In Depth

Magnificent Maro Itoje can lead England to Grand Slam

Lions travel to Paris next week with Six Nations won and coach Eddie Jones eyeing major triumph in his first campaign

After a stirring victory over Wales at Twickenham, England were crowned Six Nations rugby champions on Sunday as their old rivals Scotland did them a favour by beating France at Murrayfield.

Those two results mean the team are not only champions, but also heading for a Grand Slam if they can beat France in Paris next week.

England have made a hugely encouraging start under new coach Eddie Jones. "With this rate of progress, who knows where he might take his charges?" asks Brian Moore in the Daily Telegraph.

"It is important for the psyche of the squad that they do the full job and win the Grand Slam. The confidence that prize will give them is incalculable."

England should overcome France for their first Grand Slam since 2003, says Stuart Barnes of The Times. Jones can be a tyrant, but he is a benevolent one and "has wisdom of the ages enough to tap into the potential of his new country and bravely take England where they have not been for 13 years".

His side were excellent for most of the game against Wales, although they were forced to hang on as their rivals conjured up a stirring fightback at the death.

"But this performance is close to the best we have seen from this generation of England players. The exciting thing that Eddie Jones has brought since he arrived as coach in November is tempo," says Jeremy Guscott of the BBC.

"It is clear in the faster pace with which players are coming on to the ball, the swift recycling and the speed of thought out wide."

Jones also has a new star on his hands in the form of Maro Itoje. "Against Wales, Itoje was a one-man wrecking crew. He spoiled their lineout, smashed holes in their defence and often stopped their runners dead with his tackles," says Andy Bull in The Guardian

Saturday's game was only Itoje's third match for England, yet he was man of the match. It is obvious he has thrives on the big stage, says Brian Moore of the Telegraph.

"[He] displayed a preternatural maturity in nearly aspect of his game. Not only is he athletic and dextrous he is an intelligent player," he says.

But Guscott of the BBC sounds a note of caution.

"We have to avoid putting pressure on him to be the next [Martin] Johnson, Paul O'Connell or Brodie Retallick. Let's allow him to develop and show us what the Maro Itoje way is."

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