Eddie Jones insists England will ultimately prosper from seeing a place in history denied by Ireland’s Grand Slam ambush in Dublin.
A 13-9 defeat at the Aviva Stadium brought the RBS 6 Nations to a fittingly captivating climax and left the champions stranded alongside New Zealand as they sought to surpass the 18-Test record run set by the All Blacks last year.
It was the first defeat of Jones’ reign and the head coach views it as an important learning experience as he plots England’s route to World Cup glory in 2019.
“We are 14 months into a four-year project. We have been chuffed with the results we have had, but realism tells us we have still got a lot to do,” Jones said.
“We were caught in certain areas by Ireland and full credit goes to them. We will learn from it.
“We are going to have more setbacks as we go to the World Cup. How many teams have a 90 per cent winning record at Test level?
“There are not too many, the All Blacks are the only ones and we have been doing that since the last World Cup.
“We are batting at a pretty good average – even Don Bradman got zero when he played his last Test. Obviously we are disappointed – but we will fight another day. It is not the end of the world.
“That match was a like a World Cup final and we weren’t good enough. We’re better off having that experience now than we are in Yokohama Stadium on November 2 at 8pm in 2019.
Victory at the Aviva Stadium would have delivered the first back-to-back Grand Slams of the Six Nations era, but rattled England were well beaten by impassioned hosts who played with greater intensity.
It was a repeat of Dublin 2011, but Jones refused to criticise players who had amassed 18 consecutive Test wins.
“Be proud of yourselves boys,” was the message the Australian gave to his team in the changing room.
“We are Six Nations champions, back-to-back which is a fantastic achievement. We’re joint world record holders, but we weren’t good enough against Ireland. And we have to accept we weren’t good enough.
“Next time we get together as the full squad will be in November and we’ll look to right what happened in this game.
“You have these days. Ireland played superbly and they were too good for us on the day and we weren’t good enough.
“We’re all human beings and we’re not perfect and that’s why world records finish at 18 games or 17 games.
“It’s so hard to keep going because you get a team on the day that performs above themselves and we were below ourselves.
“This was a tough tournament because teams were at us because we were the favourites and I found it much tougher than last year.
“The standard of the competition has been much better and there is a real hardness and ability to score better tries and for us to win it is a great achievement. It will be even harder next year.”
England’s next assignment is their June tour to Argentina, for which they will be missing those players selected by the British and Irish Lions, who take on the All Blacks over three Tests.
And New Zealand could be looming on the horizon for England this autumn after Jones confirmed his role in the Rugby Football Union’s attempts to set up a fourth November international against the world champions.
“We could be missing half our squad for Argentina. It is going to be interesting for us playing Argentina in Argentina at full strength,” Jones said.
“One game is in the middle of the Andes – I didn’t know they could put a soccer stadium in the middle of the Andes, that is going to be quite a challenge for us.
“We’re pretty keen to play New Zealand. I’ve had a discussion with (RFU chief executive) Ian Ritchie and we’re very keen to play them. If the opportunity comes up, we’ll be raring to go.”