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Jones: Just three spots remain

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Just three spots up for grabs as Jones hints he knows the identity of 28 of England's RWC 31

Eddie Jones has revealed there are just three places left to fill to complete his 31-strong England squad for the Rugby World Cup in Japan to be named on August 12.

The head coach, who announced an official training squad on Thursday made up of 35 fit players and three rehabilitating from injury, will use the training camps and the first warm-up game with Wales on August 11 to finalise his selection decisions and will then have his chosen squad for the remaining games with Wales (August 17), Ireland (August 24) and Italy (September 6) to work out his starting XV for the tournament.

Central to those discussions will be Gloucester No10 Danny Cipriani, who will only make the plane for Japan if Jones opts to go with three outside-halves – something he would prefer to avoid as it would give him more flexibility when choosing his backs. 

Sevens convert Ruaridh McConnochie, the Bath wing, is making Jones think again about his back three options, while Joe Marler’s decision to come out of retirement has made the choice of the back-up loosehead to Mako Vunipola a tricky choice.

Jones insists that even without Dylan Hartley, Chris Robshaw, Mike Brown and Danny Care the squad will have enough experience to handle the pressure of a World Cup. 

He said: “If you don’t know after four years, there’s something wrong. The great thing for us is that we’ve had a couple of young guys come through who we didn’t know a lot about, such as Ruaridh McConnochie and Lewis Ludlam (Northampton). 

“Those X-factor players who come through late are an added bonus. They are like the extra present under the Christmas tree that you didn’t know about. That’s what makes it so exciting.

“I have had a four-year plan. The first two years is building the base, which is about experienced players. And you hope those experienced players can continue on to the World Cup. Some do and some don’t – and the game changes a bit, which is something we don’t control.

“So we have had to make alterations to some of the experienced guys who we maybe thought would go to the World Cup, but now potentially aren’t going.

“We are maybe a little bit shy (in terms of experience), but there are some factors which you just can’t control 100 per cent. I’m happy with the squad we’ve got. I want to keep improving the squad. 

“If other people become available we will look at them. And Dylan is one of those guys. He did a great job for us as captain, that’s not forgotten, but you have got to be fit to play in the World Cup.

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“The balance of character is so important. You have to have a balance between young guys who just want to rip in and train hard, and then experienced players you give you calmness and focus. We want to keep the squad fresh and there is competition for certain places. 

“The big thing for us is having that cooperative competition. We are building a team to win the World Cup, but at the same time, we want guys. It is one of the hardest things in life to balance, cooperation and competition.”

Jones, who is keeping an open mind about Cipriani, added: “He’s one of 38 players and has an opportunity to show us that.

“This is the most exciting time for the team because we have got the only time in English rugby where you have got four or five weeks with players to build a team. He has an opportunity to show it just as the other 37 players have, so I’m eager to see how he goes.”

Jones confirmed that the England squad’s wives and girlfriends will not be allowed in team hotels in Japan. It’s an issue he does not want to have to deal with. 

“I don’t know. I’m not a travel agent. How am I expected to know? We haven’t selected a squad. They can be there, but they won’t be in the team hotel. It’s the same rule we have in England that we will have in Japan.”

WATCH: Part one of the two-part RugbyPass documentary on the many adventures that fans can expect to experience in Japan at this year’s World Cup

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Just three spots up for grabs as Jones hints he knows the identity of 28 of England's RWC 31