- England play Scotland on Saturday
- Jones selects team for Calcutta Cup
- Rugby Insight: Matt Dawson's Key Targets
Eddie Jones cites a ‘winning mentality’ as the difference between the England team he first took charge of against Scotland two years ago, and the one set to face them in Edinburgh in the NatWest 6 Nations on Saturday.
Since that 15-9 win at Murrayfield in 2016, his side have won back-to-back Six Nations titles, completed two autumn clean sweeps, and registered a series whitewash in both Australia and Argentina, picking up just one loss along the way.
And it has been a long road for head coach Jones, who with vivid memories of his first England training session, can appreciate just how much they have improved.
“I remember that first game we had only been together for two weeks, so we had four training runs, and after the first I thought ‘goodness, what have I got myself into’, we weren’t fit - shot after 20 minutes - and I thought it was going to be hard work, but I was massively surprised how quickly they changed,” said Jones.
“We’ve learnt how to play winning rugby, learnt how to develop a mind set and find a way to win Test match rugby. They like winning, they want to get better at it and they work together so much more cohesively now.”
A massive game
England enter the Calcutta Cup clash having already registered wins over Italy and Wales, whilst Scotland bounced back from an opening round loss, to beat France 32-26 in round two.
Gregor Townsend’s men have won their last five games at Murrayfield in the NatWest 6 Nations - as many as they had won in their previous 23 in the tournament - and Jones is under no illusions of the significance surrounding Saturday’s fixture.
“It is a massive game the Calcutta Cup, you don’t get any bigger than this,” he explained.
“I can remember as a kid watching all the great Scotland sides: Gavin Hastings at full back, Finlay Calder, John Jeffries and Colin Deans. They had great teams that played with a lot of passion and a lot of conviction and that is what Gregor is trying to get with his team, so this is a big occasion.
“We are really focussed intensely on this game, we’ve had a well-coordinated, cohesive preparation and we are ready to go. Scotland are a good side, we respect them, and we have to be at our best to beat them.”
92 not out...
When he takes to the field on Saturday afternoon, Dylan Hartley will eclipse Jonny Wilkinson’s 91 Test appearances, and become England second most-capped man of all-time.
The England captain is the most utilised player under the stewardship of Jones - alongside fly half George Ford - having featured in all 25 Tests since the Australian took over, and Jones credits him as a selfless leader. "He is the one that controls that team"
“Dylan isn’t driven by personal milestones, he’s not driven by a desire to be famous, he is driven by the desire to captain the best team England has ever produced and he is quite selfless in that,” he added.
“Being captain of your national team is a 24-hour job, you can never switch off, you have to be on it at all times. Ultimately it is his team; when they run out at Murrayfield on Saturday he is the only one that controls that team.”