Rugby: World record attempt will show where England are as team - McGeechan

Dylan Hartley, the England captain, celebrates with the Calcutta Cup after their victory over Scotland. Photo/Getty Images
Dylan Hartley, the England captain, celebrates with the Calcutta Cup after their victory over Scotland. Photo/Getty Images

Eighteen wins in a row ... unbeaten under Eddie Jones ... a 3-0 away series win in Australia ... back-to-back Six Nations titles.

Does this England team compare with Sir Clive Woodward's 2003?

Not yet, but you would have to say they are well on their way.

There is one glaring absence on England's burgeoning CV - the scalp of the world champions. The fact that England have not played the All Blacks in their entire unbeaten run is not only a great shame for rugby fans, it is patently unfair.

I think Wales have faced New Zealand twice in that time. Your World Cup seeding is affected by these results.

The other area this England team is probably just lacking compared with 2003 is in their leadership department and their ability to think under pressure. England's failure to work out what to do in the first half against Italy at Twickenham two weekends ago would have been a great disappointment to Eddie.

They are still a work in progress, then, but take nothing away from them. Even the 2003 team did not win 18 games in a row.

That is some feat and it could get better still in Dublin next weekend, which is exactly the sort of challenge this England team need at the moment.

Ireland lost a brutal encounter in Cardiff on Friday night, but they will be hugely motivated to face England at the Aviva on St Patrick's Day weekend.

It will be a real test of where England are as a team.

Jones's team now have an attacking blueprint

Eddie has always said this is a four-year project to become the best team in the world and win the World Cup. On this evidence, England now have a game capable of achieving that.

They had been disappointing in their three previous matches in this Six Nations campaign, but it is the hallmark of a good side to win playing badly and when things do click, they are devastating.

They got off to a fast start on Saturday. What immediately struck me was they played two passes away from the set piece, then brought in the heavy artillery - the big ball carriers.

It showed real intent.

Fraser Brown's yellow card and the injuries, first to Stuart Hogg and then to replacement Mark Bennett, certainly affected Scotland, but Vern Cotter has built a very honest group and they will not reach for excuses. They were not good enough, as simple as that.

Scotland performance a blip rather than cause for concern

It was fascinating watching the match in the ITV studio alongside Greig Laidlaw, because he had been part of the Scotland camp all week and he was just so frustrated on their behalves. He said it was not what they had been practising at all.

Give England credit, though. They were very clever at the line-outs, tying in the Scottish back row, which then opened up gaps in the back division that they ruthlessly exploited.

The lines that Jonathan Joseph ran were sumptuous, but he was getting such good ball from George Ford and particularly Owen Farrell. When those two - two real ball players - are playing like that, it is a nightmare for defences.

Scotland's defenders had two runners in their field of vision off every move, what with all the decoy lines England were running, and without their back row for support, they lost their shape and their men.

They also lost their discipline. John Barclay got a penalty reversed, which England kicked to the corner and then scored from. That is inexcusable.

They will be annoyed with themselves, but I don't see this as anything more than a blip. It was their one bad game in two years and Cotter deserves a huge amount of credit for what he has done.

They lost their focus because of the yellow card and the injuries, and they made some poor decisions - Finn Russell's suicidal looped pass at the end of the first half being a case in point. Their focus had gone completely.

They needed to slow it down a bit - ironically so, given everyone had said their best chance of winning the game was to play the high-tempo game they have been playing all tournament - but they needed to slow it down and regain some composure.

England just had too much class. They were as clever in defence as they were in attack, defending with a tackler plus one, which basically meant two extra defenders in place, although it is worth noting Scotland still managed to score three tries.

Dublin world record attempt will be the litmus test

This was a key moment in England's development. What impressed me most about them was the three minutes after the clock went red, from 80-83 minutes.

They didn't panic, they didn't kick it into touch. They kept their intensity and their discipline, went through the phases and eventually got their try.

That passage of play really reminded me of New Zealand.

Tactically and technically, Eddie will be very pleased with what he saw. The challenge now is to do it on a consistent basis against the best teams in the world.

England will get that challenge in Dublin.

They may not yet be the finished article. They may not even be the best team in the world.

England probably wouldn't get more than three or four players into an All Blacks composite side - Maro Itoje, Owen Farrell, Billy Vunipola - but they are a serious team.

England could and maybe should have lost in Cardiff last month. They didn't.

In what has been an excellent tournament, and if you exclude fixtures in Rome, they are the only team who have managed an away win.

They now have to do it again against a fired-up Ireland to get the world record and the Grand Slam.

- Daily Telegraph UK

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