England will enter the 2020 Six Nations in pursuit of becoming the greatest team the sport has ever seen after being set the ultimate challenge by Eddie Jones.
Not content with chasing World Cup glory, Jones believes the shrewdest way to get the best from his players is to demand they leave a permanent impression on the game that extends beyond winning silverware.
England were defeated 32-12 by South Africa in the final of Japan 2019 last autumn in a disappointing conclusion to an otherwise superb tournament that reached its peak with their semi-final demolition of New Zealand.
Jones, who is contracted at Twickenham until 2021, wants to see the All Blacks rout repeated on a consistent basis.
Continue reading below…
“We want to be remembered as the greatest team that ever played rugby. It’s not that scientific, but who are the great teams you remember?” Jones said.
“For me, I remember the great All Black teams and the great Australia team of the ’90s. That’s what we want to be remembered as – a great team that has sustainable success.
“We have touched it. We played a great game against the All Blacks but we’ve only done that one. When you’ve been in that area, you want to do it sustainably.
“We want to challenge ourselves to be how good we can be.
New year, old tricks when it comes to Wales for Eddie https://t.co/aaK9Zab1qz
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) January 23, 2020
“I can remember two knock-out games at the World Cup where we played great rugby. Imagine if a team does that 80 per cent of the time.
“To be remembered as the greatest, it helps if you’ve won a World Cup. You look at the great rugby the New Zealand side of 1995 played, they played unbelievable rugby. But they’re not remembered as great as they didn’t win the World Cup.
“I don’t think it’s marked by Grand Slams. I think you can win Grand Slams without playing great rugby, as you can win a World Cup without playing great rugby.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) January 22, 2020
“I am talking about playing sustainable rugby that people remember. How exciting is that?”
For Jones, the sport played at its best does not necessarily feature floods of tries and end to end action that is the Barbarians’ trademark.
“Great rugby to me is dominant rugby where you see a team play with such control and precision and power that you remember that game,” Jones said.
“You can do that a number of ways. I can remember one of the great games of rugby was when South Africa beat England in the second round of the World Cup in 2007.
“It was complete control and they weren’t running the ball from their end of the field, but they played with unbelievable control.”
England enter the Six Nations as bookmakers’ favourites to win the title for a third time under Jones and the Australian admits they enter his second World Cup cycle as boss as a very different side to the one he lifted out of the doldrums four years ago.
“In 2016 we took over a team that was not in a good state. There was desperation to do well,” Jones said.
“This team has got an enhanced reputation. They’ve played some great rugby over the last four years. Players have got enhanced reputations, some of them are big stars.
“So it’s a completely different situation. And that’s why we want to challenge ourselves.
“I know you’re laughing about the fact we want to be the greatest team the world’s ever seen but we want to challenge ourselves to be as good as we can.”
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now