Eddie Jones’ England battle cry: Raise Six Nations trophy – and lift the country

Eddie Jones has challenged his England rugby team to raise the Six Nations trophy – and lift the country.

The Red Rose brigade need a big win away in Italy to stand a chance of beating championship rivals Ireland and France to the title.

Jones has framed his strategy for a Roman conquest around a priceless opportunity to improve the spirits of a nation weighed down by pandemic concerns.

Billy Vunipola said: “The biggest thing for us is that we want people to smile and the people who are going through a tough time back home to be happy.

“The biggest inspiration we can provide is to play good rugby and win something, because everyone smiles with a trophy.”

Nobody was smiling in the England camp after 13 Barbarians players breached Covid protocols to force the cancellation of last Sunday’s warm-up game.

Jamie George, who wins his 50th cap at Stadio Olimpico, is a Saracens club mate of many of the guilty parties, since charged by the RFU, and was “gutted” by the loss of the fixture.

“My personal reaction was one of huge frustration," he said. "They have obviously gone out and got things very wrong.

“I’ve spoken to a couple of the guys at Saracens who were involved. They put their hands up and realise they messed up. They are very disappointed in themselves and send their apologies.

“They made a pretty big mistake but they aren’t bad people. The disciplinary hearing’s going to be happening this week. I think they will take full responsibility for their actions.”

Without that fixture there is the chance England could be ring-rusty in a game in which every second counts if they are to build a margin of victory to withstand the rival title challenges in Paris, where France host leaders Ireland.

“We’ve been waiting for the game for a long time and everyone is desperate to get out there,” said George. “Obviously it would have been a little bit better if we’d had that Baabaas game, but that wasn’t meant to be.”

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