Eddie Jones: England need ‘samuri spirit’ if they’re to win the World Cup
England head coach Eddie Jones has unveiled his 31 players for next month’s World Cup and declared that he needs people “who have got a samurai spirit”. That means warriors with discipline, which perhaps explains the omission of Mike Brown and Ben Te’o. The pair have been overlooked after reports emerged last week of a ‘fracas’ during a training week in Italy.
“I’m not going to go into the reasons why [Ben] is not selected,” Jones told reporters. “We’ve had that conversation with Ben and he understands it. Whether he agrees with it is another matter but we’ve had that discussion with him and he’s just not in our top 31 players at the moment.”
If there was heartbreak for the experienced pair of Brown and Te’o, there was jubilation for utility back Piers Francis, flanker Lewis Ludlam and uncapped wing Ruaridh McConnochie, all of whom have made the cut. So, too has 32-year-old scrum-half Willi Heinz, the sole representative from Gloucester after Danny Cipriani failed to persuade Jones he could offer something different at fly-half.
Heinz is one of only two scrum-halves in the squad, the other being Ben Youngs, while Kyle Sinckler and Dan Cole are the only tighthead props. In contrast, Jones has gone for six back-three players: McConnochie, Joe Cokanasiga, Elliot Daly, Anthony Watson, Jonny May and Jack Nowell. In total ten of the 12 Premiership clubs are represented (only Bristol and Worcester aren’t), a healthy indication of England’s competitive league.
Jones explained that in selecting his squad nearly a month before the September 8 deadline, he had chosen players with the right mental as well as physical attributes. “You need guys who are mature, who enjoy life,” said Jones. “We’ve deliberately picked a squad like that because it’s going to be an important factor. This is an enormous cultural event apart from being a sporting event and you’ve got to be able to cope with the different culture.”
No dominant team
Jones believes that the World Cup, which kicks off on September 20, is the most open in years, with New Zealand no longer the dominant force that they were when Richie McCaw captained them to glory in 2011 and 2015. “I think it is the most competitive World Cup,” Jones told BBC Radio 5 Live Sport’s Rugby Union Weekly. “That’s exacerbated by the fact it’s in a neutral country and a non-rugby country which is going to add a number of distractions. The first couple of rounds some teams may struggle to adapt to the circumstances of the tournament, which is going to be different.”
What they’re saying about England’s World Cup squad
Eddie Jones: “We have taken the decision to go early [in naming the squad] because of what we learned from previous campaigns. We want the squad to know early and now we can get on and be the best prepared England side there has ever been, ready to win the World Cup.”
The Times: ”What is really striking about this 31-man England squad is that it looks more like a squad for the future and less like a tried-and-tested group of men who have been primed for a World Cup that starts on September 20.”
The Guardian: ”Should England bomb out in the pool stages again, the omission of certain big-name individuals is bound to resurface.”
Clive Woodward in the Daily Mail: ”I am really excited about this group and think they have every chance of going all the way in the tournament. Eddie Jones is not hiding. This is a full metal jacket squad.”
The Daily Telegraph: ”Jones had initially set his sights on having a battle-hardened group heading to Japan but…the need to have in-form, zestful, hungry players has become an imperative.”
England’s World Cup squad
Forwards: Dan Cole (Leicester, 86 caps), Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter, 12), Tom Curry (Sale, 11), Ellis Genge (Leicester, 10), Jamie George (Saracens, 37), Maro Itoje (Saracens, 27), George Kruis (Saracens, 32), Joe Launchbury (Wasps, 59), Courtney Lawes (Northampton, 72), Lewis Ludlam (Northampton, 1), Joe Marler (Harlequins, 58), Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins, 22), Jack Singleton (Saracens, 1), Sam Underhill (Bath, 9), Billy Vunipola (Saracens, 42), Mako Vunipola (Saracens, 53), Mark Wilson (Newcastle/Sale, 13).
Backs: Joe Cokanasiga (Bath, 5), Elliot Daly (Saracens, 31), Owen Farrell (Saracens, 70), George Ford (Leicester Tigers, 56), Piers Francis (Northampton, 5), Willi Heinz (Gloucester, 1), Jonathan Joseph (Bath, 41), Jonny May (Leicester, 45), Ruaridh McConnochie (Bath, uncapped), Jack Nowell (Exeter, 33), Henry Slade (Exeter, 22), Manu Tuilagi (Leicester, 33), Anthony Watson (Bath, 34), Ben Youngs (Leicester, 86).