Eddie Jones held court at a packed Twickenham as he announced the 33-man squad he hoped with redeem an England side that had disappointed so many in the World Cup
Eddie Jones named seven uncapped players at a packed press conference at Twickenham, as he unveiled the new 33-man England squad to compete in the Six Nations. With no sign of nerves, Jones joked freely with the assembled press pack, even quipping that he’d prefer to keep God Save The Queen as the anthem because he’d just learnt the words. He downplayed expectations in the Six Nations stressing that since 2003, England are ranked fourth, something he said was not reflective of the talent that existed in England.
His watchwords were enthusiasm, energy and hard-work and he stressed that he’d be looking for a brand of rugby that suited England’s characteristics; namely a strong set-piece and dominant scrum but also saw the need to move the ball into the wider channels and exploit space.
On the omissions – with Lancaster mainstays Tom Wood, Brad Barritt and particularly Tom Youngs the biggest casualties – he wouldn’t be drawn on specifics, only that they he’d spoken to all the players concerned and they knew what was required to get back in. Joe Simpson and Danny Cipriani can also consider themselves unlucky to have missed the cut. On the flip side, he made it clear Manu Tuilagi would be part of his plans, saying that after speaking to ‘Cockers’ (Richard Cockerill), he expected him to come into contention against Wales in the fourth round of the competition, or even sooner. Jones was steadfast in his refusal to get into the captaincy debate. Only offering that the captain had to be the one of the first players selected in the team, lead by example and set standards on and off the field.
He name checked several players during a lively press conference including Saracens trio Maro Itoje, Chris Ashton and Owen Farrell. Of Farrell he said was capable of playing 10 or 12. He also mentioned the injured Henry Slade saying he viewed him as a 10 or 12 but would look forward to closer inspecting the Exeter Chiefs playmaker when he had recovered from injury. The Harlequins backrow duo of Jack Clifford and Chris Robshaw were lauded with Robshaw particularly praised for his form at six, however he stressed that there would be. ‘no six and a halves’ operating in his starting lineup.
With seven training sessions to get them primed for the warm welcome up in Murrayfield, he dampened expectations of a radical change in play. “It’s all about winning. I don’t play lovely rugby and come third,” he smiled.
Further discussing selection, he felt it particularly important to get the front row right, with the only dampener the injury to the in-form tighthead Kieran Brookes, picking three players in each position, something he felt had left England light in a few other positions, with hooker, scrum-half and outside-half springing to mind.
Summing up, he said he wanted players who showed a strong desire to win for England. With that he was off with smiles all around.
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England 33-man EPS squad:
Forwards: Josh Beaumont, Dan Cole, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Jack Clifford, Jamie George, Dylan Hartley, James Haskell, Paul Hill, Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Matt Kvesic (injury replacement for Dave Ewers), Joe Launchbury, Courtney Lawes, Joe Marler, Matt Mullan, Chris Robshaw, Henry Thomas (injury replacement for Kieran Brookes, Billy Vunipola, Mako Vunipola
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Backs: Chris Ashton, Mike Brown, Danny Care, Elliot Daly, Ollie Devoto (injury replacement for Manu Tuilagi), Owen Farrell, George Ford, Alex Goode, Sam Hill (injury replacement for Henry Slade), Jonathan Joseph, Jack Nowell, Anthony Watson, Marland Yarde, Ben Youngs
See also the Six Nations Fixtures list