FILE - England head coach Eddie Jones. Photo: Paul Childs/Reuters
FILE - England head coach Eddie Jones. Photo: Paul Childs/Reuters

England coach Eddie Jones excited by injury challenge

By Reuters Time of article published Jan 27, 2021

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LONDON – England coach Eddie Jones says he is excited by the dual challenge of dealing with a rash of withdrawals from his squad and a succession of coaching disruptions as he prepares his defence of the Six Nations championship.

Jones is without half his first-choice pack after Sam Underhill joined Joe Launchbury and Mako Vunipola on the injured list, with Joe Marler ruling himself out of the competition for family reasons and Kyle Sinckler suspended from next week's opening game against Scotland at Twickenham.

The Australian head coach is approaching the end of isolation after assistant Matt Proudfoot tested positive for Covid-19 and Jones has had to parachute in Ed Robinson – the son of former England coach Andy – to replace new skills coach Jason Ryles, who has opted to remain in Australia.

"It's a great opportunity for us, as weird as it seems for a head coach to say, it excites me," Jones said at the remote Six Nations launch event on Wednesday.

"We're going to have to find solutions with the new guys coming in, we'll have to work harder to get those connections right.

"Some of the younger guys who have had lesser leadership roles will have to step up to the mark. We've got someone like Ellis Genge who's now an elder statesmen. Four years ago he was a young kid on the block, So that shows how the team has evolved."

Although his backs all look fit and healthy, albeit short of game time in the case of the Saracens contingent, Jones will have one eye on "evolution" there too, particularly with the arrival of uncapped duo Harry Randall and Paolo Odogwu, two of the most exciting talents in the Premiership this season.

"Harry's got something different about his game - now he's got to see if he can adapt to the big stage of Test match rugby," Jones said of the livewire Bristol scrumhalf.

Captain Owen Farrell, whose last taste of competitive rugby was nailing the sudden-death extra time penalty against France that won England the Autumn Nations Cup on December 6, is hardly likely to need any external motivation in his preparation.

However, he also recognised the excitement that comes with the next wave of talent knocking at the door.

"I'm sure the new lads will bring a bundle of energy to the sessions," he said, adding of his own situation: "It's been nice almost to have a little pre-season before coming in, but I cannot wait to play some rugby."

The more cynical of observers might suggest it is a long time since England played any rugby, after they secured the delayed Six Nations and then the Nations Cup on the back of a dour, kick-inspired approach in a series of forgettable encounters. Flyhalf George Ford memorably described possession of the ball in some areas as a "ticking time bomb".

Jones, as ever, gave the idea of "attractive rugby" short shrift.

"The one thing we were disappointed about in the autumn was that we never played as well as we could," he said. "We are trying to find a way to dominate for every minute of the game. Some games that might be through the set piece, some through the breakdown, some ruck and run, some ruck and kick - it's about adapting to the game and the conditions.

"I was watching Racing 92 at the weekend and the ball was being fizzed around like a frisbee. When you play indoors you can do that, but when you play outdoors in two degrees and there’s sleet, then you have to adapt to those conditions and that’s what smart teams do."

After opening against Scotland, England have home games against Italy and France and travel to Wales and, on the final day, Ireland.


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