George Ford insists England’s Grand Slam triumph is merely the beginning for a team blessed with “endless potential”.
The 13-year wait to be crowned the dominant force in Europe came to an end in Paris on Saturday night after France were toppled 31-21 in an absorbing climax to the 2016 RBS 6 Nations Championship.
Eddie Jones’ England had been crowned champions with a round to spare and are worthy winners of an otherwise sub-standard tournament as they claimed partial redemption for last autumn’s dismal World Cup showing.
More dangerous adversaries loom on the horizon in the shape of a three-Test series against Australia in June but Ford, the Bath fly-half, believes they are well equipped to face them.
“This is only the start for us and while we’re glad to have done this, we understand we need to get better as well,” Ford said.
“There’s so much more time to come. The potential is endless. This is a small start to becoming a better team.”
Tries from Danny Care, Dan Cole and Anthony Watson and the dead-eyed kicking of Owen Farrell accounted for France, whose spirit and occasional attacking flourish made for a tense evening.
Watson’s touch down in the 56th minute gave England some breathing space and they controlled the final half hour with two late penalties from Farrell finally easing the tension.
Grand Slam failures endured at the final hurdle litter Red Rose history, but on Saturday night they held their nerve in a pivotal phase of the match to end a run of four successive runners-up finishes.
Among the standout performers have been number eight Billy Vunipola, lock George Kruis, flanker James Haskell and centre Farrell, but the real star of this tournament is Jones. In 120 days he has shaped virtually the same group of players who imploded at the World Cup into rulers of the northern hemisphere, resurrecting their self-belief and using his wily rugby brain to provide a smart tactical blueprint.