Twickenham - Billy Vunipola accepts England have "come
a long way" following their miserable 2015 World Cup campaign but are
determined not to rest on their laurels when they seek fresh Grand Slam glory
England head to Dublin having wrapped up the Six Nations
title with a round to spare for the second year in a row and knowing they are
just 80 minutes away from completing the rare feat of back-to-back Grand Slams.
Victory at Lansdowne Road on Saturday, March 18 would also
see England surpass world champions New Zealand's record of 18 successive Test
wins by a 'tier one' or major rugby union nation.
England, infamously, could not even win two games in a row
at their own World Cup, defeats on consecutive weekends at Twickenham by Wales
and Australia condemning the tournament hosts to a first-round exit.
By the time their current winning streak started with a 60-3
hammering of Uruguay in a 'dead' pool game, the fate of then England coach
Stuart Lancaster had been all but sealed and soon after the World Cup he was
replaced by Eddie Jones.
The transformation has been stark, with England yet to lose
a match under their Australian coach and Vunipola for one doesn't want the
winning run to end.
"Do we want to make the next step or start again from
the bottom?" said the Saracens No 8.
"We've come a long way," he added. "I think
Eddie and his coaching staff have pushed us massily to a goal at which
everyone would have laughed at the end of the World Cup, but now it's realistic.
"I would probably say the Ireland game is more mental
than physical because we have never been in this position before, whereby we
can push even further on.
"It's a big occasion next week. It's the day after St
Patrick's Day, it is going to be very, very emotional so we are going to have
to turn up with the right mind-set to try to negate everything Ireland are
going to bring on the mental side of things."
Jones's ultimate ambition with England is to knock the All
Blacks of their perch by winning the 2019 World Cup in Japan.
"It all joins up," said Vunipola, whose older
brother Mako is an England prop. "If you win 19 games on the trot you are
pushing it. We know we're not number one yet but we want to do things within
our power to show we are serious about this goal."
England ran in seven tries as they hammered Scotland 61-21
to win the Calcutta Cup on Saturday.
But the loudest cheer of the day came when fans' favourite
Vunipola replace Nathan Hughes, the starting No 8, early in the second half.
It was Vunipola's first international appearance of this Six
Nations after he suffered a knee ligament injury back in November.
Vunipola did not take long to make his presence felt,
powering over for a close-range try just minutes after taking the field.
"I never expected anything like that reception,"
said Vunipola. "It's very humbling to get them cheering me like that,
although I believe it was more for Nathan Hughes coming off because he had a
stormer," he added modestly.
No England player enjoyed themselves more as they posted a
record score against Scotland than Jonathan Joseph, who ran in a hat-trick .
But for all the Scots missed tackles, there was much to
admire in the quality of Joseph's running and the precision of the play that
helped create the tries the centre finished in style.
"I felt we clicked very well as a team. Everything
seemed to work from one to 15," Joseph said. "It's very hard to
defend when you're running holes like that. It's almost impossible if you get
One concern for England was the sight of Elliot Daly having
to go off early following a dangerous 'tip tackle' by Scotland hooker Fraser
Brown that sent the wing crashing to the turf.
Daly, however, remains with the England squad as he
undergoes the head injury assessment protocols for players with suspected