Lions watch 3: Jones – England will form the backbone of the Lions
Eddie Jones: England will be pride of Lions but should not get distracted
The England Head coach believes his squad should form the backbone of the 2017 Lions tour.
The Lions face world champions New Zealand in three Tests in June and July 2017 Eddie Jones expects England to provide at least 15 players in the British and Irish Lions' squad – almost half the touring party to New Zealand next year – and will regard it as a personal failure if that target is not reached. But the Australian also warned his players that unless they maintained the required standard for England and avoid letting the Lions tour to the home of the world champions become a distraction they risk missing out altogether on Warren Gatland's selection.
England have not supplied the most players on a Lions venture since the 2005 tour to New Zealand, when they contributed 20 to the biggest squad that has left the British Isles. Wales and Ireland have been the major contributors to the last two tours, but with England grand slam-winning champions and , their head coach has told his players to keep on achieving. "I would hope we have at least 15 going to New Zealand," he said. "I would be disappointed if we didn't have that many and consider that I wasn't doing my job well enough if we fell short of that figure.
The players have to make sure that the tour is not a distraction: they all know that unless they play well for England, they will not be going. If they let themselves become distracted, they are not strong enough." All Blacks blossoming in time for arrival of Warren Gatland's Lions
Jones has yet to taste defeat since taking charge of England at the end of last year. Nine victories out of nine have taken them to second in the world rankings, behind the All Blacks, but the first of their four autumn Tests at Twickenham is against South Africa, opponents England have not beaten for 10 years.
"Australia haven't done well since the Tests against us," said Jones. "That means we have to be circumspect about our performance against them. There were games where our set piece didn't function well and in the first and last our defence was not good. "Great teams are consistently good. That's what we're lacking at the moment and that's what I'm saying to the coaches.
New Zealand have a seven out of 10 and a nine out of 10 game. They don't have a five out of 10 game and they very rarely have a 10 out of 10 game. We still have five out of 10 performances and that's not good enough." Jones and his coaches have been watching the opening rounds of the Premiership as they assess their options for the November internationals.
Dylan Hartley will remain England's captain, but the injured James Haskell will need to be replaced in the back row. There is concern about the Leicester centre Manu Tuilagi, who missed the Australia tour with a hamstring strain.
"Dylan will captain us in the November Tests as long as he is fit having done a great job as leader," said Jones. Asked if the hooker was a contender to lead the Lions, he replied: "I'll let Warren make that decision. "As for Manu, you are always concerned when a player has got injury issues, but I know Leicester are working really hard to get him right. He is just going through a spell and I am sure he will come out of what is a difficult time for him a better player."
Jones goaded the All Blacks recently, accusing New Zealand of having undue influence when it came to law changes and saying that a team that had lost three of its past 68 Tests had "flaws and significant weaknesses". It prompted a response from the World Cup holders' head coach, Steve Hansen, and with England not meeting them until 2018, the war of words will continue to escalate. "The All Blacks have been able to rebuild their team quickly because of their system," said Jones. "Because they control every one of their franchise teams, they can rebuild faster than anyone else. The New Zealand coaches can influence the Super Rugby coaches, something that does not happen in Australia or South Africa. Those countries are going through significant rebuilding and bringing in players is a slow process."
Jones is not anticipating many changes to the training squad he announced in the summer for the autumn Tests. "We have been consistent in selection, but it is the players who decide it, not me. If they play well, they will be in; if they don't, they won't. They select themselves."
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Posted on September 12th, 2016