Tuesday 20 March 2018

Eddie Jones claims 'best player' will be England captain

England head coach Eddie Jones
England head coach Eddie Jones

Eddie Jones is yet to name his first England captain but he insists that he will pick his "best player" for the role.

The Australian on Wednesday named a much-changed first squad since succeeding Stuart Lancaster as coach.

Dylan Hartley, Chris Ashton and Manu Tuilagi return in Jones' Elite Player Squad for the RBS 6 Nations, but the 33-man party sees a number of big-name omissions including Tom Youngs, Tom Wood, Geoff Parling and Danny Cipriani.

There are seven uncapped players, with Sam Hill, Josh Beaumont, Jack Clifford, Elliot Daly, Ollie Devoto, Paul Hill and Maro Itoje featuring.

No captain has yet been named, with Jones content to bide his time, saying: "We've got 33 players. That goes down to 23 players, that goes down to 15 players. When we've got 15 players, then we'll worry about the captain."

Itoje has been spoken about as captaincy material, despite his inexperience, but Hartley is widely viewed as the favourite for the role.

The Northampton hooker's extensive record of disciplinary problems is the biggest counter-argument, but that is a question Jones will address at a later date.

"He's one of the 33 players at the moment," he said. "If he gets down to 23 then he gets down to 15, then we'll worry about those things.

"Your captain's got to be your best player. He's got to be one of the first selected in the team, and then he's got to lead by example.

"He needs to set standards for the team in terms of how we operate off the field, how we operate on the field, and he's got to be a conduit between the coaching staff and the players."

Jones added that the eventual appointment will be "probably just for the Six Nations to start with".

Two of the new inclusions, Devoto and Sam Hill, were named as injury replacements for Tuilagi and Henry Slade respectively.

Asked how soon he hopes to have Tuilagi available, Jones joked: "Tomorrow, mate, tomorrow!"

The British and Irish Lions centre has been missing for 15 months, though, only returning for Leicester at the weekend, and the true prognosis was more in keeping with Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill's pleas for patience.

"I've chatted to 'Cockers' and at this stage, it looks like he'll be ready for the Wales game," said Jones. "So we hopefully get him for the last two games of the Six Nations.

"But you never know, he might come through very quick."

After Lancaster's World Cup squad failed to progress from the pool stage, Rob Webber, Brad Barritt, Nick Easter, David Wilson, Ben Morgan and Richard Wigglesworth join the list of omissions.

The changes represent radical surgery to the squad, but Jones gave a considered response when asked if the same would apply to England's playing style.

"How do you define 'radical'?" he asked.

"Radical, for me, would be playing really good rugby.

"Good rugby means you do all the simple things well and when you get the opportunity, you move the ball with crispness, with accuracy and with speed.

"If that's radical, you've got radical coming."

Jones' assistant Steve Borthwick, who also played under him at Saracens, gave an insight into what England can expect from their new head coach.

"It's well documented, the attention to detail he puts into preparation," Borthwick said.

"What I experienced as a player with Saracens under Eddie's coaching, and also now as an assistant coach, is absolute clarity, absolute understanding.

"We walk onto the field knowing exactly what we need to do - every single player in every role, and the team together - to win the game."

England Elite Player Squad for the RBS 6 Nations:

Forwards: Josh Beaumont (Sale), Dan Cole (Leicester), Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter), Jack Clifford (Harlequins), Jamie George (Saracens), Dylan Hartley (Northampton), James Haskell (Wasps), Paul Hill (Northampton), Maro Itoje (Saracens), George Kruis (Saracens), Matt Kvesic (Gloucester) injury replacement for Dave Ewers (Exeter), Joe Launchbury (Wasps), Courtney Lawes (Northampton), Joe Marler (Harlequins), Matt Mullan (Wasps), Chris Robshaw (Harlequins), Henry Thomas (Bath) injury replacement for Kieran Brookes (Northampton), Billy Vunipola (Saracens), Mako Vunipola (Saracens).

Backs: Chris Ashton (Saracens), Mike Brown (Harlequins), Danny Care (Harlequins), Elliot Daly (Wasps), Ollie Devoto (Bath) injury replacement for Manu Tuilagi (Leicester), Owen Farrell (Saracens), George Ford (Bath), Alex Goode (Saracens), Sam Hill (Exeter) injury replacement for Henry Slade (Exeter), Jonathan Joseph (Bath), Jack Nowell (Exeter), Anthony Watson (Bath), Marland Yarde (Harlequins), Ben Youngs (Leicester).

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