Hunger games: Eddie Jones determined to keep England's players on toes in pursuit of making Six Nations history

WITH standards continually driven upwards by the exacting Eddie Jones, it is no surprise all-conquering England are already contemplating breaking new ground; so, anyone fancy them to be the first team to win back-to-back Six Nations grand slams?

FOLLOW MY LEADER: England head coach Eddie Jones. Picture: Adam Davy/PA.

As the dust settles on a formidable 2016, when they won all 13 games, rounded off with Saturday’s autumn internationals finale against Australia, it is barely eight weeks before the Red Rose reconvene to face France.

For all they sit in an invidious position – England must win in Cardiff and Dublin to stand any chance of repeating this year’s slam – few would argue against their potential to make history.

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Indeed, head coach Jones does not only want to do that, but he wants to do it with style, too.

“The Six Nations, in my limited experience of it, is a different competition,” said the garrulous Australian, who has yet to taste defeat since replacing the sacked Stuart Lancaster.

“You get the guys coming back having played three or four weeks of European rugby and they’re in a fatigued state.

“You’ve got to try to regenerate them and get them used to playing international rugby. Being an outsider to the Six Nations I also thought there was an absolute fear of losing rather than wanting to win.

“What we want to do in the Six Nations is go out there and win it.”

Given they could be augmented handsomely by the time Les Bleus arrive at Twickenham on February 2, it is easy to understand why the growing belief in this England side will not dissipate any time soon.

They vanquished the Wallabies despite missing the likes of Manu Tuilagi, Maro Itoje, James Haskell, Billy Vunipola, Anthony Watson and Joe Launchbury.

All but the bullocking No 8 Vunipola could be back in time for that Six Nations opener, demonstrating, once more, the sheer depth of talent available to Jones.

He conceded there will be some “disappointed” people when his squad is named in January.

Of course, the endgame they are building towards is not Dublin on March 18, but winning the World Cup final in Japan in 2019.

Jones has undoubtedly enthused this group of players during his first 12 months in charge, but can he maintain their hunger for another three years?

“We have selection,” he said.

“So if players aren’t hungry and you see it in their performance straight away, then they won’t be here. We have enough depth to change the squad if we need to.

“You want intrinsically the players to want to do it. We’re developing players like that.

“There’s a tipping point in the team when you get six, seven, eight players with that absolute desire to want to do well then, if you’re not in that group, you tend to fall out. That’s how great teams keep on getting better. We haven’t got to that tipping point yet, but we’re moving towards it.”

Parallels are understandably being drawn with the 2003 World Cup winning side – Saturday’s win equalled the record of the 2002-03 side’s 14 straight wins – but Jones maintains it is premature to do that so soon.

“The 2003 side were a much better side than we are at the moment,” he said.

“They had a very consistent scrum and line-out; we don’t have that yet. We are getting there, but they were a much better side than we are.

“The only thing I’m interested in now is winning the Six Nations and to do that we need more consistency in our set piece. I want to have the most dominant scrum. The scrum in the Six Nations is enormously important so we want that dominance.”

Judging on his performance over the last 12 months, it seems Jones generally tends to get what he wants so do not be surprised to see England’s pack driving opponents’ scrums into submission at various venues next Spring.

What has been the clearest improvement during these last four weeks has been their ability to adapt, whether coolly dealing with being reduced to 14 men after just five minutes against Argentina or surviving during their torrid, mistake-ridden opening versus Australia.

Granted, there may have been some nerves early on at the weekend as they sought to complete their perfect year, but that did not worry Jones .

“It’s your ability to understand that you’ve got nerves and then fix them,” he said.

“No one goes into the game perfectly. There are various things that can go wrong. Rugby’s the most chaotic game in the world and your ability to find organisation within all the chaos is the most important thing.

“We did that; we were chaotic for 20 minutes and then we were able to reorganise ourselves to get back on the front foot.”

As they head back to their clubs, the squad has also been reminded no one owns an English jersey, they merely borrow it for 80 minutes. Yet, looking at this maturing lot, you sense that point does not need reiterating.