Eddie Jones acclaimed his Grand Slam champions as the dominant force in the northern hemisphere but insists England’s success in his debut campaign as head coach is only the beginning.
A tense 31-21 victory over France in Paris completed a first clean sweep since Martin Johnson’s World Cup-winners crushed all before them in 2003 with the Six Nations title having been sown up a week earlier.
Jones insists his England will reach their peak in time for the next World Cup in three years’ time and has even trained his sights on New Zealand.
“Winning the Grand Slam means you beat every team in the competition and means you’re the most dominant team,” Jones said.
“I think everyone is ecstatic to be the most dominant team in Europe. It’s a nice first step for us but it’s only a small step because we’ve got much larger steps to go. That starts with the Australian tour in June.
“Can we beat the All Blacks? Of course we can. We can’t now but we will in the future. Why else would you play Test rugby if you don’t think you can beat the All Blacks?
“The exciting thing for us is that we have an average age of 24. Winning trophy age is about 28 so we’re three or four years from peaking. That’s enormously exciting.
“England have been quite stereotyped in terms of how they play the game. In the Premiership everyone tends to play the same way.
“We’ve tried to change that. At times we’ve had good results and at times we haven’t. We’re still working on improving that.”
Tries from Danny Care, Dan Cole and Anthony Watson and 16 points from the boot of Owen Farrell broke France’s spirited resistance in an absorbing but disjointed climax to the tournament.
Having led 17-6 after the first quarter, England were reeled in to 20-18 with the kicking of Maxime Machenaud punishing their indiscipline time and again and it took until the final quarter to seize control.
“The first half was pretty ordinary. Mentally we were too worried about the result. In the second half we played with a lot more conviction and courage,” Jones said.
“It was always going to be difficult having won the Six Nations to come here and play against a French team with nothing to lose.
“I’m pretty proud of the players. The great thing is that we still have a long way to go.”
There were worrying scenes in the 68th minute when captain Dylan Hartley was knocked unconscious in a tackle and after receiving length medical attention, he was carried from the pitch on a stretcher.
“Needless to say he is a bit under the weather. He will undergo all the necessary head injury protocol and I am sure he will be fine to play shortly,” Jones said.
“He has been a very good captain. He has led from the front. He has been ably supported by Billy Vunipola, Mike Brown and Owen (Farrell).
“Chris Robshaw and James Haskell have also done a fine job supporting him. The collective leadership has been strong and his individual leadership has been outstanding.”
France coach Guy Noves was proud of his players but accepted England were the superior team.
“We’re quite close against all the other teams in the Six Nations, but there was a much bigger divide between us and England,” Noves said.
“The English were very vigorous and really felt it in the second half. We were dominated in the line-outs and rucks, but I’m pleased by how we played.”
Follow us on Twitter @NatSportUAE
Like us on Facebook at facebook.com/TheNationalSport