England skipper Dylan Hartley has led a chorus of assertions that his record-equalling side will not allow history to slip from their grasp during their crunch Six Nations clash against Ireland on Saturday.
Victory in Dublin would not only see England become the first team since the inception of the Six Nations in 2000 to win back-to-back Grand Slams, but also set a new top-tier record for the number of consecutive wins.
Their 61-21 dismantling of Scotland at Twickenham at the weekend drew England, who have already retained their Six Nations crown, level with world champions New Zealand’s haul of 18 straight triumphs.
Head coach Eddie Jones insists a second successive Grand Slam would bestow “greatness” upon England’s players, something which Hartley expects his team-mates to relish seizing.
“We’ve spoken about having two options,” said Hartley. “There is failure on the one side or we can kick on, get better and hit those lofty heights that he [Jones] is talking about.
“We’ve put ourselves in the position to win a Grand Slam in this tournament and that’s what we’re out to do.
“We don’t want to take a loss to wake up, work hard and have to get back to this position. We’re in a great position and we’re being ruthless. We’ve only equalled New Zealand’s record, we’d like to go one more.
“We want that record. We want to get better and win games every week. That becomes part and parcel of it. We want to be the best team in the world, but we’re not. That’s the reality. But we’ll keep working until we get there.”
Martin Johnson’s England needed to succeed in Ireland to claim a Grand Slam in 2011 but fluffed their lines and slumped to a 24-8 defeat.
Centre Jonathan Joseph, who scored his second Six Nations hat-trick against Scotland, believes the current vintage will not buckle under the pressure.
“This team has moved on leaps and bounds – I think everyone would agree with that,” said the 25-year-old. “We’ve had many challenges over the last year or two and we’ve overcome a lot of them.
“This is another great challenge, one that will be right up there, but we’ve very excited about it. We’ll be right ready to go down there and look to get that Grand Slam.”
Fly-half George Ford, who believes “world class” Joseph had his best game in an England shirt against Vern Cotter’s outfit, echoed the sentiments of his Bath colleague, despite expecting an Ireland backlash following their defeat to Wales on Friday evening.
“We’re hugely excited about going over to Dublin and trying to create history and some memories together,” said the Leicester-bound No10. “We know Ireland are going to be fired up for it and we’re hugely motivated to do it.
“We acknowledge we’ve won the Six Nations but we want the Grand Slam.”
Wasps utility back Elliot Daly, meanwhile, has been included in England’s initial 31-man training squad for the Ireland clash despite being forced off after only 16 minutes on Saturday. He will continue his graduated return-to-play protocol following possible concussion.