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'It's a team that can grow, develop and be World Cup champions'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by PA)

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Eddie Jones has outlined his ultimate lofty ambition for his revamped England as they take their first step forward this Saturday in the countdown towards the start of the 2023 World Cup in France in 22 months’ time. The Australian has chosen an XV to take on Tonga that shows nine changes from the team beaten easily by Ireland in the Six Nations last March. 

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That was the low point in Jones’ tenure in charge of England since 2016 and he has reacted by shaking up his selection for this weekend’s Autumn Nations Series opener, a fixture that he hopes is the start of a journey that will culminate in glory in France in a couple of years’ time. 

Jones was on the receiving end of much flak in the wake of England’s 2021 Six Nations campaign. A fifth-place finish was seen as terrible for a country that only months earlier had clinched the 2020 Six Nations title and success in the Autumn Nations Cup. 

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His position was only guaranteed following an RFU review and having since used the summer series to scout new players and revamp his coaching staff, Jones has arrived into this three-game Autumn Nations Series – which also includes games versus the Wallabies and the Springboks – seeking to lay the foundation that can help England go all the way at the next World Cup and not fail at the final hurdle as happened in 2019. 

“I’m not relieved,” he said about the line now drawn in the sand eight months on from England’s painful Six Nations collapse which jeopardised his job. “Selection is a process and you move from one World Cup to the other. You have ideas about how you continually renovate the squad and we have been putting those ideas into place. 

“There was a time when the previous World Cup team was possibly going to age a little bit and be too old to go to the next World Cup. so post the Lions was the ideal opportunity to do that. So we have done that and we have got a good mix for this (Tonga) game, 13 guys from the previous World Cup and ten new guys. We feel like that is a team that can grow and develop and be the World Cup champions and that is our ultimate aim.

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“We want to be more aggressive with the ball. That is what we have worked out we need to do, that is where the game is at the moment. The speed of the ruck has gone from three seconds to two-point-seven-nine, which is about a ten per cent increase in speed, so there are opportunities to be more aggressive with the ball and want to be more aggressive. That is what we are looking for.”

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