Eddie Jones cuts squad down to 23 ahead of Six Nations opener against Scotland
EDDIE Jones’ England regime has “started with a bang” as the new head coach begins preparing his team for their Six Nations tournament opener against Scotland.
Former Wallabies mentor Jones has three uncapped players on course to make their international debuts at Murrayfield on February 6 after backrower Jack Clifford, prop Paul Hill and centre Ollie Devoto were retained at the squad’s Surrey training base.
Lock Maro Itoje was among the 10 players sent back to their clubs for this weekend’s English Premiership matches and Jones opted for Jonathan Joseph at outside centre, releasing Elliot Daly.
Daly has been in outstanding form for Wasps and was named man of the match after scoring an electric try against Leinster on Saturday, but Jones has looked to Joseph’s greater experience for his first match in charge.
Previously rivals for the fly-half role, George Ford and Owen Farrell are thought to be favoured at five eighth and inside centre respectively, so Devoto has been retained to provide cover for the number 12 jersey from the bench.
In total there are 12 survivors from the match day squad toppled 33-13 by Australia at the Rugby World Cup in October, a result that sealed England’s demise in the pool stage.
England’s squad assembled on Sunday night and following a day of meetings and administrative obligations, Jones oversaw his first proper training session.
“It was good. It started with a bang, as might have been expected,” said backrower James Haskell.
“I didn’t know what to expect. Eddie’s very straight talking — he has demanded high standards and the understanding is that winning is the most important factor in everything we do.
“It’s a different mindset and implementation to what has gone on before. Eddie is a very straight-talking guy, likes a bit of banter and has shot me down a couple of times.
“He is a constant presence, which I think is great. There is a big focus on attention to detail, everything is well thought out, well planned and well presented.
“The need for a massive re-build is not the case. Eddie is not trying to start afresh — he’s brought some boys in, he’s got boys that he wants to play and has picked people who are on form.
“He wants to seize the day and that’s what we all want to do, but the first and only goal is Scotland.”
Controversial hooker Dylan Hartley has been appointed captain for the Six Nations and Haskell insists his presence has already been felt.
“Dylan has only been in charge one day but he’s demanding accountability from players and putting the onus back on the boys to win,” Haskell said.
“He was vocal in training and led things from the front when required. He’s quite good at that and that’ll build up more and more.”
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