ROME - England captain Owen Farrell quickly set his sights on an Autumn Nations Cup triumph just moments after his side won the Six Nations Championship on Saturday.
Farrell led England to a 34-5 win in Rome that took them to the top of the standings in northern hemisphere rugby union's premier international competition nearly a year to the day since their World Cup final defeat by South Africa in Japan.
France and Ireland both still had a chance to be crowned champions when they faced off in Saturday's final match of the coronavirus-delayed tournament.
But France's 35-27 win in Paris meant England won a third Six Nations title in five seasons under Eddie Jones.
"It's a massive achievement for us as a group to win the Six Nations in the strangest year and circumstances," said Farrell in a Rugby Football Union statement.
The Covid-19 pandemic halted the tournament for more than seven months and England had to shake off additional rust on Saturday after breaches of health protocols involving Barbarians players saw last week's planned warm-up fixture at Twickenham cancelled.
"We've worked really hard in training over the past few weeks to get ready for the Italy game," said fly-half Farrell after a match where scrum-half Ben Youngs marked his 100th Test for England with two tries.
"We knew what we had to do and we kept our focus and got the result," he added.
The Autumn Nations Cup, a replacement for traditional end-of-year tours of Europe by rugby union's southern hemisphere giants, starts in a fortnight.
- 'Consistent success' -
"This is a great group of players, we really think we can continue to get better and achieve more for England," said Farrell.
"We're turning our attentions now to the Autumn Nations Cup, we want consistent success and we're working hard to be better in each and every game."
Both Farrell and Jones paid tribute to England's fans who, in common with their counterparts across the Championship, had to watch Saturday's behind closed doors matches on television, with spectators largely barred from grounds as a precaution against the spread of Covid-19.
"I'm very proud of all the players and staff," said veteran Australian coach Jones, who also guided England to successive Six Nations titles in 2016 and 2017.
"They've reacted superbly to the changing situations in the past couple of weeks and remained focused on the goal of winning the Six Nations," the former Wallaby and Japan boss added.
"We'd also like to thank all of our supporters. It's strange not having fans in the stadium and we know it's a tough time for the country, but we felt your support throughout the campaign and it does make a difference."