Eddie Jones warns England against Six Nations complacency - 'Ireland will come out all guns blazing'

Charlie Eccleshare
Eddie Jones has made some tough decisions in picking his final team of this year's Six Nations - ACTION IMAGES

  • Jones names team for Ireland showdown:
  • Starting XV: 1. Marler 2. Hartley 3. Cole 4. Launchbury 5. Lawes 6. Itoje 7. Haskell 8. B. Vunipola 9. Youngs 10. Ford 11. Daly 12. Farrell 13. Joseph 14. Watson 15. Brown
  • Replacements: 16. George 17. M. Vunipola 18. Sinckler 19. Wood 20. Hughes 21. Care 22. Te'o 23. Nowell 

England face Ireland on Saturday ready to make history and embrace "greatness" but the players and coach Eddie Jones are well aware that if there is anywhere in the rugby world where such dreams can be derailed it is Dublin. Six years ago under Martin Johnson England travelled to the newly-opened Aviva Stadium dreaming of a grand slam but were blown away by Ireland and could not have looked more miserable when collecting the trophy as Six Nations champions.

They had a similarly deflating experience 10 years earlier in a decider put back to October because of the foot-and-mouth ban on travel, when the title again felt like a consolation prize.

They did complete the sweep in Dublin in 2003 with a brilliant performance that catapulted them towards World Cup glory but a fired-up Ireland on home turf on St Patrick's Day weekend remains an extremely tough final hurdle.

Throw into the mix potential successive grand slams and a world record 19th successive win for England on one side and a risk for Ireland of losing their World Cup top-four seeding should they lose, then a huge occasion is guaranteed.

"We know the pitfalls of what can happen and we know how much the Irish dislike the English and how much they like spoiling the party," Jones told reporters on Thursday.

Six Nations team of the week - matchday four

"Most teams in the Six Nations have one big performance in them so we know Ireland are going to come out all guns blazing."

That 2011 setback was one of six defeats in their last nine visits for England and Jones said that record helped ensure there was no risk of complacency with the title already in the bag. "We've certainly had guys who were involved in those games (Dublin defeats) talk about it," Jones said. "Having won the title makes us vulnerable. We're consistently looking out for small things that lead to complacency, but it's always around the corner."

Jones declined to discuss the prospect of a possible match against New Zealand in November but did, as he always does, hold up the All Blacks as the level his team need to aspire to.

Victory on Saturday would take England past New Zealands tier-one record of 18 successive wins, while claiming back-to-back grand slams, and is a feat not even the World Cup winning team under Clive Woodward could manage.

Most consecutive Test wins for a Tier One nation

"I think the team has embraced it but to go from where we are to greatness takes another step of endeavour," Jones said.

"It is like climbing up a mountain. Every time you go to another level the ground becomes more unstable, your ears hurt, your nose hurts.

"It is exactly the same when you are climbing the ladder of success - everything becomes a bit harder. And sometimes you have got to just stop and say,˜Right, this is what is ahead of us,and probably we weren't very good at that. We have done that now and I think the players have re-equipped for the challenges ahead."

Jones declined to accept any praise for turning England into such a force in his 14 months in charge following their World Cup disappointment and instead said his predecessor Stuart Lancaster should take much of the credit. "He was the guy that brought this team through, went through some hard yards with them, most of the players are still the same," he said. "I got them at a good stage. A lot of the groundwork has been done and we have a fantastic group of players."

1:35PM

Fully focused

So that's it from Jones, who reiterated that England are in no danger of underestimating Ireland on Saturday. He paid tribute to the benched Nathan Hughes, but explained that Billy Vunipola will have a galavnising effect on the team. 

It was also impressive to see the way Jones hailed the work done by his predecessor Stuart Lancaster in laying the foundations for the current 18-match winning run. 

He described the unbeaten sequence as "like climbing a mountain, where every time you go up it becomes harder and the ground becomes more unstable."

1:28PM

On believing their own hype

"Complacency is always lurking in the shadows."

Jones has said again and again today how his England team are taking nothing for granted. 

England

1:16PM

On winning back to back Slams

"It would be a huge achievement for the team, and we all work together. Stuart Lancaster deserves a lot of credit for bringing most of the guys through." 

1:15PM

On facing Ireland

Jones insists the team discusses avoiding complacency daily and adds that Ireland will be a real threat as they have "no fear". 

"They'll have all guns blazing. They were favourites for the comp but now they're out of it so we're expecting a tough encounter." 

1:13PM

On winning the World Cup

"We don't have the density of leaders in squad to win the World Cup... we're not good enough yet". 

Eddie Jones

1:10PM

On playing NZ

Jones says that he is only focused on the Ireland match, but adds mischievously that if the All Blacks were to turn up at the Aviva Stadium then England would be up for playing them.

1:07PM

Under way

Eddie starts by saying: "Today's [training] session was a little bit indifferent."

He adds that Stuart Lancaster should get a lot of the credit for the run England are on. 

12:51PM

Next up

Eddie Jones will be addressing the media in about 10 minutes. We'll bring you all the updates on what he says. 

Will England get the win they need against Ireland on Saturday to complete a second straight Grand Slam? Here's the view of our rugby correspondent Mick Cleary...

12:47PM

Squad announcement in summary

Billy Vunipola and Anthony Watson will start England's attempt at securing back-to-back Grand Slams when they face Ireland in Dublin on Saturday.

Vunipola replaces Nathan Hughes at number eight and Watson is recalled at the expense of Jack Nowell on the right wing in a straight swap between starting XV and bench.

Elliot Daly continues in the number 11 jersey after passing the return to play protocols for suspected concussion sustained in the 61-21 demolition of Scotland last Saturday.

England retained their RBS 6 Nations title by routing the Scots at Twickenham, equalling New Zealand's record of 18 successive Test victories in the process, but have still made the two changes against Joe Schmidt's men.

Vunipola and Watson made try-scoring returns last weekend in their first appearances of the championship, the Saracens back row driving over from close range in the third quarter and the latter picking a superb line to finish a thrilling team move.

England vs New Zealand

Their elevation off the bench sees England travel to the Aviva Stadium with their strongest possible starting XV, with only long-term injuries Chris Robshaw and George Kruis absent.

"We've had a really good week's preparation. The intensity of training has been good," Jones said.

"It's going to be quite an occasion in Dublin so we understand we have to be prepared emotionally, physically and mentally.

"The mood in camp has been positive. We're very excited ahead of what is a huge opportunity for the players. You sense the intensity has stepped up - it definitely has in training."

10:25AM

Billy V will make England even more formidable

Our rugby correspondent Mick Cleary has filed his hot take on the England team selection, which you can read here.

No need for a final throw of the dice, only logic and form to feed into the last selection of the championship. The two changes – Anthony Watson for Jack Nowell on the wing, Billy Vunipola to start instead of Nathan Hughes – are underpinned by sound common sense. Watson had long been a first-choice until injury interrupted that run, offering pace and size to Nowell’s work-rate, while Vunipola is rightly regarded as one of England’s trump cards.

Why would you not pitch him into the fray from first whistle in Dublin? He brings strength and power and intelligence, attributes that Hughes himself possesses but not to the same level. It is as simple as that. And factor in too that Vunipola’s presence not only lifts those around him, it makes the opposition think and react differently too. His selection is a considerable boost to England.

Vunipola

10:09AM

Headlines

Nathan Hughes drops to the bench and is replaced by Billy Vunipola at No 8, while Anthony Watson is selected ahead of Jack Nowell on the wing. 

Elliot Daly is fit enough to start on the other wing, and flanker Tom Wood is set to win his 50th cap from the bench.  

"We're very excited ahead of what is a huge opportunity for the players," said head coach Eddie Jones. 

10:07AM

The team in full

Starting XV: 1. Marler 2. Hartley 3. Cole 4. Launchbury 5. Lawes 6. Itoje 7. Haskell 8. B. Vunipola 9. Youngs 10. Ford 11. Daly 12. Farrell 13. Joseph 14. Watson 15. Brown

Replacements Finishers: 16. George 17. M. Vunipola 18. Sinckler 19. Wood 20. Hughes 21. Care 22. Te'o 23. Nowell 

10:00AM

Vunipola and Watson in

The team news is with us:

9:57AM

England v New Zealand - it's on

In case you missed it yesterday, there are serious discussions being held about staging an England v All Blacks Test at Twickenham in November

New Zealand are the only major Test nation England have not played in their 18-match winning run, and a meeting between the No 1 and No 2 ranked teams would be a mouthwatering proposition. 

9:49AM

England's 25-man squad

A reminder of who is in line for selection this morning:

Forwards D Cole (Leicester Tigers), J George (Saracens), D Hartley (Northampton Saints), J Haskell (Wasps), N Hughes (Wasps), M Itoje (Saracens), J Launchbury (Wasps), C Lawes (Northampton Saints), J Marler (Harlequins), K Sinckler (Harlequins), T Taylor (Wasps), B Vunipola (Saracens), M Vunipola (Saracens), T Wood (Northampton Saints).

Backs M Brown (Harlequins), D Care (Harlequins), E Daly (Wasps), O Farrell (Saracens), G Ford (Bath Rugby), J Joseph (Bath Rugby), J May (Gloucester Rugby), J Nowell (Exeter Chiefs), B Te'o (Worcester Warriors), A Watson (Bath Rugby), B Youngs (Leicester Tigers).

Vunipola

9:44AM

Preamble

Morning all, just over 15 minutes until England announce their team to face Ireland in Saturday's Six Nations finale. There's the small matter of surpassing New Zealand's 18-match winning run and securing an unprecedented second straight Six Nations grand slam. 

The only real dilemmas for Eddie Jones are whether to start wing Elliot Daly after he went off concussed against Scotland, and whether to replace Nathan Hughes at No 8 with Billy Vunipola, after the Saracen's try-scoring cameo on Saturday. 

Daly is believed to be recovering well and is expected to satisfy the concussion protocols required for him to start, but there is less certainty over the Hughes/Vunipola decision. Vunipola is still very early into his recovery from a knee injury, and Hughes impressed on Saturday against the Scots so would be a more than able deputy. 

It's possible Jones could spring a surprise or two elsewhere - he replaced Ben Youngs with Danny Care for last year's Grand Slam decider in Paris remember - but there's little reason for him to do much tinkering with the 23 that performed so impressively at Twickenham last weekend. 

Elliot Daly

9:30AM

Preview

Eddie Jones names his team on Thursday morning to face Ireland in Saturday's RBS Six Nations finale in Dublin. 

England will break New Zealand's 18-match winning run if they are victorious against Joe Schmidt's side, and a win would also secure a second consecutive grand slam, the first time anyone has managed that in the Six Nations. 

The big news on Wednesday however was that England are exploring the scope for staging a mouth-watering showdown with New Zealand this autumn after receiving backing for the proposal from head coach Jones.

The All Blacks have been approached at a preliminary stage over the possibility of facing the RBS 6 Nations champions on November 4, the date allocated for their fixture against the Barbarians.

In a quirk of the international schedule, the game's top two teams are not due to meet until late next year, but Press Association Sport understands that with the support of Jones the All Blacks have been sounded out over an additional meeting.

England vs New Zealand

"We are definitely playing New Zealand in 2018," read a statement issued by the Rugby Football Union.

"If there now might be an opportunity to play them this year we want to pursue it, but there are many parts to this and many considerations to be discussed."

Among the hoops to jump through is the size of New Zealand's fee given the Test would fall outside the international window and whatever the final number - possibly as high as £3million - it is certain to be the largest ever agreed for such a fixture.

Further obstacles are presented by the need to negotiate with the Aviva Premiership clubs for player release and concerns over player welfare that will accompany any decision to add the All Blacks to an autumn fixture list that already includes Australia, Argentina and Samoa.

Most consecutive Test wins for a Tier One nation

"We haven't been asked for our support. We will need to understand the details of the proposal before responding," read a statement issued by Premiership Rugby.

Jones had stated after last summer's tour to Australia that his intention is to rest those players who had participated in the looming British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand for the entire 2017 autumn series, but the lure of facing the All Blacks appears to have altered his thinking.

Jones has the opportunity to outline his thoughts when he faces the media at Thursday's team announcement press conference ahead of the climax to the Six Nations against Ireland in Dublin on Saturday.

England and New Zealand have not met since 2014, when they played four times, but the clamour for the dominant forces in the northern and southern hemispheres to clash is growing.

Six Nations team of the week - matchday four

Expectation over the encounter has grown since the Wallabies were whitewashed in June and has accelerated further after an unbeaten autumn and the successful defence of the Six Nations, sealed by last Saturday's 61-21 victory over Scotland.

If England topple Ireland in Dublin on St Patrick's Day, they will have become the sixth team to secure back-to-back Grand Slams and will eclipse the All Blacks' record of 18 consecutive Test victories.

Adding spice to the meeting is the first verbal exchange between the rival head coaches, which started on Sunday when Steve Hansen congratulated Jones and his players for their Six Nations success.

Jones replied by expressing his wariness of Hansen's approval, noting that compliments from an All Blacks coach are akin to fairytale predator the Big Bad Wolf stalking Little Red Riding Hood.

Opposition to the game would be swatted aside by fans desperate to see Jones' men face the double World Cup winners, but the timing of revelations of the proposal is unfortunate as a defeat by Ireland could leave England open to accusations of hubris.

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