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Jones lauds ‘exceptional’ hat-trick hero Joseph

By Gavin Mairs in Rome Jamie George

EDDIE JONES, England’s head coach, hailed Jonathan Joseph’s performance as “exceptional”, after the centre scored an 18-minute hat-trick of tries in the second half of the 40-9 victory against Italy.

Joseph’s first try, when he intercepted a loose pass in the 53rd minute by the Italy wing Leonardo Sarto, proved to be the decisive blow in what had been a tight contest and his further scores enabled England to run up a high margin of victory in the final quarter.

The centre, 24, has now scored eight tries in 17 caps for England and looks to have rediscovered the form that shot him into the spotlight during the Six Nations Championship last season.

“His defence last week [in the 15-9 victory against Scotland] was outstanding,” Jones said.

“He knows when to close and when to drift. Sometimes a 13 doesn’t get a lot of ball and at Murrayfield you don’t get a lot of ball. But here he looked sharp on his feet. Anthony Watson looked sharp on his feet and Jack Nowell is a little workhorse.

“He read the game well – a 13 is like a No8 in that he has to be able to read the game. Last week he did exceptionally well in defence, this week he did exceptionally well in attack and his defence was very good as well. That Italian 13 he was up against is a serious player.”

The England head coach added: “We wanted to be two from two and we’re two from two. We did some good things in the second half, in the first half we allowed Italy into the game. The first half set the second half up for us and I was pleased by the way that we put them away.

“We could have scored 60 points out there and in the end we were quite dominant.”

England have yet to concede a try after two rounds of this Six Nations Championship and the new defence coach, Paul Gustard, appears to have already made a significant impact since his appointment last month.

“Our defence has been excellent,” Jones said. “Paul Gustard has done a great job in a short period of time.”

Joseph said after the game that England had put themselves in pole position to win their first Six Nations title since 2011.

“We have a great opportunity now,” said Joseph. “We’ve had two away games and we’ve won both. We’re back in front of our home crowd next and that’s massive for us. It’s a hard place for teams to come and win. It’s about pressuring them and hopefully coming away with the win.”

Joseph played down his role in scoring what was the first hat-trick in a Six Nations match by an England player since Chris Ashton’s four-try haul in the victory against Italy at Twickenham in 2011. “I want to prove myself every game so I put in as much effort as I possibly can,” Joseph said.

“I want to put my authority on every single game, not just a game here and there.”

He added: “I’m obviously very happy to get the hat-trick. I’ll go back to the drawing board next week. There were areas of my game that weren’t outstanding.”

Joseph praised his team-mates: “We’ve got an outstanding forward pack that gives us some great front-foot ball. We’ve got a 9, 10 and 12 that are the best in the world and they create some great opportunities for us in the outside channels.”

England and France are now the only two teams who can win the Grand Slam. Jones’s side, however, have the benefit of those two games at home, against Ireland on Feb 27 and then Wales on March 12, while Les Bleus’ next two fixtures are on the road, against Wales in Cardiff (Feb 27) and Scotland in Edinburgh (March 13).

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