England eye the Grand Slam

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TOM Wood insisted England cannot ignore the fact they are now just two steps away from winning a first Grand Slam in a decade following their 23-13 victory over France on Saturday.

Two years ago, Martin Johnson effectively banned all use of the phrase Grand Slam as England built towards their decisive game against Ireland.

Having tried to keep the preparations low key, England were blown away in Dublin by an Ireland side who relished the prospect of ruining the Grand Slam party on St Patrick’s weekend.

Wood argues England must be aware of the passion their Grand Slam tilt will rouse in Italy and, should they beat the Azzurri, in Wales on the final weekend of the RBS 6 Nations.

The England number eight is not afraid to frame the next three weeks in a Grand Slam context because he is convinced the team will not get carried away with the hype.

“We took the approach a couple of years ago where we just batted back (questions about the Grand Slam) as much as we could and refused to talk on the issue,” Wood said.

“You’ve got to entertain the fact that that’s going to be a huge expectation and that it is going to be something the opposition want to take away from you as well.

“That’s extra motivation for them. We have to be ready for those tests, we have to be ready for that extra desire in the opposition that comes with trying to rob the English of a potential party.

“The second we forget what got us here (three wins from three) we are in trouble. That has always been our mantra.

“We’ve got very grounded coaches that instil that in us from the start. We like to play things down, not get ahead of ourselves and make sure we are always working hard.

“But within the camp we have a lot of faith in each other. I look around the huddle before a game and I think ‘I’m glad he’s on our side’.

“That goes for every player. I’ve got a lot of faith in the guys around me and I’ve got that faith because I see the way they work day in, day out.

“I see them in the gym, I see them grafting and I hear them talk in meetings and that’s what fills me with confidence to go out on a matchday and perform.”

Yesterday Scotland beat Ireland 12-8 at Murrayfield and in the weekend’s other match Wales won 26-9 in Rome against Italy.