Eddie Jones stokes All Blacks rivalry but warns of Ireland backlash

England go into the match having already been crowned Six Nations champions courtesy of a 61-21 trouncing of Scotland last weekend, and victory over Ireland would seal a second consecutive Grand Slam for the team.

New Zealand coach Steve Hansen has denied he is the "big bad wolf" and really does mean the compliments he is handing out to Eddie Jones' team as England stand on the brink of eclipsing the All Blacks' record of successive Test victories.

"That performance, and in particular a ruthlessly efficient and effective first half, has been brewing for a while". "It's very humbling to get them cheering me like that, although I believe it was more for Nathan Hughes coming off because he had a stormer", he added modestly.

Jones is meticulous with this approach to foreign turfs, and has in the past advised his England team to expect pre-match skulduggery; with Scotland it was wayward bagpipes, France it was renegade roosters and with Wales it was their goat potentially disrupting their preparations.

"I would have much preferred Ireland to have beaten Wales on Friday which would seen the Irish chasing the Championship themselves in front of their own fans" he added.

Billy Vunipola has reiterated England's determination to snatch World Rugby's number-one ranking from New Zealand.

"It's the end of the campaign and we want to finish on a high for the right reasons", the Wasps lock said. "It improves you're chances of creating a winning run if you don't play the best team". "Next week is about the grand slam and we are going to focus very closely on that". "We've had many challenges over the previous year or two and we've overcome a lot of them".

England's run has stretched since their final game of the 2015 World Cup under Stuart Lancaster, when they hammered Uruguay 60-3.

England are still short of fulfilling their stated aim of becoming the game's dominant force - a position that can only be truly claimed by winning the 2019 World Cup.

Vunipola played nearly half an hour of the demolition of Scotland in his first global appearance since recovering from the knee injury sustained during the autumn. I was just happy to be back on the pitch with the boys. "There was that period there where England were just always incredibly physical but they were just nowhere near as good as they are now, or as good as they had been in 2003".

Coach Eddie Jones has been warned not to get too far ahead of himself in talking up England as the All Blacks' equal.

  • Joanne Flowers