Six Nations: Eddie Jones well aware of pitfalls that face Grand Slam-chasing England in Dublin

England face Ireland on Saturday ready to make history and embrace “greatness”, but the players and coach Eddie Jones are well aware that if there is anywhere such dreams can be derailed it is in Dublin.

England flanker Maro Itoje jumps for the ball as the team practice a line-out during a training session at Pennyhill Park in Bagshot, west of London on March 16, 2017. Adrian Dennis / AFP
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England face Ireland on Saturday ready to make history and embrace “greatness”, but the players and coach Eddie Jones are well aware that if there is anywhere such dreams can be derailed it is in Dublin.

Six years ago under Martin Johnson, England travelled to the newly opened Aviva Stadium dreaming of a Grand Slam but were blown away by Ireland and could not have looked more miserable when collecting the trophy as Six Nations champions.

They had a similarly deflating experience 10 years earlier in a decider put back to October because of the foot-and-mouth ban on travel, when the title again felt like a consolation prize.

They did complete the sweep at Dublin in 2003 with a brilliant performance that catapulted them towards World Cup glory, but a fired-up Ireland on home turf on St Patrick’s Day weekend remains an extremely tough final hurdle.

Throw into the mix potential successive Grand Slams and a record 19th successive Test win for England on one side, and a risk for Ireland of losing their World Cup top-four seeding should they lose, then a huge occasion is guaranteed.

“We know the pitfalls of what can happen, and we know how much the Irish dislike the English and how much they like spoiling the party,” Jones said.

“Most teams in the Six Nations have one big performance in them, so we know Ireland are going to come out all guns blazing.”

That 2011 setback was one of six defeats in their past nine visits for England, and Jones said that record helped ensure there was no risk of complacency with the title already in the bag.

“We’ve certainly had guys who were involved in those games [Dublin defeats] talk about it,” Jones said. “Having won the title makes us vulnerable.

“We’re consistently looking out for small things that lead to complacency, but it’s always around the corner.”

Jones declined to discuss the prospect of a possible match against New Zealand in November but did, as he always does, hold up the All Blacks as the level his team need to aspire to.

Victory on Saturday would take England past theirs and New Zealand’s Tier 1 record of 18 successive wins, while claiming back-to-back Grand Slams, and is a feat not even the World Cup-winning team under Clive Woodward could manage.

“I think the team has embraced it but to go from where we are to greatness takes another step of endeavour,” Jones said.

“It is like climbing up a mountain. Every time you go to another level the ground becomes more unstable, your ears hurt, your nose hurts.

“It is exactly the same when you are climbing the ladder of success — everything becomes a bit harder. And sometimes you have got to just stop and say, ‘Right, this is what is ahead of us’, and probably we weren’t very good at that. We have done that now and I think the players have re-equipped for the challenges ahead.”

Jones declined to accept any praise for turning England into such a force in his 14 months in charge.

“I got them at a good stage,” he said.

* Reuters

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