Eddie Jones has told his England players they are not yet good enough to win the World Cup despite standing on the verge of back-to-back Six Nations grand slams and eclipsing New Zealand’s world record of 18 consecutive victories.
On Saturday in Dublin England will set off in pursuit of a 19th straight win buoyed by the return of Billy Vunipola and Anthony Watson to the starting lineup and, perhaps more significant, the absence of Ireland’s scrum-half Conor Murray, who is injured.
Jones’s side hit their straps for the first time in the competition in a thumping 40-point victory over Scotland last Saturday, but the Australian has moved to hammer any complacency out of his squad by claiming they are not yet worthy of New Zealand’s world crown. “It’s going to take a lot of work to get a team good enough to win a World Cup because we’re not good enough at the moment,” said Jones.
“We don’t have the density that we need to win a World Cup in terms of leaders. Having said that we’ve progressed a long way in the 14 months we’ve been together.
“We’ve gone from a team that had one or two self-reliant players to maybe three or four, going up to five or six, so we’re getting there.” Jones batted away questions over a potential showdown with the All Blacks in November after the Rugby Football Union confirmed on Wednesday it was looking into the possibility of arranging the match everybody wants to see. “I’ve got no view on that, I’m not an administrator. I haven’t negotiated contracts, all I’m worried about is Ireland,” he said.
“If the All Blacks want to turn up to the Aviva Stadium on Saturday and want to play us after Ireland, then we’ll consider it. We want to be the No1 team in the world. When we get the opportunity to play them, we’ll play them.”
Jones also paid tribute to Stuart Lancaster, whose last match in charge of England was the 60-3 victory over Uruguay – the first win of the current streak.
“The guy I think again that should get a lot of credit for the team’s success is Stuart Lancaster,” he said. “He was the guy that brought this team through, went through some hard yards with them, most of the players are still the same.”
Meanwhile, Graham Rowntree, the England forwards coach during Lancaster’s tenure, has been added to Warren Gatland’s British & Irish Lions coaching staff, along with Neil Jenkins, for the tour of New Zealand. Both were part of the two previous tours in 2009 and 2013.
Gatland said: “We all know what Neil and Graham bring – a huge amount of knowledge, experience and expertise. They understand what it will take to win in New Zealand and to have them on board again is positive.”