Grand slam Jones eyes rugby’s big guns

Eddie Jones has already trained his sights on bigger targets – starting with the Wallabies – after joining an exclusive Six Nations coaching club.

Jones steered England to their first Six Nations grand slam in 13 years with a 31-21 win over France in Paris.

In the process, the former Wallabies mentor became just the fourth coach to have masterminded a Six Nations clean sweep in their first full season at the helm, joining Warren Gatland (Wales), Declan Kidney (Ireland) and Mike Ruddock (Wales).

“The good thing about it is that there’s still a long way to go,” said Jones, who took over from Stuart Lancaster in the wake of England’s early exit from last year’s World Cup on home turf.

“Winning a grand slam means you’re the dominant team in Europe.

“It’s a nice first step for us but that’s a small step and there are much larger steps to come, starting with the Australian tour.”

Playing Australia in June will be a special occasion for Jones, who also wants England to shine against the top sides from the southern hemisphere especially New Zealand.

The series against the Wallabies will see Jones coming up against his former Randwick Sydney club rugby teammate Michael Cheika in a what is a highly-anticipated match-up.

Jones also has the biggest target in world rugby in his sights.

“Can we beat the All Blacks? Of course we can,” he said.

“We can’t now but we will in the future. Why else play rugby if you don’t think you can beat the All Blacks?”.

Jones took a gamble by picking a bunch of young, relatively untested players such as lock Maro Itoje, and it paid off handsomely, the gifted 21-year-old being the revelation of this year’s Six Nations.

“The exciting thing for us is we have an average age of 24 and the winning trophy age for Test-match rugby is about 28 so we’re three or four years away from peaking,” said England’s first foreign coach.

Jones had kind words for Dylan Hartley, the player he recalled and made his captain, after the hooker left the Stade de France pitch on a stretcher in the closing stages following a clash of heads with home prop Uini Atonio.

“I’m sure he will be all right to play shortly,” Jones said.

“He’s been a very good captain, he’s led from the front and his individual leadership has been outstanding.”

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