Eddie Jones starts the 'mind games' early
SPOTLIGHT: Eddie Jones has insisted England know what they have to do in order to deny France a Grand Slam and finish the Six Nations with a flourish.
France has been the form team in this season’s Championship but had to endure some nervous moments during a 13-9 victory over Wales in Cardiff that kept them on course for an unbeaten campaign.
England, by contrast, will head to Paris following a record 15-32 loss at home to Ireland, a match where they had to play most of the game a man down after lock Charlie Ewels was sent off just 82 seconds into the action at Twickenham.
Nevertheless, England coach Jones said: “We’ve beaten France in our last two games, so we’ve got a pretty good idea of how to play against them, but certainly Wales did really well last Friday.
“Wales lost the kicking in the first 20 and to beat France you have to out-kick them. That’s the first thing.
“Then you have to out-fight them around the ruck, which Wales did.”
“Wales are a really hard, tough team and we have to replicate them at the ruck and keep [scrumhalf] Antoine Dupont quiet,” added Jones.
France is now just 80 minutes away from their first Grand Slam since 2010 and Jones, who guided England to their most recent clean sweep in the tournament with a 31-21 victory in Paris six years ago, hopes the pressure surrounding Saturday’s match tells on Les Bleus.
“For them to be playing for the Grand Slam, I remember going there in 2016 going for the Grand Slam and because it’s such a huge thing in European rugby, it does become something in their head,” the Australian said.
“And the only way we can make that live in their head a bit more is to play with such intensity and such ferociousness that we put them on the back foot. I think we’ve seen it in a few games.
“Look, France are a good team, don’t get me wrong. But like any team – even the great All Black teams winning at 90 percent, on your day if you can get stuck into them physically, take away their strengths, you can cause them problems.”
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‘Massive steps forward’
England started this Six Nations with a defeat by Scotland and a reverse in Paris would mean they had won two matches and lost three for the second successive Championship.
But Jones, just over a year out from the 2023 World Cup in France, was adamant England were making progress.
“I think we’ve taken massive steps forward in this Six Nations. We dominated the game against Scotland but got beaten,” he said of a narrow 20-17 defeat at Murrayfield.
“We’ve dominated this game with 14 men, at times, and got beaten. And then we’ve had two good wins against Wales and Italy and we’ll have a good win against France.”
Jones, who took England to the 2019 World Cup final in Japan where they were beaten by South Africa, added: “Obviously our aim was to win the Championship.
“We’re disappointed we haven’t won the Championship but sometimes circumstances mean that maybe the results don’t mimic the performance. But that certainly catches up — the results will catch up.”