Twickenham – England coach Eddie Jones jokingly said he didn’t even know what a Grand Slam was after his side moved closer to a Six Nations clean sweep with a 21-10 win over Ireland at Twickenham.
Saturday’s success made it three wins out of three for England under the Australian and left them top of the table.
Jones was appointed after England axed Stuart Lancaster following a World Cup where they became the first host nation to crash out in the group stage.
The Englishman’s failure to guide the Red Rose to a Six Nations title — they finished runners-up four years in a row under Lancaster — was also held against him by the Rugby Football Union.
For all their playing resources and financial muscle, England have not been crowned Six Nations champions since 2011, with their last Grand Slam coming in their World Cup-winning year of 2003.
And with Wales, unbeaten in this season’s Six Nations, albeit drawing their tournament opener against Ireland, his team’s next opponents, Jones said: “I’m still trying to work out what a Grand Slam is.
“All we want to do is beat Wales in two weeks (at Twickenham on March 12),” said Jones.
Two tries in four second-half minutes from backs Anthony Watson and Mike Brown proved decisive in what was England’s first match at Twickenham since a 33-13 defeat by Australia in October dumped them out of the World Cup.
Jones was encouraged by England’s build-up play but less so by the quality of their first-half finishing.
“Ireland are the incumbent Six Nations champions so we expected a tough game. We left 10-15 points out there in the first half,” Jones said.
“The structure of our attack was excellent, but the finishing wasn’t. This was a decent step up.”
England No 8 Billy Vunipola produced another impressive display, the 23-year-old making vital ground in attack, and Jones said: “Billy’s only going to get better and better. He is just a kid learning how to play the game.”
Another of England’s rising stars, Maro Itoje, also impressed with the 21-year-old lock marking his first Test start by outjumping Devin Toner for an important line-out steal off an Ireland throw in the second half.
Jones, who had previously compared Itoje to a Vauxhall Viva, a modest family saloon car, said: “He’s gone up a level from a Viva — an Astra. I thought he did a good job.”
Defeat all but ended injury-hit Ireland’s bid for an unprecedented third successive outright Six Nations title as it left them without a win this season after the Wales draw was followed by an agonising 10-9 loss to France in Paris.
“They squeezed up the line-out really well,” said Ireland coach Joe Schmidt of England.
“That platform didn’t work for us to keep the pressure on,” the New Zealander added.
“Once you are in the (opposition) 22 and you have those opportunities, you can’t release that valve too easily.”
But he urged Ireland fans to keep faith with a new-look side ahead of their next match against an Italy team who’ve lost all three of their Six Nations matches so far this season.
“I think we tried to play positively and we demonstrated that today (Saturday) with the enterprise we showed. I am excited about some of the young guys that are coming in,” Schmidt said.
“It’s really tough at the moment, for players who take so much pride and make such a big effort to try to do the very best they can, that we are not quite getting the result.
“But I don’t seriously feel that we are a million miles away.