I have to admit that I shook my head earlier this week when Eddie Jones started to talk about making England the largest rugby team ever.
Grandiose statements such as those looking to a golden future can impress some of the RFU and, dare I say, many journalists and the casual fan, but for me the job of England's head coach is all about the next 80 minutes – France in Paris. Nothing else, and I mean nothing else, should be in someone's mind.
Care for the cents and the pounds will take care of themselves, as the saying goes.
England can ever be the best team in the world again, even the best rugby team ever, but what difference does it make? And it will only happen by focusing on the next game. England is about today and not tomorrow.
I have often seen this blue sky thinking and planning for the future and was guilty of it myself then as an international coach of newbies, and it is just an unconscious defense mechanism to buy more for yourself team. Jones is not a rookie coach.
It went wrong for England on RWC2015 when a few months before the tournament head coach Stuart Lancaster and RFU director of rugby Rob Andrew suddenly started talking about the potential of the side for RWC2019 and that England might not at its best, may not have the right age profile until Japan – despite four years of preparation.
It was a ridiculous explanation – it showed their inexperience at this level – and England paid a very heavy price for such flawed thinking.
SIR CLIVE & SIX TO LOOK
Stuart Hogg (Scotland): I would choose Finn Russell for his deportation from the team earlier this week, but the other stunner in the back of Scotland is the full-back of Exeter who has twice been named player of the tournament. Sublime hands, a nice series of steps and a good repertoire of drinks ahead. Howitzer boots for long penalties if needed.
Virimi Vakatawa (France): Large, very strong and fast when he needs to be, Vakatawa comes from Fiji, but moved to France ten years ago and decided to make his future there. Initially a talented but whimsical sevens player, he has wedged himself in and is perhaps the form center in Europe. Virimi v Manu will be a match-up.
Maro Itoje (England): Seems to have been around for a while but has not turned 25 long with his best years for him – and this is someone who has already been a star in a Lions series in New Zealand and at a World Cup. Great athlete, smart forward, will increasingly become a leader for England. Feel that he has to stamp his undisputed leadership qualities with this group on and off the field.
Justin Tipuric (Wales): Phenomenal flanker whose brilliance was sometimes overlooked, such as Sam Warburton and Taulupe Faletau in the Welsh rear row. So fast and good with the ball in his hand that he could no doubt play Test rugby in the middle. Would encounter any Six Nations team despite all the brilliant flankers that can be seen today.
James Ryan (Ireland): The new locks are similar to Itoje. Tall but slim and athletic, Ryan is an excellent line-out operator and a wonderful worker around the park with his carrier bags and tackles. Spiritually very heavy, at the age of 23 he is already one of the best locks in the world.
Jake Polledri (Italy): Not the biggest but slender and powerful and almost unstoppable as a ball carrier, he sometimes defied faith and it may take three or four to put him down to get. Italy must find a way to involve Polledri as much as possible. He can get them under control.
The problem with such long-term thinking is that players begin to believe that they have four years to prove themselves, that they are part of the furniture and are an integral part of England's long-term plans, while actually having to be on the team when they pull the white jersey.
Coaches as well. I want to see a much hungry attitude everywhere.
A loss against France and the Grand Slam is gone, another poor Six Nations that can all be gone.
That is the attitude all involved must adopt and enjoy. England and the English mentality excel when they are written off in a corner and fight for their lives. Especially the English are not good when we start to smell the roses.
England has to concentrate 100% on the next game, because they get a miserably bad non-execution in the World Cup Final and many questions to answer. In fact, that game is a good example of the point I am trying to make.
England was dragged heavily after defeating New Zealand so impressively that they forgot that it was worthless unless they followed it seven days later in the final.
They started to smell the roses, seemed to lose concentration and were poorly distracted in that crucial week. Eddie made a few selection errors and suddenly England gave its worst performance in years, just as bad as any game in 2015. That happens if you let your mind wander.
They were 35 minutes late for the game and looked exactly the opposite of a high-performance team at their peak. A week is long in rugby, let alone four years. & # 39; You are only as good as your last game & # 39; has never been more relevant to this English team.
Those lessons must support their approach to the French game where I make favorites of France.
They will have a strong scrum, an excellent line-out and their back row is very fast and active in the event of bad luck. That's enough to deal with before we even consider Antoine Dupont – probably & # 39; the world's best scrum half – and his half-back partner Romain Ntmack who is ready to storm the rugby stage.
England has to join their strong scrummaging pack, which means there is an argument to start Joe Marler for Mako Vunipola, although Mako looks back on full fitness.
Luke Cowan-Dickie is on fire and may be a stronger scrummager than Jamie George, so there is also an argument to start with him and ask George to use his pace and dynamics of the bank. Harry Williams is by far the best in England and has to start. Unbelievable that he was not in Japan.
Kyle Sinckler and Ellis Genge should always be included in the comparison. They are fantastic players, but there will be games when the need for absolute maximum scrummaging power means that they might not start.
In the second row, England needs the power and line-out of George Cross alongside Maro Itoje, with Courtney Lawes offering the banking option. Regarding the back row, I see the absence of Billy Vunipola as an opportunity for Ben Earl on No8.
I would start with the Kamikaze Kids, Tom Curry and Sam Underhill, but I have seen that Eddie is considering introducing a more traditional six and a stronger carrying option, perhaps moving Itoje or Lawes to six. I don't recommend it, these are specialist positions and Maro out of six didn't really work in the past.
SIR CLIVE & SIX TO SURPRISE
Louis Rees-Zammit (Gloucester and Wales): Born and raised in Wales, but Hartpury College and Gloucester have contributed to the development of this brilliant 19-year-old speedster. Serious wheels but much more, some nice off-loads to admire and mature after his years.
Ben Earl (Saracens and England): Athletic powerhouse back-rower from the same England U20 team as the Currys. That must have been a line-up. This season really stepped on the board when the World Cup stars of Saracens were gone. With Billy Vunipola injured again it could get considerable playing time.
Alexandre Fischer (Clermont and France): Was a new name for me until I saw him for Clermont in the European Cup against Ulster and Quins when he was absolutely in control of the division and four or five sales per game. It was like seeing David Pocock at its peak. Great body positions, could be an important find.
Ollie Thorley (Gloucester and England): A good old-fashioned eye-catcher, gas wing that does everything at 100 km / h and keeps its opposite number honest. Relax a second when you mark it and it will make you pay. Seldom says an impact in a game. Will keep Jonny May and Anthony Watson sharp
Caelan Doris (Leinster and Ireland): Rangy young back-rower who has been the highlight of the U20 in the past two seasons. In his first year or so he made a big impression in the powerful line-up of Leinster together with another brilliant prospect in Max Deegan, who also has Ireland in their team.
Giovanni Pettinelli (Benetton and Italy): Italy is not suffering from a lack of quality rowers and they have discovered another promising player in Pettinelli, who impressed me during their European cup competitions. Very good at the breakdown, perhaps the only major weakness in the Italian back row. He could shine if he got a run.
Regarding the backs, especially for this competition, I would like Owen Farrell back at ten o'clock. It was hard for Eddie to choose George Ford on No10 as crucial in the World Cup final defeat – because it was essentially Eddie's fault – but there is some truth to his observation. England currently needs Farrell at ten o'clock.
The back three of Elliot Daly, Jonny May and Anthony Watson is probably safe, although Ollie Thorley will hit the wing hard and it is a pity that Joe Cokanasiga was wounded
Midfield is another cause for concern when Henry Slade gets injured and, in my team at least, Farrell going to ten. The candidates seem to be Jonathan Joseph who looks good, Manu Tuilagi who has not broken trees since Japan, Ollie Devotee who does well for Exeter and Fraser Dingwall in Saints.
The most important thing is to start defeating France – scrums, lineouts and restart. They are the here and now. Frankly, it's not the best team ever.