'Greatness is defined by being able to do it on the big stage and the great thing about Saturday is that it is a big stage isn't it?'
It was a stage that Eddie Jones' England almost slipped up on however their opening purpose combined with sheer will and guts saw them through to deliver a hugely satisfying 25-21 victory.
On the Twickenham turf we watched individuals excel, Dylan Hartley, Maro Itoje and Owen Farrell were at the heart of the home side's victory. England's captain led his side with distinction he was rock solid in the scrummage, worked tirelessly in the loose and managed an open dialogue with referee Craig Joubert. Maro Itoje had won the Man of the Match award before half-time, he was mesmeric in all facets of the game and at lineout time worked superbly with George Kruis to deliver 100% success. Finally Owen Farrell's goal-kicking display was sensational, you cannot win a game of rugby in which you score 1 try to your opponents' 3 without a 100% goal-kicker and in defence he was his usual combative best.
Yes England made life very difficult for themselves, Eddie Jones called it 'a learning experience' and I'm sure it is one he wants his side to learn only once! However over the course of the full eighty you have to say that the home team deserved the victory and the opportunity that they now have for a Grand Slam title.
Had the match finished when England were 25-7 up there would be little to criticise about their performance. For 60 minutes they disrupted Wales, pushed them off their stride and looked hungry in attack. In defence England executed their key principles superbly with ordered spacing, brutal collisions and a quick line-speed. Wales' key gainline ball carriers were contained and at the same time the English set piece, scrummage and lineout, were rock solid.
Alas England left points out there and after the break did not raise their intensity when the momentum went shifted against them. Dan Cole's yellow card will have exasperated the management and through George North's purpose England found themselves firmly on the back foot. A horrific thought swept across the nation, could lightning strike twice?
They'll be plenty of debates today about whether or not North was in touch with that final ball wide. I'll leave them to rumble on as it cannot be changed now, instead it set up a heart stopping lineout for England. Luke Cowan Dickie's time in a white jersey hasn't been covered in glory when it comes to lineout throwing and yet once Maro Itoje had made the call he safely found Joe Launchbury. With the momentum of the game if he'd missed his man the feeling was that the match could have gone with it... needless to say it was the longest 10 seconds of match and even the coolest of operators, Eddie Jones, would have felt his heart pounding in his chest.
Openly it was said that this test match wasn't about the 26th September and 'that' Rugby World Cup loss and yet we all know the players that were involved in both will have woken up on Sunday with an immense feeling of closure and satisfaction. Nothing will change the fact that England crashed out of the World Cup largely due to that game against Wales however this victory will ensure that they can move forwards with clear heads and renewed confidence. The demons have been exorcised and now the focus will forever be forward looking from all that follow England Rugby and not just those inside the camp.
'The Grand Slam is on, isn't it!?' said Eddie Jones post match with a glimmer in his eyes. Many will say that this RBS 6 Nations tournament hasn't been a vintage affair and across the board has been lacking quality matches and they are correct. Yet England are using it in exactly the right manner, to progress game on game and embed their new management's principles. Players are flourishing under Eddie Jones and his team, you only have to look at the output of Maro Itoje, Anthony Watson, Chris Robshaw and Dylan Hartley to see that... in fact I could name the entire squad after that statement but I won't.
England's opportunity is a great one, France are unstructured, disorganised and a shadow of their former selves. Of course Scotland's heroics at Murrayfield handed England the RBS 6 Nations Championship title but this squad want more and now have their sights firmly focused on the nation's first Grand Slam since 2003.Suggest a correction