Eddie Jones outlines England's plan to transform rugby with nine-forward formation

Heather Diaz
January 19, 2019

"Ireland are the best side in the world", said Jones.

Hartley remains an integral part of Jones' plans, even though he lost his starting position at the end of the November internationals: Jamie George started at hooker against Japan and Australia.

But there was no place in this squad for scrumhalf Danny Care, a team-mate of Brown at London club Harlequins and long the back-up to England first-choice No 9 Ben Youngs. "Owen will be captain by himself", Jones confirmed.

Hartley has not played for his club Northampton since before Christmas due to a "grumbly knee" caused by wear and tear and Jones said the earliest he might be back in consideration is England's third game, against Wales on February 23, and even that is an "outside chance". 'We want to look at a fast half-back at the end of the game to test exhausted defenders.' Dan Cole returns, having shown rejuvenated form for Leicester Tigers having been dropped in the autumn. "They are a good team and deserve all the praise they've been getting".

Jones has named a 35-man training squad for the seismic opener against Ireland in Dublin that is bristling with destructive ball-carrying options.

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"He might eventually need an operation to clean it up, but at this stage they're doing what they call passive rehab and we're confident that he should be fit to play in the Six Nations". I think Owen wants the same thing. Obviously it is a World Cup year so that is always at the back of your mind.

"There are twists and twirls in the Six Nations as we see, so all we have to focus on is beating Ireland", said Jones.

It is a nice selection problem for Jones to have and is in stark contrast to the problem of number seven that has never really been solved for any length of time since the departure of 2003 World Cup victor Neil Back.

"The game's structure is being turned on its head, but Eddie, you are not coaching Japan any more, trying to find a way to catch the opposition out", he added. "The next change is you will have players who can play backs and forwards - it's going to happen". Asked what he meant by the "English way", Jones replied: "English rugby is based on a strong tradition of being organised, and that means the set piece and defence in rugby".

And he was adamant England's play in key areas had advanced since last year's Championship. Underhill stepped in and stepped up last November but now he is ruled out of the Six Nations after ankle surgery.

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