Eddie Jones has compared England newcomer Jack Willis to one of the former Australia players he had at his disposal when his Wallabies were defeated by Martin Johnson and co in the 2003 World Cup final. Current England boss Jones has opted to give Willis, the 23-year-old Premiership players’ player of the year, his Test level debut against Georgia in this Saturday’s Autumn Nations Cup opener at Twickenham.

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With Willis labelled the turnover king of the English league due to his ability to poach possession in the 2019/20 season, there has been a clamour to see him involved with England. 

That will now happen and his inclusion has left Jones, who coached Australia nearly two decades ago, reminiscing how a 63-cap former Wallaby forward was a similar mould to newly capped Willis.

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Eddie Jones explains the England XV selection to face Georgia this Saturday

“He reminds me a bit of Matt Cockbain who played for the Wallabies during the most successful period around the early 2000s,” said Jones. “Not a great looking body, not a gym-created body but a workmanlike body that is all elbows and knees. Those sort of players are really useful.”

Describing Willis as ‘flippin’ tough’, Jones continued: “He just puts his head over the ball a lot. You have got to have plenty of courage to put your head over the ball when you consider you have got 130kg blokes ready to clean you out – and he does that consistently. 

“The big thing for Jack will be learning discernment, to understand that at the international level he is probably not going to get the leniency he has had at club level in keeping his hands on the ball. It’s just that understanding that he can only have one go.

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“You have got to be quick and if you don’t get it in first go then you have got to get your hands out. But he is a good learner. He has really impressed us with not only being flippin’ tough but also he is a good learner. He’s a good coachable boy.     

“In Australian slang, we’d call him a knockabout bloke. He just gets on with it. Nothing fazes him too much. He mixes readily with all the different players, listens well, takes praise well, takes criticism well, just gets on with it. 

“We first selected him in 2018 because he was a good, tough player and we’re selecting him again because he is a good, tough player… what I know is that he is dedicated to being the best player that he can be. 

“He has still got a fair bit of work to do. He is by far a long way away from being the finished product, which is exciting for us because there is so much more growth in him.”

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