England to get out the blocks fast

Sun, 08 Jan 2017 16:33
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SIX NATIONS IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Eddie Jones believes the key to an entertaining Six Nations will be fast starts across the board - admitting that England have struggled out of the gate in recent seasons.

Jones' side will begin the defence of their title against France next month, as they go in search of back-to-back Grand Slams, before facing a tricky trip to Cardiff to face bitter rivals Wales.

The Australian believes his side need to be even better than they were a year ago if they want to retain the trophy and wants them to start the campaign in style, something he says they have not done in over a decade.

"The Six Nations is a unique competition because of the intensity of the rivalry," Jones said.

"If we can get the rugby to a great level, it will become the greatest tournament in the world," he added.

"Teams were frightened of losing in the opening two rounds of the Six Nations last year.

"They played well within themselves and did not want to take any risks, but the quality was much better on the final two weekends.

"We want to change that. The last time England played well in the first round was against Wales in 2006.

"Before that you go back to the great side of 2001-03. Otherwise, England have stumbled and got a close victory.

"I want us to go out there and set a benchmark in the first game."

Jones faces a selection headache in the front row ahead of France's visit to Twickenham, with Joe Marler joining Mako Vunipola on the sidelines.

The loosehead prop was forced out of Harlequins' 29-26 win over Sale Sharks on Saturday with a calf problem and will have a scan this week.

There are further injury concerns over Chris Robshaw, James Haskell and George Kruis - while Billy Vunipola is a long-term absentee.

Source: @SixNationsRugby

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