England head coach Eddie Jones insists his Six Nations champions will have to scale new heights in order to prevent Ireland gatecrashing their Grand Slam party on Saturday.
Tournament victors England will become just the sixth side in history and first since the inception of the Six Nations in 2000 to claim back-to-back Grand Slams should they triumph at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium.
Victory would also see Eddie Jones’s charges set a new international record of 19 successive Test wins, usurping world champions New Zealand’s current milestone of 18.
Standing in their way is Ireland, who risk their World Cup top-four seeding should they lose, on St Patrick’s Day weekend, and Jones has no doubt that Joe Schmidt’s outfit will relish stopping England in their tracks.
“We are anticipating Ireland to be at their best, particularly because they’ve got nothing to fear, which always liberates a team,” said Jones.
“Most teams in the Six Nations have one big performance. “But when I said ‘most teams’, we are not ‘most teams’. We are a different team, we’ve showed that, and we are ready to take it to another level on Saturday.
“To go from where we are to greatness takes another step of endeavour. It takes greater focus, it takes greater persistence, it takes greater emotional output.
“It is like climbing up a mountain. Every time you go to another level of the mountain it becomes more unstable. The ground becomes more unstable, your ears hurt, your nose hurts.
“It is exactly the same when you are climbing the ladder of success – everything becomes a bit harder.”
England, who have recalled No8 Billy Vunipola and wing Anthony Watson, have fallen to Ireland – robbed of scrum-half Conor Murray through injury – before when chasing European rugby’s ultimate prize, most recently in 2011.
“We know the pitfalls of what can happen and we know how much the Irish dislike the English and how much they like spoiling the party,” added Jones. “Ireland are going to come out all guns blazing.”
Despite standing on the brink of a world record, Jones maintains his side lack the number of leaders necessary to lift the World Cup in Japan in 2019.
“We don’t have the density to win the World Cup, in terms of leaders,” said Jones.
“But we’ve progressed a long way in 14 months. We’ve gone from one or two self-reliant players, to three or four, and maybe five or six.
“But we’re not good enough to win the World Cup.”