Eddie Jones: 'We don't fear anyone'
While England nearly came unstuck against Wales on Saturday before eventually emerging 23-19 winners at Twickenham, Ireland and France produced conclusive victories over Italy and Scotland respectively.
It has become a three-way shootout for the title, with Les Bleus, who were in ominous form at Murrayfield, in the driving seat as the only side still capable of winning the Grand Slam.
England face both teams on successive weekends, starting with Ireland, and Jones is relishing the challenges ahead.
“We don’t fear anyone. We’ve just got to keep playing better, keep improving every game,” the head coach said.
“We don’t care what other people think. All we care about is what we think and we know we’re a good young squad and a team that’s developing.
“There are three teams that can win it now and we are one of those three teams. So we’ve got a lot more belief than the three teams that can’t win it. We’re in a good position. We’re in charge of our own destiny.”
England have rebuilt since slipping up in Edinburgh on the opening day when they fell to a defeat that punctured the optimism created by a successful autumn consisting of victories over Tonga, Australia and South Africa.
And while they have failed to set the tournament ablaze outside of the brilliance of their fly-half Marcus Smith, Jones is satisfied with the trajectory being taken.
“We’re definitely on the right track. No-one needs to tell us if we are or we’re not. We are. Look at the autumn – we played great rugby,” he said.
“We started off the Six Nations with a narrow loss to Scotland when we were probably the most dominant team, got an emphatic win against Italy and a good tough win against the Six Nations champions. So we’re definitely going in the right direction.”
Urgent attention must be paid to a misfiring attack that saw England lose the try count 3-1 to Wales, with Smith a lone source of creativity on a day when his kicking did most of the scoreboard damage.
The return of Manu Tuilagi would bring balance to the backline but it is uncertain if he will be able to play any part against Ireland and France after sustaining a hamstring strain in training on Thursday, forcing him to withdraw from the team to face the champions.
“Obviously we’d like to have Manu playing but he’s not and it’s been more common for us over the last period of time that he’s not playing, so we just get on with it,” Jones said.
“He’s got a very, very slight strain that, because of previous history, will probably need something in the vicinity of a 10-day rehab.
“It’s all been checked out and he’s started his rehab already, so it’s just a matter now of him getting back to full healthiness.
“Injuries have their own life. We will just wait and see. If he is available and he’s fit, then we will pick him. And if he’s not then we will move on.”
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