Eddie Jones has given a glimpse of his plans for the Rugby World Cup in 2023 after England’s head coach excluded several senior players from his autumn training squad.
The Vunipola brothers, Billy and Mako, plus George Ford, Jamie George and the injured Elliot Daly were omitted from the 45-man squad, who are set to attend the camp across three days from Sunday.
Included, however, were the experienced Owen Farrell and Courtney Lawes, alongside Lewis Ludlow, who captained England in their summer series against both Canada and the US.
“If you look at the squad, I think it’s become more diverse. We’ve got a great spread of different backgrounds, and we want the leadership group to reflect that diversity,” Jones said.
“I’ve got a few ideas on how I want to do it, and I want to talk to the players before I elaborate on that.”
Six Premiership captains feature in the squad, with Worcester’s Ted Hill and Northampton Saints’ Lewis Ludlam also among them. Nine of the players who made their first appearance for England in the summer have returned to the squad. The reemergence of injury-cursed Manu Tuilagi in the side will be a welcome sight to Jones, who has struggled with consistency among his attacking centres in recent seasons.
British and Irish Lions tourist Sam Simmonds, meanwhile, who last season broke the record for the most Premiership tries in a season, has returned to the squad after a three-year hiatus from the set-up.
“We asked him [after 2018] to go away and look at his game, and we think he has been progressing well,” Jones said.
“He’s therefore got an opportunity to put his best foot forward again. He’s improved parts of his game, particularly how hard he is over the ball and how he finds the ball a bit more in unstructured play.”
The inclusion of Simmonds after Billy Vunipola’s exclusion hints at a changing of style for England. Eddie Jones is aware he has five campaigns left until he steps down: two autumn international series, two Six Nations and the 2023 World Cup in France.
England could only muster fifth place at the 2021 Six Nations, losing to Scotland, Ireland and Wales on the way to their equal-worst finish in the competition in the Six Nations era.
“This is the last chapter for me, I’ve never been so excited in my life,” continued Jones. “I think the squad we’ve assembled is just the start and with each squad we want each to be a bit stronger.
“We are now selecting with the World Cup in mind. Some of the experienced players we’ve left out have good time to refocus, refresh and get ready for the challenge again for a spot.
“Next time we will have some of those Lions players who have been left out competing again at their best. The competition will be even harder.”
Eddie Jones has been at a coaches’ conference in Birmingham this week, where he phoned those who had not made the squad to inform them of their exclusion. Jones described it as “uncomfortable”, adding “it’s an unpleasant part of the job, but an important one”.
Jones has included eight uncapped players in the wider training squad including 31-year-old Gloucester centre Mark Atkinson, hotly-tipped young Sale scrum-half Raffi Quirke, and flying Harlequins wing Louis Lynagh, son of Australian legend Michael.
Lynagh has scored five tries in his 12 club appearances including a double as Quins won last year’s Premiership title against Exeter Chiefs.
“He’s had a string of solid performances now,” said Eddie Jones of the 20-year-old. “He’s got good acceleration and power and finds the line. He’s just got to find the ball a bit more.
“He’s got the youth and enthusiasm to improve. [Like his father] He’s got that ability to power through defenders. He deserves to be looked at so we will now have a look.”
England will play Tonga, Australia and South Africa in their autumn series, which takes place across three consecutive Saturdays starting on November 6.
The games will be shown on Amazon Prime as part of a new deal for the streaming platform, which will include 17 games from across Europe.