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Jones heaps praise on Ireland as he sets his sights on the world champions All Blacks

By Jonathan Bradley

England coach Eddie Jones shouldered the blame on Saturday after watching his side fall to the first defeat of his reign.

The back-to-back Six Nations champions rolled into Dublin looking to complete an historic second Grand Slam on the spin and establish a new record for consecutive victories.

But just as they did when facing New Zealand back in November, Ireland ensured that the latter mark would remain at 18, winning 13-9 at the Aviva.

"I take full responsibility for the loss and I should have prepared them better," said the man who succeeded Stuart Lancaster after the disastrous 2015 World Cup.

"I make mistakes and the team didn't play well, I have to fix it.

"It was a tough tournament, teams were at it, the standard has been much better and there is a real hardness there.

"We're 14 months into a four-year project. We're chuffed but realism shows we have work to do.

"We were caught in certain areas, they executed their plan brilliantly and are well-coached.

"Not too many teams have 90% winning records. Even Don Bradman got a 0 in his last test.

"We're gutted but we'll fight another day.

"It's not the end of the world."

Over the course of what has been a hugely successful stint, the former Australia and Japan coach has offered plenty of sound-bites to the media in the build-up to big games but he was noticeably magnanimous in defeat on Saturday, hailing the Irish performance.

"That was like a World Cup final out there," he said.

"We are better off having that experience today than in a World Cup final in Yokohama in 2019.

"I thought we were going to stick it out, we were starting to get momentum and get a few breaks.

"Unfortunately, we gave away a penalty for 13-6 (that Sexton kicked over).

"You have these days. Ireland played superbly and were too good for us on the day and we weren't good enough.

"We're all human beings, we're not perfect and that's why world records finish at 18 games."

He added: "It's so hard to keep going. A team perform above themselves, we performed below ourselves.

"They played the conditions superbly, we probably didn't.

"I told the players to be proud of themselves, we're joint record holders and back-to-back title winners. We'll right the wrongs in November."

And that could still mean what would be a much hyped clash with New Zealand as the respective decision makers continue to work on a deal that would see the world's top two sides clash at Twickenham this autumn.

"New Zealand, as Ireland have shown, are there for the taking," he said, referencing the Lions' chances this summer.

"I can't wait for us to play them either. We're very keen. I've had a discussion with Ian (Ritchie, RFU chief executive) and we're raring to go.

"There's a lot of discussions to go, a lot of discussions with New Zealand and within the rugby community. There's still a lot to go."

For his part, number 8 Billy Vunipola was already downplaying the potential clash, keen to focus on how England bounce back from their first defeat in a year and a half.

"That's way above my pay grade," he said. "Ian Ritchie can sort that out. I'm just focusing on what happens now.

"If you look at the best team in the world and how they react to a loss, they always come back bigger and better, and that's the focus for us.

"The message was to enjoy it (the championship) because even the best team in the world couldn't get to 19 wins.

"Obviously we're still chasing that tag but we'll keep trying."

Belfast Telegraph

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