Saturday 17 March 2018

Jones pays tribute to Lancaster role in England's achievement

England head coach Eddie Jones. Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images
England head coach Eddie Jones. Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

The lesser spotted magnanimous Eddie Jones was out in force as the England coach contemplated the final step of arguably his greatest coaching achievement.

Back-to-back Grand Slams and a record run of wins are on the cards on Saturday and Ireland's loss of Conor Murray has shortened the odds in his side's favour, but the Australian chose the moment to praise his predecessor in the job; Leinster's Stuart Lancaster.

The former England head coach kick-started this record run of 18 successive wins in awful circumstances in October 2015 at the City of Manchester Stadium against Uruguay. Already out of their own World Cup, there was little sign of what this England team would go on to achieve.

Of course, the age profile of the side Lancaster picked at that tournament always suggested that their future was bright and the addition of Maro Itoje and relentless, ruthless approach of Jones has gotten them into an unbreakable winning mentality.

Former Australia coach Jones was asked how much of an achievement it would be to finish the Six Nations with another Grand Slam, but he chose to share the credit.

"It won't be an achievement for me, it will be an achievement for the team," he said.

Leinster senior coach and former England head coach Stuart Lancaster. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Leinster senior coach and former England head coach Stuart Lancaster. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Credit "We are in this together, coaching staff, staff and the players, we all work together.

"The guy I think again that should get a lot of credit for the team's success is Stuart Lancaster. He was the guy that brought this team through, went through some hard yards with them, most of the players are still the same. I know he's batting on the other side now (with Leinster) so I don't know he's barracking for on Saturday."

Jones has strengthened his team by recalling fit-again Billy Vunipola and Anthony Watson to the starting XV, with Nathan Hughes and Jack Nowell dropping to the bench.

Read more: 'There's always external noise' - Joe Schmidt ignores Eddie Jones' kicking jibes

The pair have always caused Ireland a lot of damage in their previous meetings and Joe Schmidt's mood can't have been helped by their inclusion given his own selection issues.

"Billy is a special sort of player, he brings energy, he brings certain qualities to the team, so we are happy to have him back," Jones said. "Anthony's an athletic player, good in the air, got great pace. He showed on the weekend he's close to being back at his best. It was a difficult decision.

"Ireland are a threat. Any team that beats the All Blacks are a very good team, so we know that.

"Most teams in the Six Nations have one big performance, we are anticipating them to be at their best on Saturday. They have nothing to fear."

Irish Independent

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