Eddie Jones tells England greatness awaits as Wales head for Twickenham
Eddie Jones has demanded his England players achieve greatness by rising to the occasion on the weekend they could be crowned RBS 6 Nations champions with a round to spare.
England and Wales will collide at Twickenham on Saturday knowing the winner will almost certainly go on to seize the title held by Ireland for the past two years as France are hamstrung by a vastly inferior points difference
Tournament glory is within the grasp of the Grand Slam-chasing Red Rose, who know that if Warren Gatland's men are toppled and Scotland humble France 24 hours later they will win the championship.
It is amid this landscape of defining moments that Jones is urging his players to claim a piece of silverware that was last displayed at Twickenham five years ago.
"This is a fantastic and exciting opportunity for these players to be great now," head coach Jones said.
"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. 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."
Strip out last autumn's World Cup disaster on these shores and England have compiled an imperious record at Twickenham against European opposition.
They have amassed 10 successive home victories in the Six Nations dating back to 2012 when Warren Gatland's men prevailed 19-12 en route to completing the Grand Slam, forcing the Red Rose to endure the first of four consecutive runners-up finishes under Stuart Lancaster.
Inflicting a more grievous wound to English pride, however, was the late collapse when the fierce rivals met in September in a pivotal World Cup group match that ended in a harrowing 28-25 loss.
Wales had been ravaged by injury yet still set the hosts on the path to tournament ruin that was confirmed one week later when Australia rampaged across Twickenham in record-breaking fashion.
Thirteen England players survive from the matchday 23 selected against the Welsh on that occasion, but Jones steadfastly refuses to use the defeat as a reference point for Saturday's highly-anticipated 128th meeting between the old rivals.
"It's 100 per cent realistic to ignore what happened at the World Cup. We haven't spoken about it once because it's irrelevant to this group of players," Jones said.
"This group of players trains differently and thinks differently about the game. We've all had games in the past where we've been scarred.
"I've been scarred by games in the past as a coach, but if you carry those you don't stay involved in high-level sport because you carry baggage around.
"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. They (Wales) might be the same team, but we're a different one."
Jones admires Welsh rugby and knows what awaits at Twickenham, but at the same time he paid them the backhanded compliment of saying "for a little country, they do unbelievably well".
"Warren's teams have traditionally played gain-line rugby and it's going to be a battle for that gain line. We have one of the best referees in the game in Craig Joubert who likes fast ball," Jones said.
"Wales are probably the fittest side in the competition, or they think they're the fittest side in the competition.
"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.
"They've got some good Lions players, quality players. They bring a solidness to their team and that's why they're always in games of rugby.
"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. Jamie Roberts is leading the charge now so George Ford is going to poke himself in front of the M4."
That comment came in reference to Roberts saying England fly-half Ford will be targeted.
"I have been a great admirer of Welsh rugby, they always produce backs who are quite skilful," Jones added.
"Their game's gone around, they are more successful with more physical and less skilful backs but they have produced players with a nice sense of touch on the ball. For a little country they do unbelievably well."