Friday 28 April 2017

Eddie Jones praises Ireland but claims England's toughest game WON'T come at the Aviva in March

England head coach Eddie Jones Picture: PA
England head coach Eddie Jones Picture: PA
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Eddie Jones believes England's final game of next year's Six Nations against Ireland at the Aviva Stadium will not be their toughest in the competition.

An unblemished 12 months comprising of 13 wins will see England end 2016 placed second in the global rankings behind New Zealand, with their next match an RBS 6 Nations fixture against France on February 4.

The Australian coach has already pinpointed the teams he thinks have improved the most, along with his England side, ahead of next year's Six Nations.

While he feels Ireland have unearthed some quality players, he expects their toughest encounter to come against Les Bleus.

"Definitely France and Ireland," he said.

"Ireland have been impressive. They obviously had that world-breaking win against the All Blacks, they were very well coached by Joe Schmidt and have produced some good young players, so they have really improved.

"France have started to get their old spirit back. The coach has done a great job in regenerating a France style of play. They've always had talented players, so I'm anticipating our first game is going to be our most difficult game."

Australia were crushed 37-21 at Twickenham on Saturday as England completed a clean sweep of autumn victories and equalled the record of 14 successive Test triumphs set by Clive Woodward's World Cup winners in 2002-03.

Jones said none of England's 2003 Rugby World Cup winners would force their way into his current Red Rose side.

When asked if any of the class of 2003 would make it into his current crop, Jones told Sky Sports News HQ: "None of those guys would.

"There are some great players there, some real world-class players: Jason Robinson, Jonny Wilkinson, Martin Johnson, Richard Hill and Lawrence Dallaglio.

"They would get in most sides in the world but we have got a really good side now and the great thing about our team is every player is improving, so whilst those guys would certainly be in contention, we're happy with the guys we've got now."

Jones thinks the speed in which rugby has changed since it became a professional sport has made it a totally different prospect than when Johnson lifted the Webb Ellis Cup after England beat Australia 20-17 in Sydney in November 2003.

"Because it's only a young professional sport and been going since '96, the evolution of the game has been quite rapid and the players keep on getting bigger," Jones added.

"They're faster and stronger and in some cases more skilful in different areas of the game.

"Ten years ago we had no aerial contests in the world but now aerial contest is such a big part of the game."

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