England Grand Slam exorcises World Cup demons

PARIS -- History-makers. The class of 2016 have become the 13th England side to win a Grand Slam; no wonder their coach's nickname is 'Fast Eddie'. Five games, five wins and Eddie Jones has guided England to their first Grand Slam since 2003.

In the space of five months, England have gone from suffering the ignominy of their World Cup exit to being confirmed as the undisputed top team in Europe. An injection of a quick-tongued Australian, a couple of new faces, a return to the customary post-match beer in celebration, a recall for a fiercely talented hooker and an emphasis on player power and all is well in English rugby. The Grand Slam drought is over.

Under the cold Paris sky, it was only in the 78th minute when Swing, Low could be heard with clarity from the stands. There was expectation juxtaposed with the fear of French unpredictability. This was not an easy victory for England. They were made to work by France who, despite playing as a group of 15 individuals rather than a team, had England on the ropes at stages.

England had their nervy moments. There was a spell in the early part of the second half where, two points down, they opted for a fiercely difficult drop-goal -- which went wide -- and then moments later were struggling to clear their lines, resulting in George Ford slicing a clearance off his weaker foot. Suddenly there was doubt, they had metamorphosed into rabbits in the glare of headlamps.

But then came a line break in a game littered with open field. England powered forward as a unit, Ben Youngs' grubber was judged to perfection and Anthony Watson crashed over in the corner. The seven-point buffer was re-established. And breathe.

Jones has had a forward-propelling effect on this bunch of England players, a team largely the same as that which failed at the World Cup. The back-row was the same as started in their defeat here at the Stade de France in August in a warm-up match but this was a different beast: one with more self-belief it seems and a killer instinct which has been at times astray in the championship.

Central to England's triumph was second-row George Kruis. He has had a remarkable championship and his consistently high level of performance has aided their ever stabilising set piece. Maro Itoje was again box office while Danny Care was fantastic, bar a couple of wayward box kicks, for the 43 minutes he was on the pitch.

Owen Farrell also put in a superb shift as did Billy Vunipola and then there is skipper Dylan Hartley. He was forced off with 12 minutes left after what looked to be a horrible bang to the head, but for the time he was on the field, he was monumental for England. A huge amount of credit for this Grand Slam deserves to go to him.

The four years previous, England's quartet of second-place finishes was sometimes put down to that wonderfully unquantifiable influencer: luck. But it was on their side in Paris. Dan Cole's try was fortunate to have stood as other officials may have deemed Mako Vunipola to have been obstructing the French tackler. The locals in the crowd cried foul but Nigel Owens waved the try through. On such decisions, Grand Slams hinge. Earlier, Farrell's first attempt at goal hit the inside of the post and bounced through. It was clearly England's night.

The most eye-catching and frustrating player on the field was France wing Virimi Vakatawa. His steps, awkward shuffling hips and bamboozling body-swerve were straight off the Sevens circuit but while his breaks were exhilarating -- poor old Jack Nowell was tied in knots on occasions -- he had an unfortunate habit of finding touch. France's decision to exile Wesley Fofana on the opposite wing was baffling and meant Watson had little to do in defence.

They, too, have had a new coach for this Six Nations but Guy Noves has been ingrained into French rugby's DNA for the past 20 years. Sometimes a break from the norm, the embracing of a different rugby outlook, is the catalyst for change. Look at Warren Gatland's effect on Wales in 2008. From World Cup hopelessness in 2007 to Grand Slam champions -- Jones has done the same for England.

As Hartley lifted the Six Nations trophy into the night sky, World Cup demons were exorcised. Attention can, for the first time in 13 years, be focused on the future rather than a tale of missed opportunities. Foundations have been laid, dominance assured.