Analysis: Much more to come from England

England’s win in Dublin has undoubtedly set the benchmark for what is a pivotal year to come.

England’s win in Dublin has undoubtedly set the benchmark for what is a pivotal year to come.

One of the best England performances of the Eddie Jones – or indeed any – era has set up their 2019 Championship perfectly.

But they arrived in Ireland as the underdogs – both with the bookies and the pundits – and that certainly played to their strengths.

An ‘us against the world’ mentality has long been Jones’ calling card and his side produced a backs-against-the-wall performance when they needed it.

But now the real challenge, after kicking off the Championship in such fine style, is to maintain this level.

There is a reason that Grand Slams are so rare in Rugby’s Greatest Championship, let your concentration slip for just a second and there are five other nations just waiting to pounce.

So England return home for Le Crunch with a spring in their step but need to keep the chip on their shoulder.

Bringing brutality

The performance in Dublin was one that will give huge confidence to every player in the squad.

Not a single individual in the 23, bar the unused Dan Robson, merited anything less than a 7/10 rating for their own individual performance.

Much of the talk of England’s brutality centred on Manu Tuilagi and the Vunipola brothers – and it’s incredible to think that this was the first time ever that the trio had started a Test match together.

But there were other men like Mark Wilson and Tom Curry – both making their first-ever Guinness Six Nations appearances – that produced performances that belonged in the world-class bracket.

Jamie George is starting to look like England’s nailed on starting hooker while in the back three Elliot Daly, Jonny May and Jack Nowell looked totally in tune with one another.

Now the challenge is to do this week in and week out.

Jones has long said he wants his side to become the No.1 team in the world.

The performance in Dublin was worthy of a World No.1 side – but in isolation that is not enough.

And Jones and his players will know that there will be days where everything does not go as smoothly as it did in Dublin.

Rucking royalty

England had 100% success rate in their attacking rucks on Saturday night, according to the official stats provider AWS, as Ireland failed to slow the wave of Red Rose attacks.

That will not always be the case, the 2018 Championship saw them turn ball over with alarming regularity and other referees might allow for more of a contest moving forward.

Their work under the high ball will surely be further tested as well.

But England are starting to show a propensity to problem solve on the hoof.

Jones has in the past spoken at great length of the leadership deficit in his squad – but under Farrell’s reign that appears to be changing.

And while much of the focus has been on how England started and finished the game in Dublin, perhaps the most significant period of the game was the second quarter.

There England showed they could ride out a storm, a 7-0 lead had quickly become a 10-7 deficit, and come again.

They finished out the half in style and proved they were up for the fight, either as a front runner or coming from behind.

Gallic test awaits

France have not won a Twickenham since 2005, so the odds are in England’s favour on Sunday.

The absence of the injured Maro Itoje will be a blow, but in a World Cup year squad depth is everything.

Joe Launchbury was desperately unlucky to miss out on the 23 in Dublin and should be back this weekend.

He might even start alongside George Kruis with Courtney Lawes’ versatility and athletic impact making him more suited as a gamechanger from the bench.

Henry Slade and Manu Tuilagi are a tough midfield to break up after such a magnificent maiden outing – but Ben Te’o’s return to fitness will inevitably pose some questions as well.

England are building, and there is more to come.

“Maro is a fantastic player and a great personality around the squad, so clearly that’s significant,” said forwards coach Steve Borthwick.

“What we have got is some other brilliant players in there. Whenever any player of his calibre is taken from the team, clearly you take some strengths out but we’ve got other players who have different strengths, but they’re very good experienced players.

“You look at example at the weekend that George Kruis goes off the field and 90 seconds later Maro Itoje is injured and Nathan Hughes goes into the second row.

“We’d practiced Nathan scrummaging and the players adapted really well which was great. Courtney called the lineout and everyone did a good job of adapting to that situation.

“There are still plenty of areas for us to improve upon. This weekend we’re going against a very good team coming off a result that they’ll be wanting to put right, so we know it’s going to be another fierce encounter.”