LONDON (Reuters) - England rugby coach Eddie Jones paid tribute on Wednesday to the way his all-conquering players developed in 2016 when they swept all before them to win 13 successive matches.
The Australian has overseen an astonishing revival in English fortunes after getting the job following a woeful World Cup display on home soil which led to the sacking of Stuart Lancaster.
Jones believes his players have become much more robust in taking the on-field decisions that brought a Six Nations grand slam followed by an unprecedented series whitewash in Australia and a clean sweep in the November internationals.
“The players have really changed, they are much more robust, more self-reliant,” said Jones.
“They can make decisions on the pitch by themselves, and we are seeing them (do that) in difficult games.”
Jones admitted they were hard-pressed to beat Scotland 15-9 in his first match in charge, a fierce Calcutta Cup clash at Murrayfield, when he said they just did enough to get home.
“We got the points and got a lot of confidence from that. I can remember getting out of the bus at the ground and this little Scotland fan was shouting out at the top of his voice ‘we’re going to stuff you guys, we’re going to stuff you guys’,” Jones said.
“That was the start of being part of that intense Six Nations rivalry between teams.”
England, on an unbeaten run of 14 matches including the win over Uruguay in their last World Cup game, completed the grand slam with a 31-21 victory in Paris and begin their new campaign against France at Twickenham on Feb. 4.
Jones played down his own role in England’s marvellous year.
“The players deserve 90 per cent of the credit and the other 10 per cent goes to the staff who work very well,” he said.
“We’re lucky with England that we have got very good support staff, with Steve Borthwick, Paul Gustard and now Neil Hatley’s doing a terrific job.”
Reporting by Neil Robinson,; Editing by Rex Gowar