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History beckons England as Ireland lie in wait

March 17, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Eddie Jones’s England head to Dublin for their final match of the 2017 Six Nations just eight 80 minutes away from rewriting the record books.

England

Victory for England, already crowned Six Nations champions, over Ireland at Lansdowne Road on Saturday would see them set a new record of 19 consecutive Test wins by a leading rugby union nation.

It would also mean they become the first side in the Six Nations era to complete back-to-back Grand Slams and just the sixth in the long history of the Championship.

Yet England were some away short of top form in the opening rounds of this Six Nations although, like many good sides, they kept winning when below their best.

So when former Ireland centre Gordon D’Arcy, in an Irish Times column, published between the third and fourth rounds, said “England look a team under ever-increasing strain,” it was not a fanciful notion.

But the shackles were thrown off in spectacular style during last week’s 61-21, seven-try rout of Scotland at Twickenham featuring a hat-trick from Jonathan Joseph.

That win came just a day after Ireland’s title hopes were dealt a hammer blow by a 22-9 loss to Wales in Cardiff where they couldn’t even manage one try, let alone seven.

In politics, many an Englishman has been stumped by the ‘Irish question’ but in rugbyterms it’s the hosts who face plenty of pre-match problems this week.

For all the criticism of Scotland’s defence, some of England’s attacking play was sublime. Now the question being asked of Jones’ men is did they hit peak form one week too early?

“Most teams in the Six Nations have one big performance, so we are anticipating them to be at their best on Saturday,” the England coach said when asked Thursday about Ireland.

But Jones insisted England’s “big performance” had not come and gone. “When I said ‘most teams’ we are not ‘most teams’,” he explained.

That might sound like typical English ‘arrogance’ coming from an Australian were it not for the fact England have won 18 Tests in a row.

Jones, benefitting from England’s large playing base and years of good youth development, has created a bench of replacements or “finishers” as he calls them who would start in many another side.

Such is England’s strength in depth that experienced scrum-half Danny Care finds himself playing second fiddle to Ben Youngs and impressive hooker Jamie George must wait his turn behind England captain Dylan Hartley.

“You look around the changing room and there are a lot of world-class players in a lot of positions,” said Care.

“George Ford (fly-half) and Owen Farrell (inside centre) as a combination seems to be working brilliantly.

“And you look at (flanker) Maro Itoje — he’s still only 22 but plays like he’s a 100-cap veteran.”

Powerhouse No 8 Billy Vunipola and wing Anthony Watson, who both scored tries off the bench last week, are now in the starting side, with left wing Elliot Daly cleared to play following a suspected concussion.

Ireland, who ended the All Blacks’ 18-match winning run with a 40-29 success in Chicago in November, suffered a setback when scrum-half Conor Murray was ruled out Thursday with a shoulder injury sustained against Wales.

The Irish will certainly need their forwards and a defence coached by Andy Farrell — Owen’s father — to front up if they are to win this weekend.

But Ireland coach Joe Schmidt took exception to Jones’s labelling his team’s play as “kick and clap”, with high ‘bombs’ from fly-half Jonathan Sexton their main weapon.

“I think last year he might have said that we kicked 60 percent of the ball that we had,” the New Zealander said. “And when it was mentioned to him that England kicked the ball more than we did it probably wasn’t convenient at the time.

“So we’ll do what we try to do best, and I know Eddie will have England really well-prepared to do what they do best, which is apply a heck of a lot of pressure.”

Ireland seek Wales stepping stone for Six Nations England showdown

March 9, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Ireland will attempt to set up an audacious bid for Six Nations glory over frontrunners England when they face Wales on Friday.

Ireland

A victory for Joe Schmidt’s team, allied with an English win over the ever-improving Scotland side on Saturday, would make for a mouth-watering Six Nations title decider in Dublin on March 18.

But Ireland’s games with Wales are notoriously close, and it would be a brave person to rule out a Welsh team, albeit misfiring, playing at home with pressure on to assure a top-eight World Rugby ranking for the draw for the 2019 World Cup and also to shine in a bid to help guarantee spots on the British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand in the summer.

The Irish kicked off their Six Nations campaign with a surprise defeat by Scotland before bouncing back to beat Italy and France.

Wales overcame the Italians before slumping to defeats by England and Scotland, and find themselves contemplating a third consecutive Six Nations loss for the first time since 2007.

Both teams are unchanged for the Friday night fixture at the Principality Stadium, Rob Howley’s decision not to blood some younger Welsh players in place of more experienced but underperforming stars raising eyebrows.

“As coaches, we discussed giving the opportunity to the side to redeem themselves for the second-half performance against Scotland,” Howley said.

“Obviously, I know things have been said in the week about some players’ performance. But as a coaching team, we have talked about the opportunity just to go out again.

“There is an opportunity to go out at home in front of our own supporters and deliver a performance which the players are proud of and for the supporters to support that. It will be a huge game.”

Wales winger George North experienced perhaps his worst game for his country against Scotland, when the Welsh shipped 20 unanswered points in a woeful second-half showing.

But Ireland coach Schmidt insisted his team would not be targeting the giant Northampton flyer.

“What could be a bad day one day for a player can quickly become a good one next time out,” the New Zealander said.

“I think he will have a big one this time, unfortunately.

“And I’m sure he’s highly motivated to have a really good game, as are the rest of the Welsh XV.

“They are so used to competing on the last day of the championship to win or lose the championship.

“So for them not to be in that position will certainly provide extra motivation for them.”

Wales have won just four of their last 12 matches – a run stretching back to last year’s Six Nations and including a defeat to Waikato Chiefs: the victories came over Italy, Japan, a season-weary Argentina and a disintegrating South Africa.

“In sport, sometimes fine margins make a huge difference and we need to get on the positive side of them. We expect a reaction on Friday night,” said Howley, in interim charge in the absence of the Lions-seconded Warren Gatland.

“The challenge for us is to make sure we deliver a performance this week.

“Every player has a point to prove when you pull the national jersey on. That’s the challenge of international rugby. It’s about handling the pressure from one minute to 80 minutes. That’s the challenge for all of us.”

England come from behind to beat Wales in Six Nations thriller

February 12, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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England coach Eddie Jones accepted his side had used up all their “get-out-of-jail cards” following a gripping 21-16 win away to Wales in the Six Nations.

Elliot

The Grand Slam champions were 16-14 behind with just four minutes left when wing Elliot Daly, following a poor clearance kick by Wales centre Jonathan Davies, surged past Alex Cuthbert for a superb try in the corner.

As had been the case in their tournament-opening win over France the week before, England had come from behind to seal victory with a late try.

“We have used up all of our get-out-of-jail cards and against Italy (on February 26) we don’t want to be in that position again,” Jones said.

“I thought it was a great game of Test rugby,” added Jones after England moved to within two wins of world champions New Zealand’s all-time record of 18 successive Test victories by a leading rugby nation.

“A lot of credit goes to Wales, who were superb. They hit hard and hit often off the ball, which made it a fantastic Test match.”

The Australian, yet to lose a Test as England boss since his appointment following the team’s first-round exit on home soil at the 2015 World Cup, added: “We are a gritty team with characters in there that don’t know how to get beaten, and that was evident here.

“At stages I thought we were going to fade out of the game, but we hung in there making tackles.”

Jones, paying tribute to his hard-working locks, said: “Courtney Lawes is like a human ice-pack. He has ice all over him after that many tackles and carries. Joe Launchbury as well.”

Shortly before his blistering score, Daly had raced back to prevent Wales fly-half Dan Biggar scoring a stunning intercept try.

“The boy’s got gas and he’s got that X-factor about him and that’s what we like him,” Jones said. “I don’t necessarily think wing is his best position, but it suits us at the moment.

“You’ve got to be running over 10 metres per second to score that try, and he can do that.

“Elliot might get a run out for Manchester United with that kick out (after the Biggar interception). It was a pretty good tackle. He did really well for us.”

Wales led 13-8 at the break after Liam Williams crossed to cancel out an early try by England scrum-half Ben Youngs.

But the lead never got beyond five points and Wales coach Rob Howley was left to rue a lack of composure in the closing stages.

“The intensity and application of our players for 75 minutes was outstanding,” he said.

“We played with pace and accuracy, as did England,” the former Wales scrum-half added.

“England know how to win, and we lost, but it was a fantastic performance.

“In the final 10 minutes, we had to execute under pressure, and we didn’t. But that is Test match football.”

Wales suffered a setback when George North was ruled out an hour before kick-off after failing to overcome a leg injury sustained in their preceding 33-7 win away to Italy.

Howley, however, said he expected the powerhouse wing to be fit for Wales’s next match, against Scotland on February 25.

“It was pretty evident this (Saturday) morning that the haematoma hadn’t settled, which is pretty important,” Howley explained.

“We gave him every opportunity, and this morning it was fairly obvious that we would be putting him at risk if he started the game, so hopefully we made the right decision.

“He will be fit for Murrayfield selection.”

Six Nations champions England ready for France ‘war’

February 3, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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It was once billed as ‘Le Crunch’ but outspoken England coach Eddie Jones was ready for a rugby ‘war’ against France in the opening match of his Grand Slam champions’ Six Nations title defence at Twickenham on Saturday.

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England, on a 14-match unbeaten run — 13 of those wins since Australian coach Jones was installed after their lacklustre first-round exit at the 2015 World Cup — will be firm favourites.

But Jones insisted ‘Les Bleus’ would prove as formidable opponents as any of the ‘teams’ who’ve troubled England in their long history of rather more serious conflicts with France.

“It’s always a historic game, certainly there is history between France and England,” said Jones.

“We’ve got one staff member who is into history — (defence coach) Paul Gustard.

“There’s been 20 wars between England and France. That’s a lot of rivalry there. There is another one happening on Saturday,” the Australian added.

“We are going to face a side that’s desperate for success. They are under pressure to play with French flair.”

But Jones, coming right up to date, said an upset was possible if England followed the example of an Arsenal football side coached by French manager Arsene Wenger after their hopes of Premier League title glory suffered a setback with a surprise 2-1 midweek defeat by Watford.

“If we do what Arsenal did on Tuesday when it was 2-0 and the team wakes up, if we do that against France, we will be in trouble because they can score some points.

“It’s really important that they’re in the game right from the start. We have to front up, do the business.”

Jones has drafted utility back Elliot Daly in on the left wing while injuries have seen him reshape his pack.

Maro Itoje, best known as a lock, makes his first Test start in the back-row after blindside flanker and former England captain Chris Robshaw was ruled out of the entire Six Nations with a shoulder injury.

“The boy’s got athletic ability,” said Jones of Itoje. He’s a great defender and that’s what we want from 6 –- a great defender. He fits that spot that Robshaw had.”

Turning to Daly, whose last England appearance saw him sent off for a dangerous tackle against Argentina in November, Jones added: “He has a big left-foot kick and he has genuine pace and can also play outside centre.

“The way we want to attack France, that’s going to be important for us.”

With George Kruis, Itoje’s lock partner at both Saracens and England, out with a knee problem, Courtney Lawes and Joe Launchbury will start in the second row.

England will also be without the injured Vunipola brothers, with prop Mako replaced by Joe Marler, who said drinking vast quantities of milk lay behind his recovery from a fractured leg.

France will be looking to go one better after running both world champions New Zealand and Australia close in November defeats.

Scrum-half Baptiste Serin has been given the chance by France coach Guy Noves to show what he can do from the start against England.

“Serin was very effective off the bench in November after a very good tour of Argentina,” said Noves.

“It seemed wise to see what he could give in a difficult context from the start of the match.”

An admiring Noves was wary of even an injury-hit England.

“Like anyone else, we can only admire the continuity in their results, their mindset,” he said.

“But I hope we will show we can start doing the same, and that we will match up. We know their development system is so good that even with a few injuries, they have enough depth.”

Someone knows the English game well is gifted France back-row Louis Picamoles, now with Premiership side Northampton, where he plays alongside England captain Dylan Hartley.

“It’s helped his career, coming to Northampton,” said Jones of Picamoles, whom he labelled a “lovely player”.

“He would be probably 15 percent fitter than I’ve ever seen him.”

England end South Africa 10-year hoodoo with a 37-21 win

November 13, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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England ended their 10-year wait for a victory over South Africa with a 37-21 win at a rainswept Twickenham on Saturday.

Roses

They outscored the Springboks four tries to two as they made it 10 wins in as many Tests under Australian coach Eddie Jones.

The teams’ opening end of year international turned on an England burst either side of half-time that saw them score 23 unanswered points.

Jonny May, Courtney Lawes, George Ford and Owen Farrell all crossed for tries, with Farrell kicking 17 points.

South Africa, suffering a fifth defeat in six Tests, scored tries through replacement fly-half Johan Goosen and fullback Willie le Roux, but the latter’s came too late to change the result.

Pat Lambie kicked a penalty and a drop-goal, with Ruan Combrinck converting le Roux’s 78th-minute try.

“We conceded six penalties in opening 20 minutes and that isn’t good enough,” England captain Dylan Hartley told Sky Sports.

“But we’re very happy to get that monkey off our back and I’m very proud of our guys.”

Springbok captain and opposing hooker Adrian Strauss added: “It was a very tough game, they were tactically very good and we couldn’t deal with the high ball. We just couldn’t put any pressure on the England team and we felt it the whole game.”

England found themselves 6-0 behind early on after Lambie slotted a penalty and kicked a scruffy drop-goal.

This was England’s first Test since they completed a 3-0 series win in Australia in June and it showed at the start.

Nevertheless, it was England who scored the game’s first try in the 10th minute.

Ford’s chip over the top of the defence was well covered by le Roux but England had a close-range line-out.

Man-of-the-match Joe Launchbury, reviving his World Cup second row partnership with Lawes in the absence of the injured Maro Itoje and George Kruis, won clean possession off the top.

The ball was worked back to fullback Mike Brown, who sent in May at the left corner as the injury-hit wing marked his first Test in over a year with try. Farrell converted and England led 7-6.

England’s ill discipline gave Lambie an easy penalty in front of the posts that put South Africa 9-7 up.

Jerome Garces warned Hartley and the French referee’s words appeared to have some effect.

South Africa suffered a setback in the 33rd minute when giant lock Eben Etzebeth went off after a nasty clash of heads with England No 8 Billy Vunipola.

“It was two big men clashing someone is going to come out the wrong way,” said Jones.

Etzebeth’s absence coincided with England scoring 13 points in seven minutes before the break.

South Africa prop Vincent Kock collapsed a scrum to give Farrell an easy penalty and, in the 36th minute, England had their second try.

Elliot Daly’s kick was hacked on by Brown, who failed to regather cleanly, and Lawes in his 50th Test, had a first England try when he slid over on the follow-up.

Garces decided Brown had not knocked on and Farrell converted.

Then, with the last action of the half, outside centre Daly — making his first Test start — lived up to his reputation as a long-range kick specialist by landing a 51-metre penalty and England turned round 20-9 in front.

That became 27-9 just three minutes into the second half when scrum-half Ben Youngs’s dummy off the back of a ruck caught the Springbok defence cold before his inside pass sent in Ford for a try that Farrell converted.

Inside centre Farrell’s fifth successful goal-kick from as many attempts then stretched England’s lead to a comfortable 21 points.

Goosen went over for a try, despite the suspicion of a forward pass.

But this was a brief interruption to England’s dominance.

Before the match, Jones said he did not want England to play into the Springboks hands’ by engaging in a direct forward battle.

His words got through to Youngs who, from a scrum on South Africa’s 22, sold another dummy, ‘bought’ by giant lock turned flanker Pieter-Steph du Toit.

Youngs then sent in midfielder Farrell for an unopposed try.

Le Roux’s late effort could not deny England their first win over the Springboks since 2006.

Jones wants rugby ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ against Boks

November 11, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Eddie Jones has urged England to follow the example of Muhammad Ali’s celebrated ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ bout against George Foreman when they face South Africa at Twickenham on Saturday.

England

England are unbeaten in their nine Tests under Jones — a sequence that includes a Six Nations Grand Slam and a 3-0 series win in Australia.

But they begin their end-of-year international campaign seeking a first victory over the Springboks since 2006, a winless spell encompassing 12 matches.

Jones said taking the Springboks on at their own power game was the way to ensure another defeat against a side who, in the Australian’s typically vivid phrase, treat rugby union as a sport of “chess with steroids”.

He added that England would need a boldly different strategy, citing how Ali upset the odds to regain the world heavyweight title from Foreman, widely regarded as one of boxing’s most fearsome punchers, in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) in 1974.

Ali took the seemingly high-risk approach of beckoning Foreman forward while laying back on the ropes — what became known as the ‘rope-a-dope’ — before knocking out his exhausted opponent in the eighth round.

“Against a physically aggressive side, you’ve got to play smart,” Jones said.

“We won’t be shying away from the physical side of the game, but when Muhammad Ali fought George Foreman, if he went toe-to-toe with him he was going to lose, so he had to find other ways of getting around him.

“We don’t want to go toe-to-toe with South Africa because that’s what they want to do.

“South Africa play the game like it’s a physical game of chess — like chess with steroids,” added Jones, who was a member of the Springboks’ backroom staff along with current head coach Allister Coetzee when they won the 2007 World Cup.

“The challenge for us is to be tactically smart.”

Jones has recalled Tom Wood in the absence of the injured James Haskell for his first Test since last year’s World Cup, with the flanker told to “stop the Springboks on the gain-line”.

In the backs, Jones has given a first Test start to Elliot Daly, with the Wasps midfielder, known, for his big left boot and speed off the mark, displacing Jonathan Joseph.

South Africa have lost four of their last five Tests but the much-travelled Jones, who in between coaching Japan to a shock World Cup win over the Springboks and taking over the England job was briefly in charge of South African provincial side the Stormers, remained wary.

He cited Stormers locks Eben Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit as potential threats.

“I had the pleasure of meeting Etzebeth and du Toit when I was Stormers coach for two weeks — very impressive young boys. Etzebeth is from a very tough family, physically aggressive, has great natural body height for a big guy, good jumping skills and a real desire to win.

“Du Toit has nice jumping skills, a bit more of a cerebral player than Etzebeth.”

South Africa outside centre Francois Venter has been given a Test debut after impressing in last week’s 31-31 draw with the Barbarians at Wembley.

Coetzee has made several changes to the team beaten a record 57-15 by world champions New Zealand in Durban last month, with a back-row injury crisis seeing du Toit moved from lock to flanker.

“He has a phenomenal work rate,” said Coetzee. “He runs good lines as a ball carrier as well.”

As for talk of South Africa going ‘Bok to basics’, Coetzee said: “It will be a proper Test match and it will most likely start up front.”

Turning to Jones, he added: “The guy does not leave any stone unturned, He’s thorough and a competitive man.

“He will never disrespect South Africa, he will never take us lightly irrespective of the Rugby Championship that we have had.”

Jones open to extending England deal

October 1, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Eddie Jones said Friday he was prepared to consider staying on as England coach beyond the 2019 World Cup in Japan.

Jones

The Australian signed a four-year deal when appointed as England’s first overseas boss in November following the then hosts’ first-round exit at last year’s World Cup.

That tournament saw Jones guide Japan to a stunning win over South Africa, arguably the greatest upset in the history of international rugby union.

When he got the England job, Jones said that when his contract was up he would retire to Barbados to watch cricket.

But the 56-year-old indicated Friday he was prepared to put those plans on hold following a brilliant start to his reign as England coach.

England have won all nine Tests they’ve played under Jones, a sequence that includes a Six Nations Grand Slam and a 3-0 series win in Australia.

But Jones, always keen to learn from other sports, was taking nothing for granted as he cited the example of Jose Mourinho whose reign at Manchester United has endured a rocky start.

“In terms of what happens to me, it’s not my decision. If we don’t deliver, the only thing they’ll be asking me is what time does your flight leave,” Jones told reporters at Twickenham on Friday.

“If we do well then there will be a discussion and if we do well the discussion will take place after we do well.

“At this stage I have a plan in place which is to give everything I’ve got for England over the next four years.”

- ‘High stocks’ -

Jones, Australia’s coach when England beat them in the 2003 World Cup final in Sydney, added: “It’s very flattering that people even talk about it, but these things run their natural course.

“Look at Jose Mourinho after three games. Everyone thought he was going to change Manchester United.

“Two games later they’re saying he’s made all these mistakes. That’s the life we live and I understand that.

“When you win games your stocks are pretty high, but if we lose against South Africa (England’s next opponents when they begin their end of year campaign at Twickenham on November 12) people will be saying ‘why have we employed this Australian?’ and there won’t be any discussion about 2019.”

With James Haskell sidelined by foot surgery and set to miss the visit of the Springboks as well as matches against Fiji, Argentina and Australia on successive weekends at Twickenham, Jones is set to have to field a new openside flanker.

The uncapped duo of Sam Jones (Wasps) and Mike Williams (Leicester) are vying for the role and Jones, in another sign of his openness to outside influences, has some special exercises planned for the duo and the rest of a 37-man training squad that will meet up in the south coast town of Brighton this weekend.

A visit to the British judo training base in Wolverhampton, central England, where he met former world champion Kate Howey, made a big impression on Jones.

“We’ve got a couple of people coming from judo, coming down to the Brighton camp,” said Jones.

“One of the things that really came out of the Australia tour is that we need to work on our grappling area at the tackle.

“So we’ve got some judo coaches coming in.”

England the side to challenge All Blacks supremacy – Jones

June 21, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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England coach Eddie Jones admits his side have a way to go yet but believes they are on track to challenge New Zealand’s long dominance of the game in the lead-up to the 2019 World Cup.

Rugby Union - Rugby Test - England v Australia's Wallabies - Melbourne, Australia - 18/06/16. England head coach Eddie Jones (R) celebrates with players after defeating Australia. REUTERS/BRANDON MALONE

Elevated to number two in the world behind the All Blacks after beating the Wallabies in back-to-back tests to win their first series in Australia, England can solidify their position with victory in Sydney on Saturday.

“I think it’s good for world rugby for England to be strong,” Jones told reporters on Monday.

“New Zealand have been up there all the time and it’s about time someone put in a real challenge to them and we’re going to be the side to put the challenge to them.

“We’ve got massive areas of our game we need to improve. We need to improve the consistency of our line-out, we need to improve the consistency of our breakdown and then we need to develop the way we want to attack.

“And they are all things we can do over the next three years to take us on the road where we need to go.”

Although impressed by England’s defensive performance in the 23-7 second test victory in Melbourne, Jones said his team needed a “sounder all-round game” if they were to challenge New Zealand, who they next meet in 2018.

“New Zealand’s the most pragmatic team in the world, they kick more than any team,” he said.

“If we need to kick, we’ll kick, if we need to run, we’ll run, if we need to pass, we’ll pass.”

Jones said he had been “really impressed” by the discipline of his players and the captaincy of hooker Dylan Hartley in a sometimes fractious second test.

“I think the Wallabies went out there … and deliberately targeted some of our players so it was a good test and I think we handled that test pretty well,” he said.

“We’re going to get another one on Saturday.”

Despite the heroic effort of the Melbourne victory, Jones said he was looking for England’s best performance of the tour at the Sydney Football Stadium.

“For us, this third test is something like a World Cup final, to win a World Cup you’ve got to win three big games in a row,” he added.

“You’ve got to win a quarter-final, the semi-final and the final. It’s a great dress rehearsal for us.”

England’s Jones rules out Lions coaching role

June 20, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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England coach Eddie Jones has poured cold water over speculation linking him with the British and Irish Lions job for the 2017 tour of New Zealand.

Rugby Union - Rugby Test - England v Australia's Wallabies - Brisbane, Australia - 11/06/16. England's rugby coach Eddie Jones on the pitch before their match. REUTERS/JASON O'BRIEN

Jones guided England to their first ever series victory on Australian soil on Saturday with a 23-7 triumph over the Wallabies in the second test in Melbourne.

Jones has transformed England since taking over in the wake of last year’s dismal World Cup campaign and made it clear he had no intention of dividing his attention.

“Completely unavailable,” the charismatic Australian told reporters in Melbourne on Sunday. “I signed a four-year contract to make England the best team in the world and I’m going to spend every minute I have doing that.

“So if I took the Lions job I’d have to spend anywhere from six to 12 months not doing that.”

With Jones at the helm, England claimed a first Grand Slam since 2003 in the Six Nations earlier this year and will rise to second in the world rankings when they are updated later on Monday.

Wales coach Warren Gatland has been tipped to retain the Lions job for the tour of New Zealand after leading them to a 2-1 series win in Australia in 2013.

The New Zealander is currently in his homeland with the Welsh, who lost their series against the All Blacks following Saturday’s 36-22 defeat in Wellington.

The Lions have not won in a series in New Zealand since 1971.

England include injured players in Australia tour squad

May 23, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Manu Tuilagi has been named in England’s squad to tour Australia despite suffering a hamstring injury on Saturday that may rule him out of next month’s test series.

 Britain Rugby Union - Saracens v Leicester Tigers - Aviva Premiership Semi Final - Allianz Park - 21/5/16Manu Tuilagi of Leicester goes off injuredMandatory Credit: Action Images / Henry Browne Britain Rugby Union - Saracens v Leicester Tigers - Aviva Premiership Semi Final - Allianz Park - 21/5/16Manu Tuilagi of Leicester goes off injuredMandatory Credit: Action Images / Henry Browne

The powerful centre limped off the pitch during Leicester’s Premiership semi-final defeat by Saracens on Saturday, a game in which England back Owen Farrell was also injured.

England will assess both players before a final decision on whether they will travel to Australia.

England coach Eddie Jones has named four uncapped players in his 32-man squad, including Leinster’s Worcester-bound centre Ben Te’o.

Other new faces include Leicester and Harlequin props Ellis Genge and Kyle Sinckler, along Northampton back-rower Teimana Harrison. There was no place for winger Chris Ashton or flyhalf Danny Cipriani.

Jones has also named a 26-man squad for next week’s match against Wales at Twickenham, which does not include any Saracens or Exeter players involved in the Premiership final.

“We have selected two squads of players who can win all four games,” Jones said on Sunday.

“It’s important we get off to a good start against Wales and play positive rugby and win.

“We are excited to being touring Australia in June. To beat the Wallabies in Australia you have to play a physical, aggressive brand of rugby and that’s what we intend to do,” Jones added.

“We will need to be a fit, cohesive, tactically flexible team and play with a high intensity. We have to be in their faces from the first minute of the first test.”

“We are still a young squad with an average age of 24 so this will be a big learning experience.”

The first test against Australia is in Brisbane on June 11.

England squad:

Forwards: Dan Cole, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Jack Clifford, Ellis Genge, Jamie George, Teimana Harrison, Dylan Hartley, James Haskell, Paul Hill, Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Joe Launchbury, Courtney Lawes, Matt Mullan, Chris Robshaw, Kyle Sinckler, Billy Vunipola, Mako Vunipola.

Backs: Mike Brown, Danny Care, Elliot Daly, Owen Farrell, George Ford, Alex Goode, Jonathan Joseph, Jack Nowell, Henry Slade, Ben Te’o, Manu Tuilagi, Anthony Watson, Marland Yarde, Ben Youngs.

Squad v Wales:

Forwards: Dave Attwood, Dan Cole, Jack Clifford, Ellis Genge, Dylan Hartley, Teimana Harrison, James Haskell, Paul Hill, Matt Kvesic, Joe Launchbury, Courtney Lawes, Matt Mullan, Chris Robshaw, Kyle Sinckler, Tommy Taylor.

Backs: Mike Brown, Luther Burrell, Danny Care, Elliot Daly, Ollie Devoto, George Ford, Jonathan Joseph, Manu Tuilagi, Anthony Watson, Marland Yarde, Ben Youngs.

Hartley is a ‘likeable rogue’ says Jones

March 21, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Eddie Jones described captain Dylan Hartley as a ‘likeable rogue’ on Sunday as he reflected on England’s first Six Nations grand slam in 13 years.

England's Head Coach Eddie Jones (L) with Joe Marler, Dylan Hartley, James Haskell and George Kruis (R) during training. England Training - Pennyhill Park Hotel - 4/2/16. Action Images via Reuters / Paul Childs Livepic

One of Australian Jones’s first moves when he took over as England’s head coach in November was making Hartley captain despite the Northampton hooker’s regular indiscipline.

His decision was fully vindicated as Hartley led by example throughout the Six Nations which culminated in victory over France in Paris on Saturday.

“The great thing about Dylan is he is a bit of a rogue and he is a likeable rogue as he has good people skills, he is not afraid to tell people what they should be doing when they are not doing it,” Jones said at a media briefing.

“He is not afraid of giving someone a pat on the back and he has done an outstanding job as captain. He will get better, he has done a really good job.”

Hartley was carried off on a stretcher late on in Paris but England held firm to secure a 31-21 victory to help banish the memory of a dispiriting World Cup campaign when the hosts failed to even reach the knockout phase.

“When Dylan got injured the players took charge, Owen Farrell and George Ford knew exactly what they needed to do and that shows the growth of the team,” Jones said.

“They are both in their early twenties so showed remarkable maturity, the way they played that last 10 minutes was fantastic.”

With a tour to World Cup runners-up Australia on the horizon, Jones said the key was for England to keep improving.

“We need to keep improving the team and we will look at selection, look at the Premiership very closely to see how we can improve selection,” he added.

“To win a Grand Slam is a nice achievement but I think there is more ahead of us so I am more excited by what could happen in the future.”

England secure first grand slam in 13 years

March 20, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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England ran in three tries to complete their first grand slam triumph since 2003 with a 31-21 Six Nations victory over arch-rivals France at the Stade de France on Saturday.

England's Dylan Hartley holds the trophy aloft as he celebrates with teammates after the Six Nations international rugby match between France and England at the Stade de France stadium in Saint-Denis, outside Paris, Saturday, March 19, 2016. England won the game to clinch the Grand Slam.

The visitors produced a powerful display but were ill-disciplined at times, enabling scrumhalf Maxime Machenaud, who scored all France’s points from penalties, to keep his team in contention throughout.

First-half tries by Danny Care and Dan Cole and one more after the break by Anthony Watson, the rest of the points coming from Owen Farrell’s boot, proved enough to give England the win they craved.

On a crisp evening on the outskirts of Paris, they sealed their 13th all-time clean sweep, two more than next-best Wales, bouncing back in style from last year’s early World Cup exit to hand new Australian coach Eddie Jones a perfect debut campaign.

England, who made sure of winning the tournament for the first time since 2011 with a win over Wales last week, lost Dylan Hartley for the closing stages.

The England captain left the pitch on a stretcher after a clash with substitute prop Uini Atonio.

France, also rebuilding with a new coach in former Toulouse boss Guy Noves, started the tournament in promising fashion with victories over Italy and Ireland before defeats by Wales and Scotland ended their title hopes.

The two sides had traded penalties when Care escaped from a ruck and sprinted unchallenged to touch down between the posts, handing Farrell an easy conversion.

France flyhalf Francois Trinh-Duc then limped off to be replaced by Jules Plisson.

Forward pressure brought England’s second try from Cole and the visitors would have been in control had they not let Machenaud showcase his kicking ability.

England’s defence held tight but did survive a few scares, notably some fine runs from speedy winger Virimi Vakatawa and fullback Scott Spedding.

Jones made two changes from the side that started against Wales, bringing in Care for Ben Youngs at scrumhalf and Mako Vunipola for Joe Marler at loosehead prop.

Marler was sent for the second half with England 17-12 in front.

Jones’ men struggled at times after the break before winger Watson picked up an astute Youngs kick to dive over in the corner for their third try.

The champions could always rely on the raw power of man-of-the-match Billy Vunipola, once again outstanding at number eight, and on the accuracy of Farrell.

Farrell wrapped it up with yet another penalty in the dying moments as England fans sang ‘Swing low, sweet chariot’ to celebrate their success.

England have moved on from Wales defeat, says Jones

March 11, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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England coach Eddie Jones says the bitter defeat by Wales in the World Cup will not be in his players’ minds when they face Warren Gatland’s side in a crucial Six Nations clash at Twickenham on Saturday.

Rugby Union - England Training - Pennyhill Park Hotel, Bagshot, Surrey - 8/3/16England head coach Eddie Jones, George Ford and Manu Tuilagi during trainingAction Images via Reuters / Henry BrowneLivepic

Wales overcame a 10-point deficit and a catalogue of injuries to win a thriller 28-25 at Twickenham in September — a defeat which helped to send England crashing out in the pool stage.

Since Jones replaced Stuart Lancaster, however, England have revived and three wins from three means they are on course to win the Six Nations. Victory over Wales would make it almost a formality.

On Thursday, Jones named an unchanged starting side to the one that beat Ireland in their last game, with Leicester’s powerhouse centre Manu Tuilagi, who has not played for England since June 2014 because of injury and disciplinary issues, ready to make an impact from the bench.

The mood, Jones told a news conference, is upbeat.

“We’re a new England. We don’t refer back to that game,” he said. “Seventy percent of our players are the same but we have a different philosophy of how we train, behave and play.

“We’re in a good position for the game.”

Wales will present England with their biggest test so far under Jones. Victory for the Welsh would throw the championship wide open.

“Wales have been the benchmark in terms of strength and conditioning in Europe for probably the last five or six seasons under Warren Gatland,” Jones said.

“Warren’s sides are well known for their physicality and he’s been able to achieve that with Wales. We acknowledge they’re right at the top of the tree in terms of conditioning.”

With Tuilagi on the bench, Jones has an extra weapon up his sleeve should England need a different approach.

“Manu brings power and pace. He ran a couple of beautiful lines at training yesterday where he just scythed through our defence,” he said.

“He’s a very valuable acquisition off the bench, he’s in good spirits and keen to play well for England.”

England team: 1-Joe Marler, 2-Dylan Hartley, 3-Dan Cole, 4-Maro Itoje, 5-George Kruis, 6-Chris Robshaw, 7-James Haskell, 8-Billy Vunipola; 9-Ben Youngs, 10-George Ford, 11-Jack Nowell, 12-Owen Farrell, 13-Jonathan Joseph, 14-Anthony Watson, 15-Mike Brown.

England name Tuilagi in squad to face Wales

March 9, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Centre Manu Tuilagi has been named in the England squad for Saturday’s Six Nations game against Wales at Twickenham, the RFU said on Tuesday.

Manu Tuilagi

The 24-year-old Tuilagi, who has not played for England since June 2014 because of injury, replaced fullback Alex Goode.

Lock Joe Launchbury was also among 14 forwards named for the Wales game after missing the victory over Ireland with a hamstring injury.

Prop Kieran Brookes has replaced Paul Hill and hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie will remain with the squad as cover for Jamie George.

“Jamie George sustained an injury to his arm during this afternoon’s training so Luke Cowan-Dickie remains with the squad as cover while Jamie undergoes further medical assessments,” England coach Eddie Jones said.

England won their opening three matches in the tournament against Scotland and Italy as well as Ireland.

Wales are one point behind England in the standings following two victories and a draw and the winners on Saturday will be in a strong position to claim the Six Nations title.

England squad

Forwards – Kieran Brookes, Dan Cole, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Jack Clifford, Jamie George, Dylan Hartley, James Haskell, Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Joe Launchbury, Joe Marler, Chris Robshaw, Billy Vunipola, Mako Vunipola,

Backs – Mike Brown, Danny Care, Elliot Daly, Owen Farrell, George Ford, Jonathan Joseph, Jack Nowell, Manu Tuilagi, Anthony Watson, Ben Youngs

Daly set for England debut against Ireland

February 24, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Elliot Daly is poised to make his England debut in Saturday’s Six Nations clash against Ireland at Twickenham after being named in coach Eddie Jones’s squad.

Elliot Daly

The Wasps centre, 23, is making his first appearance in the matchday 23 as England look to build on their victories over Scotland and Italy in their opening two games.

“I have been pleased with the hard work and attitude the squad have shown since Italy,” Jones said in a statement announcing the squad on Tuesday.

“Everyone wants to be on the field on Saturday so there were some tough selection calls. Elliot Daly has impressed in training and is now ready to be part of the matchday 23.”

There has been a clamour among pundits for Daly to be given a chance, although his claim for a starting spot seemed less pressing after direct rival Jonathan Joseph’s hat-trick of tries in England’s last outing in Rome.

Northampton Saints’ Courtney Lawes drops out of the squad from which Jones will pick his starting team on Thursday.

Tuilagi proves fitness in front of England boss Jones

February 20, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Manu Tuilagi staked his claim for a Six Nations call-up in front of England boss Eddie Jones as the Leicester star returned from his injury lay-off in a 25-19 Premiership defeat at Harlequins on Friday.

Tuilagi

Tuilagi had missed Leicester’s last three matches with a hamstring strain and has not played for England since the Test match against New Zealand in Hamilton in June 2014, having previously been sidelined with a groin injury for 15 months.

He was also banned for six months last year after pleading guilty to assaulting two police officers.

Jones is hoping to involve Tuilagi in England’s Six Nations showdown with Wales on March 12 and will have been encouraged by the impact he made at Twickenham Stoop.

It took the 24-year-old’s power to help Leicester score their only try, rampaging forward to place Quins on the retreat until Harry Thacker arrived to touch down.

His evening was not without setback, however, after he lost the ball in the tackle in 75th minute to help Marland Yarde run in a try that sealed Quins’ victory.

Jones was sat among supporters in the stands wearing his customary black beanie hat and will discuss the player’s fitness with his club director of rugby Richard Cockerill.

He plans to select Tuilagi at inside centre, claiming he can emulate All Blacks great Ma’a Nonu, and this encounter was only the fifth time he has started in that position.

“Manu got through the game and did some good things and made some errors as well, but everybody makes errors,” Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill said.

“Let’s hope Manu can stay on the field and we can keep him playing. Manu played his first game here for a few weeks, so we’ll see where that leads to.

“He’s not ready to play at Test level yet. He’s played one game and still isn’t quite sharp, as you saw. He did some things but needs to be managed properly.

“Me and Eddie can have that discussion. If he’s fit, he can play. If he’s not then he won’t. We’ll be sensible about it.”

Leicester endured a torrid evening in the scrum, conceding four penalties, and also saw debutant Jean de Villiers leave the pitch late on with what appeared to be an injury to his nose.

The defeat sees them replaced by Quins in third place in the Premiership table, but a late Freddie Burns penalty at least rescued a losing bonus point.

Quins lost fly-half Nick Evans to a broken leg earlier this week, but Ben Botica proved an able deputy with 20 points.

England savvy about Italy threat at rugby Six Nations

February 13, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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England have never lost to Italy, but coach Eddie Jones said he was under no illusion the task facing his team when the sides play their second Six Nations match of the season on Sunday.

 England

“We are confident we can go to Rome and win, but we’re in no doubt of the challenge we face. Italy took France very close so they’ll be fired up,” Jones said of the Six Nations opener when the Italians went down 23-21.

England won their opening match, Jones’ first in charge since taking over from Stuart Lancaster, winning 15-9 against Scotland, and the Australian coach has made three changes to that side.

Lock Courtney Lawes, loose-head prop Mako Vunipola and scrum-half Ben Youngs come in for Joe Launchbury, Joe Marler and Danny Care, who all drop to the bench.

“We’ve made a few changes to the line-up for Italy,” said Jones. “I believe this is the strongest 23 to go to Rome and get the performance and result we want.”

Jones also named two uncapped players on the bench with exciting Saracens forward Maro Itoje set to make his debut along with Northampton prop Paul Hill.

“Maro has consistently impressed me this week and, together with his excellent club form, has deserved his call up to the matchday squad,” he said.

Italy coach Jacques Brunel has made just one change to his side from the one that narrowly went down away to France, Australian-born 76-time capped Luke McLean replacing injured David Odiete at full-back.

“We’re not favourites,” Brunel said. “We’ve never beaten England and in the last two games we conceded between 40 and 50 points (52-11 and 47-17).

“The goal is to still be in the game at the 60th or 70th minute. Last year, we conceded 40 points but in the 55th minute we were in it. We didn’t manage to hold on through to the 70th minute. If we manage that, it can change things.”

Frenchman Brunel said he wanted to see “a warrior spirit, a fighter’s spirit, as I saw in Paris”, adding that despite England changing coach, the team would not differ massively.

“England’s changed coach but not players, they’re the same,” he said.

“They have a direct game which relies on power up front with some three-quarters that have shown over the last two or three years that they’re dangerous individually.

“They’ll play on power, possession and territorial advantage. The English are not like us or the French. They don’t have doubt, they continue on the same path for 80 minutes no matter the score.”

Carlo Canna starred at fly-half for Italy against the French and he called on his teammates to gird themselves for the English challenge.

“The France game is over, we paid a small price for our inexperience and that made the difference to the final score. Now we’re working hard to give England some food for thought,” he said.

“We’re facing a totally different team from last week: one that, in the first two phases, we’ll try to use the pack to push the team forward and open up the game.

“We have to be solid in the tackles, much more than we were against France.”

England set out to ‘smack’ Italy in Rome

February 12, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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With only one Six Nations title since 2003, England should find themselves in pole position if they heed Eddie Jones’ words and give Italy “a good hiding” on Sunday.

Rugby Union - England Training - Pennyhill Park Hotel, Bagshot, Surrey - 10/2/16England's players listen to Referee Wayne Barnes during training Action Images via Reuters / Paul ChildsLivepic

Jones made a winning start as England coach when his side produced an effective, if unspectacular, display to defeat Scotland 15-9 at Murrayfield last weekend.

England will expect to beat Italy in Rome with Jones set to make some changes with the Australian wanting more fleet-footed forwards to take the game to the Azzurri.

“We’ll pick the best 23 for Italy, so we could conceivably pick a faster pack,” Jones said when asked whether he would reshuffle a team who gave away several breakdown penalties in the first half against Scotland.

Forwards Mako Vunipola and Courtney Lawes, along with scrumhalf Ben Youngs, are likely to replace Joe Marler, Joe Launchbury and Danny Care when Jones names his team on Friday.

“We want to go to Rome and smack Italy,” said Jones.

Like England, new-look France also made a winning start with a new coach at the helm although they were far from impressive in scraping a 23-21 win at home over Italy.

The French, indepted to Jules Plisson’s late long-range penalty to get them over the line against the Italians, on Saturday host an Ireland side who they have not won against since 2011.

With his own number eight Louis Picamoles ruled out injured, Noves has made six changes as Les Bleus look to tighten their defence against Ireland who beat them 24-9 in the pool phase at the World Cup in October.

“Against Italy we were not up to international standards in defence,” said Noves, who has kept faith in his novice halfback pairing of Sebastien Bezy and Jules Plisson. “Ireland are very good at keeping the ball, they are defence crushers.”

France will look to outspeed the Ireland defence with their talented wingers Virimi Vakatawa and Teddy Thomas. Sevens stalwart Vakatawa scored a try on his debut against Italy while Thomas is back in the team after being dropped last year for disciplinary reasons following a brilliant start.

“You know that he’s a real threat from the fact he’s thrived in Sevens,” Ireland’s Dave Kearney said of Vakatawa. “Give someone like that space and they cause you trouble.”

Holders Ireland, who drew 16-16 with Wales in Dublin, have made three changes with brothers Dave and Rob Kearney and Sean O’Brien called into the team.

Wales, who clawed back a 13-point first-half deficit against the Irish, will be expected to prevail at home on Saturday against Scotland who are on an eight-game losing streak in the Six Nations. Flyhalf Dan Biggar is fit enough to play in an unchanged Wales team after recovering from an ankle sprain while Scotland made one change with Duncan Taylor replacing injured centre Matt Scott.

Beaumont junior retained in England squad to face Italy

February 10, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Josh Beaumont, the son of former captain Bill, and Maro Itoje have been retained in England coach Eddie Jones’ 25-man squad for Sunday’s Six Nations match against Italy in Rome.

England's Josh Beaumont during training. Action Images via Reuters / Andrew BoyersLivepic

Jones kept faith with the same 23 players he named for the 15-9 victory over Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday, with Beaumont and Itoje the only additions.

Wasps centre Elliot Daly and Gloucester flanker Matt Kvesic were allowed to return to their clubs, England said in a news release on Tuesday.

Sale’s Beaumont is a powerful number eight in the mould of his lock-forward father, one of England’s most iconic players who led his country to the grand slam in 1980 and captained the British and Irish Lions in the same year.

Saracens’ Itoje is a highly-rated lock/flanker and former England under-20 captain.

The pair were included in Jones’ 33-man elite player squad for the tournament but failed to make the cut for the trip to Scotland.

Squad:

Forwards: Josh Beaumont (Sale Sharks), Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers), Jack Clifford (Harlequins), Jamie George (Saracens), Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints), James Haskell (Wasps), Paul Hill (Northampton Saints), Maro Itoje (Saracens), George Kruis (Saracens), Joe Launchbury (Wasps), Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints), Joe Marler (Harlequins), Chris Robshaw (Harlequins), Billy Vunipola (Saracens), Mako Vunipola (Saracens)

Backs: Mike Brown (Harlequins), Danny Care (Harlequins), Ollie Devoto (Bath), Owen Farrell (Saracens), George Ford (Bath), Alex Goode (Saracens), Jonathan Joseph (Bath), Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs), Anthony Watson (Bath), Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers)

England start afresh, Ireland look to Best

February 5, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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English rugby’s shot at redemption under new Australian coach Eddie Jones and fiery captain Dylan Hartley begins against Scotland in the cauldron of Murrayfield on Saturday in a Six Nations melting pot of teams looking to erase memories of World Cup disappointment.

England's Head Coach Eddie Jones (L) with Joe Marler, Dylan Hartley, James Haskell and George Kruis (R) during training. England Training - Pennyhill Park Hotel - 4/2/16. Action Images via Reuters / Paul Childs Livepic

Though England’s memories of last year’s global showpiece are arguably the most bitter, having become the first hosts to be eliminated at the pool stage, the quarter-finals were as good as it got for Ireland, Wales, France and Scotland in a tournament dominated by southern hemisphere teams.

England are not the only team to signal a changing of the guard, with Ireland handing the captaincy to Rory Best after the retirement of talisman Paul O’Connell, while France emerge under a new coach, Guy Noves, and a new captain in Guilhem Guirado.

Bookmakers have made England favourites, ahead of Wales and Ireland, despite winning only one Six Nations title since 2003.

Straight-talking Jones takes the English reins with a reputation as a ruthless and demanding coach, who fullback Mike Brown says will want England “to play quick, never let the opposition defence settle, get the ball to space and go at teams”.

Jones’s attention to detail is meticulous, evidenced by the way his well-drilled Japan side ruffled more than a few feathers at the World Cup.

After calling up seven uncapped players in his initial squad, Jones has played it safe by naming a relatively conservative team for his first match, with all eyes on recalled hooker Hartley, whose career has been plagued by disciplinary problems.

Joe Schmidt’s Ireland have their own demons to exorcise despite having won the past two Six Nations championships.

Fancied to reach the World Cup semi-finals for the first time, the Irish were crushed by Argentina in the last eight and are now hampered by a number of injuries, though flyhalf Jonny Sexton has been passed fit after concussion concerns.

Coach Schmidt believes his side face a huge test on Sunday against a hugely experienced Wales line-up.

“They comfortably have 300 caps more than any other country in the competition; and on top of that, we know how physically combative they are,” Schmidt said.

“The stats from the World Cup show that they are, literally, the biggest team in world rugby, averaging 106 kilos a man. For us, that’s always a massive challenge.”

Wales emerged from the World Cup with huge credit after their injury-ravaged squad beat England en route to the quarter-finals, where they succumbed to a late South African try at Twickenham.

Fullback Leigh Halfpenny and scrumhalf Rhys Webb have not recovered from the injuries that ruled them out of the entire tournament, but Wales’s strength in depth should not be underestimated.

France, like England, begin a new era under veteran coach Noves, who has replaced Phillipe St Andre and is charged with restoring some panache to the French game after a dreary run of shapeless performances.

An opening win over Italy at home on Saturday will be a must for Noves, who guided French club side Toulouse to four European Cup triumphs.

For Scotland, hope springs eternal.

With only one win in their past dozen Six Nations matches, they begin again with renewed optimism after coming desperately close to reaching the World Cup semi-finals, denied by a controversial last-gasp Australian penalty.

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