Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby

George Ford: Grand Slam win is just the start for England

George Ford insists England's Grand Slam triumph is merely the beginning for a team blessed with "endless potential".

The 13-year wait to be crowned the dominant force in Europe came to an end in Paris on Saturday night after France were toppled 31-21 in an absorbing climax to the 2016 RBS 6 Nations Championship.

Eddie Jones' England had been crowned champions with a round to spare and are worthy winners of an otherwise sub-standard tournament as they claimed partial redemption for last autumn's dismal World Cup showing.

More dangerous adversaries loom on the horizon in the shape of a three-Test series against Australia in June but Ford, the Bath fly-half, believes they are well equipped to face them.

"This is only the start for us and while we're glad to have done this, we understand we need to get better as well," Ford said.

"There's so much more time to come. The potential is endless. This is a small start to becoming a better team.

"We understand there are tougher things to come, but if we stay humble and grounded and keep working hard and enjoying each other's company, then this team can go places."

Tries from Danny Care, Dan Cole and Anthony Watson and the dead-eyed kicking of Owen Farrell accounted for France, whose spirit and occasional attacking flourish made for a tense evening.

Watson's touch down in the 56th minute gave England some breathing space and they controlled the final half hour with two late penalties from Farrell finally easing the tension.

Grand Slam failures endured at the final hurdle litter Red Rose history, but on Saturday night they held their nerve in a pivotal phase of the match to end a run of four successive runners-up finishes.

"This is brilliant. We were happy to have won the tournament, but we also wanted to do it in the proper way by winning every game," Ford said.

"It's been a big build-up this week because it was the Grand Slam. That can take a lot out of you emotionally, so to get over the finish line is an incredible feeling.

"The boys are over the moon. We've been second for the last four years so to win it and get the Grand Slam has left us chuffed to bits.

"After the World Cup we went away, stuck together and the majority of that squad was involved in this.

"Sometimes you have to take things like what happened then on the chin and stay grounded."

Among the standout performers have been number eight Billy Vunipola, lock George Kruis, flanker James Haskell and centre Farrell, but the real star of this tournament is Jones himself.

In 120 days he has shaped virtually the same group of players who imploded at the World Cup into rulers of the northern hemisphere, resurrecting their self-belief and using his wily rugby brain to provide a smart tactical blueprint.

"Eddie is a really honest guy and he'll tell you straight what it is you need to do to take your game to the next level," Ford said.

"The biggest thing for me is that he's created an enjoyable environment and the lads have responded brilliantly to that. Training has been taken to the next level.

"He's installed a way of playing into us and wants us to attack teams and that's the way the lads like playing.

"We've worked hard and it's been a tough eight weeks, but it's been an enjoyable one at the same time."


From Belfast Telegraph