the more impressive considering their list of absentees, which included World Rugby Player of the Year nominees Billy Vunipola and Maro Itoje on Saturday. As many of those return to fitness, Jones confirmed that there will be disappointed players when he announces his Six Nations squad.

His main priority for that tournament will be improving a scrum which creaked at times in November. "The only thing I'm interested in now is winning the Six Nations, and to do that we need more consistency in our set-piece," Jones said. "I want to have the most dominant scrum. The scrum in the Six Nations is enormously important so we want that dominance.

England's Marland Yarde scores a try despite the efforts of Australia's Israel Folau. Photo: David Davies/PA
England's Marland Yarde scores a try despite the efforts of Australia's Israel Folau. Photo: David Davies/PA

"Being an outsider to the Six Nations I also thought there was an absolute fear of losing rather than wanting to win. What we want to do in the Six Nations is go out there and win it."

Jones singled out Ben Youngs, the scrum-half who was man of the match against Australia, and Courtney Lawes, the lock, as his players of the autumn. He also reserved special praise for captain Dylan Hartley and vice-captain Owen Farrell. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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