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'Billows of smoke, then all of a sudden it lit up in a huge fire'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty Images)

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Eddie Jones has spoken about the Tuesday night fire drama that resulted in his England Six Nations squad evacuating from their seafront hotel in Brighton and holding a team meeting in a nearby pub before checking into a different hotel to spend the night. Ahead of the championship opener away to Scotland on February 5, Jones opted to begin preparations with a week-long gathering on the English south coast for his squad before the location switches next week to the national team training centre at Pennyhill Park. 

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England had spent their Tuesday morning on Brighton beach doing team-building exercises and their Six Nations squad were due to have a team communications meeting that evening when a fire broke out through a manhole on the street outside the Harbour Hotel on the King’s Road.    

The emergency caused the hotel to be evacuated, leaving the players to hold their planned meeting in a nearby pub before alternative accommodation was sourced for the night.   

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“The players were getting ready for a team communications session which was all about them talking about their goals and purpose and just getting to know each other a little bit better,” explained England boss Jones on Wednesday about the drama that unfolded the previous evening for his Six Nations squad. 

“There were billows of smoke coming out of a manhole and then all of a sudden it lit up in a huge fire, like a bomb fire came out of the manhole so we had to evacuate the hotel. At one stage we were going to go to Cotswold and buy some sleeping bags but we have got a fantastic logistics manager in Charlotte Gibbons who arranged accommodation at Hilton. 

“The players and the staff ate separately because of the short circumstance and we got through the night and we are here today, mate. We are hopefully back in the hotel by midday and the boys will start doing a gym session this morning at Brighton College.  

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“They [the players] weren’t close at all. It [the fire] was outside the hotel so there was no risk to any of the players,” continued Jones, adding how the players improvised by relocating their scheduled meeting elsewhere. “They ended up having it a pub and Maro (Itoje) took responsibility for it.”

Jones enthused how he liked what sudden disruption does for his England squad in terms of improving its adaptability. “Everyone had to adapt, we have had to change our programme today, the players had to sleep in maybe uncomfortable beds last night and they have got to get on with it today. 

“We enjoy those sorts of things. Every time we do it we get a little bit better at it. We had a similar situation in 20019 with the typhoon at the World Cup where we had to move hotels quickly so the guys have been in that situation before helped lead the way.”

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