In Depth

Eddie Jones vows to make England the greatest rugby team ever

Australian is in bullish mood ahead of the Six Nations

A new era was opened in English rugby yesterday as Eddie Jones unveiled his 34-man squad for the Six Nations and vowed to make England “the greatest team the world of rugby has ever seen”.

It was a characteristically bullish statement from the Australian, who evidently has recovered his self-confidence two months after England were humiliated in the Rugby World Cup final by South Africa. 

Most of the squad from that tournament return for the 2020 Six Nations with prop Dan Cole and wing Jack Nowell the two big name omissions

Saracens No.8 Billy Vunipola was unavailable through injury but seven of his club team-mates are included, and Jones says he will talk to the squad at their Portugal training camp later to ensure there is no bad blood following Saracens’s salary cap scandal.

No new nines

There are eight uncapped players in the squad but it’s unlikely any will line up against France in Paris on Sunday 2 February. 

Probably the biggest talking point was Jones’s decision to keep faith with Ben Youngs and Willi Heinz as his scrum-half options, two 30-somethings who are unlikely to be around come the 2023 World Cup.

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Pressure in Paris

But Jones knows that the match in Paris is likely to be England’s toughest of the tournament, away in the French capital against a new-look France that has plenty of young raw talent all of whom will be eager to impress new coach Fabien Galthie. 

France also have as their defence coach Shaun Edwards, who did such a good job with Wales for a decade before moving across the Channel last summer. 

Paris is no place to experiment with youth, so Jones will field the bulk of the team that reached the World Cup final in the hope they can play as they did against New Zealand in the semi-final. 

“This team has got an enhanced reputation,” said Jones. “They’ve played some great rugby over the last four years. Players have got enhanced reputations, some of them are big stars.”

Wanted: consistency

What they still lack however, is consistency, and that’s what Jones wants to see develop this season.

Saying that England “touched greatness” in that sensational semi-final destruction of New Zealand in October, Jones continued: “We played a great game against the All Blacks but we’ve only done that once. When you’ve been in that area, you want to do it sustainably.”

Asked to define great rugby, Jones replied: “Great rugby to me is dominant rugby, where you see a team play with such control and precision and power that you remember that game.”

England’s squad for the 2020 Six Nations
  • Forwards: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Tom Curry, Tom Dunn, Ben Earl, Charlie Ewels, Ellis Genge, Jamie George, Ted Hill, Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Joe Launchbury, Courtney Lawes, Lewis Ludlam, Joe Marler, Alex Moon, Kyle Sinckler, Will Stuart, Sam Underhill, Mako Vunipola, Harry Williams
  • Backs: Elliot Daly, Ollie Devoto, Fraser Dingwall, Owen Farrell, George Ford, George Furbank, Willi Heinz, Jonathan Joseph, Jonny May, Ollie Thorley, Manu Tuilagi, Jacob Umaga, Anthony Watson, Ben Youngs 

How the press reacted to England’s squad

Owen Slot, The Times

“This approach simply makes good sense. Why would you wield axes to a team who have just reached a World Cup final, especially when they are still so young?” 

Michael Aylwin, The Guardian

“If greatness is to be achieved in the next couple of years, he has assembled a fair group of youngsters for the assignment.” 

Clive Woodward, Daily Mail

“There is no logic in going with just two senior scrum-halves and not having a clear third choice in the squad at all times… That’s my one gripe, the rest is good.”

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