Jones challenges England to “stand up”

Eddie Jones has called on his players to stand up to the challenge

England head coach Eddie Jones has urged his team to rise to the occasion this weekend against Wales in the Six Nations at Twickenham.

The winner of the match will put one hand on the Six Nations trophy as they will be the only remaining unbeaten team.

France have a markedly worse points difference than both sides so the winner will be all but certain to be crowned champions of Europe.

And England, the lone contenders for a Grand Slam in 2016, could take the title with a round to spare if they beat Wales on Saturday and Scotland defeat France in Edinburgh 24 hours later.

It is five years since England last won the Six Nations while you have to go back to their World Cup-winning year of 2003 for the last Red Rose Grand Slam.

A run of four successive runners-up finishes was held against former England coach Stuart Lancaster by the Rugby Football Union, who sacked him after the hosts early exit at last year’s World Cup following Twickenham pool defeats by both Wales and Australia.

Lancaster’s exit paved the way for Australian Jones’s appointment as the first overseas coach of the England side and the former Wallaby and Japan boss was keen to see how his current side coped against proven European performers Wales.

“Greatness is defined by being able to do it on the big stage and the great thing about Saturday is that it’s a big stage,” said Jones. “It’s so exciting, so we want players to stand up.

“Big players stand up and the players who are going to make it stand up,” he insisted.

England have won their last 10 Six Nations matches at Twickenham dating back to a 19-12 defeat by Wales in 2009 which helped Warren Gatland’s men complete a Grand Slam.

Yet England’s ‘fortress’ will hold few fears for a Wales side who stunned their hosts with a 28-25 World Cup win despite being beset by injuries.

England’s matchday 23 contains 13 survivors from that fixture but Jones insisted: “If we need that World Cup game to motivate us, then I’ve done a bad job during the week. We’re a different team.”

Jones has long been an admirer of Wales and the style they have developed under the guidance of New Zealander Gatland.

“Warren’s teams have traditionally played gain-line rugby and it’s going to be a battle for that gain line,” Jones said.

“They base their game on physicality and they’ve got a clearly understood playing style. They’ve been together for eight years and they know what they’re doing.

“If you look at the World Cup, they were the European team who came closest to progressing to the semi-finals.

“They put in a very good performance against South Africa, so they bring those qualities.

“Welsh rugby is buoyant, they’ll be flying down the M4 motorway. Jamie Roberts is leading the charge now so George Ford is going to poke himself in front of the M4,” added Jones in a reference to Wales centre Roberts saying England fly-half Ford would be targeted.

Roberts, who now plays his club rugby alongside England flanker Chris Robshaw at Harlequins, has been impressed by the way the Red Rose has bloomed again after wilting during the World Cup.

“Full respect to England,” Roberts said. “From what they went through in the World Cup, they have come back really strong.

“They have regrouped under a new coaching team, and if you watch, they are playing with enjoyment and width on the game and putting teams under pressure.”

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