Six Nations 2020: England seek to lift mood of the nation by winning title says Jamie George

By Chris JonesBBC rugby union correspondent
Guinness Six Nations
Venue: Stadio Olimpico, Rome Date: Saturday, 31 October Kick-off: 16:45 GMT
Coverage: Commentary on BBC Radio 5 live and BBC Sounds, with live text on the BBC Sport website and app. Watch highlights on the BBC Sport website and app after the match.

England can lift the mood of the nation by winning the Six Nations on Saturday, says hooker Jamie George.

A big bonus-point win against Italy and the result of France v Ireland going their way in Paris will wrap up a first title for Eddie Jones' side since 2017.

"We are going to show how much it means for us to play for England," George told BBC Sport.

"Hopefully we can lift the title and that will bring a lot of smiles to a lot of people across the country."

The Saracens man, who will win his 50th cap in the Stadio Olimpico, says Jones has reminded the players of their responsibility and privilege in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

"Eddie made it very aware to us that everyone is having a pretty horrific time at the minute," George added.

"People are losing their jobs, people are losing their lives, and we have an opportunity to represent the country and try and put smiles back on people's faces.

"As soon as he said that it really struck a chord with me."

A starting British and Irish Lion in 2017, George has had to bide his time to reach the 50-cap milestone, not making his England debut until the age of 24 and then having to serve as back-up to captain Dylan Hartley at the start of Jones' regime.

"There was certainly a time when I never thought I would get one cap, let alone 50," said the 30-year-old.

"It's a massive honour and a huge privilege for me and my family.

"I never take for granted the opportunity to play for England and I love every second of it. We want to show that in the way we play tomorrow [Saturday]."

Six Nations table
England know that a bonus-point four-try win will not be enough to win the title if Ireland secure their own bonus-point victory in France, while the title will come down to points difference if Ireland win but without the bonus point - or France win with a bonus point.

England bid to get tactics right in Rome

In 2015 England beat France 55-35 at Twickenham but finished one converted try short of becoming champions instead of Ireland.

Number eight Billy Vunipola says England will make sure they avoid repeating the errors of that day.

"One thing that I learnt from that game was that we had the intention of trying to put points on the board, but we let it become too frantic," Vunipola said.

"We didn't set the foundations, playing in the right areas [that day], making sure we wore them down. We allowed it to become like sevens."

Eddie Jones' side have won all previous 26 meetings with Italy, averaging over 40 points each time, but Vunipola says complacency is forbidden under Jones.

"Any team that has Eddie, you are not allowed to get ahead of yourself," said the Saracens forward.

"We have got to make sure we play the English game, and that is through our set-piece and make sure that we dominate, and that is our intention. After that hopefully we can play and put some points on the board."

Billy Vunipola
Vunipola has not played for England since last year's World Cup because of injury

The cancellation of last Sunday's fixture against the Barbarians means Vunipola has not played since the end of Saracens' season on 4 October.

"In terms of having a long break between my last game and this game, it hasn't been a challenge at all. The world is a different place at the moment, so I've just been biding my time," he said.

"It is an ongoing battle trying to keep my weight down and make sure that I am in the best physical shape that I can be when I am called upon to play.

"I'm excited. You could say that I'm a bit of a coiled spring, but I don't want to talk too much about that, I want to do my talking on the pitch."

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