England boss Jones eyes Six Nations record after Samoa success
Twickenham (United Kingdom) (AFP)
England coach Eddie Jones has challenged his side to make Six Nations history next year after they ended 2017 with a 48-14 victory over Samoa at Twickenham.
The Australian made nine changes to his starting XV for Saturday's match in a bid to boost England's squad depth in the lead-up to the 2019 World Cup in Japan.
Despite the wholesale alterations England, who'd already beaten Argentina and Australia at Twickenham this month, ran in seven tries against Samoa on Saturday, with wing Elliot Daly crossing twice in the second half.
England's next match is not until February 4 when they begin their bid for an unprecedented third successive outright Six Nations title away to Italy.
- 'Desire' -
"I'm excited about the Six Nations as we've got a chance to create history," Jones told reporters after Saturday's match.
"We reassemble in eight weeks' time. The next eight weeks is a great opportunity for players to show how much desire they've got to be part of a World Cup-winning side," added Jones, Australia's coach when they lost the 2003 World Cup final to England.
"Every side wants to beat us. Whether they're playing here at Twickenham or away, this is their big game of the Six Nations."
England did not have things all their own way despite posting a record score against Samoa.
Having gone 22-7 up in the 29th minute following tries by fullback Mike Brown, centre Alex Lozowski and lock Charlie Ewels, England had to endure a 31-minute wait either side of half-time for their next score.
They enjoyed a late flurry of points but only after Samoa flanker Piula Faasalele, one of the visitors' two try-scorers together with captain Chris Vui, was sin-binned 11 minutes from time.
- 'Examination' -
"I probably would've been disappointed if they didn't struggle," Jones said after a match where England lock Joe Launchbury sustained a shoulder injury and wing Jonny May was forced off with concussion.
"That's the sort of examination we wanted, particularly after playing Australia."
Former Japan coach Jones added: "We started the game well and then thought the game was going to flow and going to be easy.
"We want to find out these things now, what players struggle to do. And then we can help them and they can help themselves fix it.
"You don't want to find these things out in the 60th minute of the game against Tonga in Kobe (during the 2019 World Cup opener), that some players aren't up to it."
Someone who definitely appeared "up to it" was Jamie George.
Despite being the starting hooker in all three Tests of the British and Irish Lions series drawn in New Zealand earlier this year, George had never previously been a member of an England run-on Test XV.
But all that changed on Saturday, when Jones decided to bench regular captain and his first-choice hooker Dylan Hartley in favour of George.
"There's ongoing competition between those two. And we love it," said Jones.
England have now won 22 of their 23 Tests under Jones, with the only blot a defeat by Ireland in Dublin in March that denied them a second straight Grand Slam.
It is a record cash-strapped Samoa, who've lost all seven of their Tests this year, can only envy.
But coach Titimaea Tafua said: "It's not the money that cost us, it's some of the mistakes."
Samoa have yet to qualify for the 2019 World Cup and Tafua added: "Getting the team together for four or five weeks would be great but most of our players are here (with European clubs) so this is the only time of the year when they make themselves available."
Meanwhile Tafua urged top nations to tour Samoa -- England have yet to play a Test there -- or at least face them more often.
"If we have a game like this yearly, it would be a big change," he said.
© 2017 AFP