Harlequins fly-half Smith and Bath number eight Mercer were named as apprentices for the squad chosen to face Argentina at Twickenham next month, meaning they will train with the team but will not be considered for selection.
When quizzed on what the uncapped duo’s roles will entail, Jones light-heartedly responded: “They make the tea, they get the paper and the paper clips when you need them. They’ll put out the boots and chase some balls.”
Asked to confirm there was no chance of them featuring against the Pumas, the coach joked: “Depends on how well they make the tea!”
On a more serious note, Jones spoke glowingly of Smith and Mercer’s abilities but expressed concern about their physical stature at the top level.
“[Smith is a] very good young player again. He’s courageous, makes good decisions at the line. He’s got everything there to be a good player but he’s got a long way to go,” said the England boss.
“Mercer’s a bit the same. He’s definitely worth investing in. They’re players for the future of English rugby. Whether they’re players for the 2019 Rugby World Cup will depend.”
? Congratulations to:
— Harlequins ? (@Harlequins) October 26, 2017
“I had a chat with him on Sunday. At the moment, he’s just not playing well enough but the door’s not shut on him,” said Jones.
“He’s a great player, he’s been a great servant to English rugby – 70-odd caps – and I’m sure he can regain his form.”
Denny Solomona was picked ahead of Marland Yarde on the wing, despite being sent home from a pre-season training camp over “team culture issues”.
“He’s a human being, everyone makes mistakes. He’s made a mistake and he’s atoned for it. We’re expecting him to follow the team’s culture, which he will,” commented Jones.
“He wants to play for England, he understands he’s done the wrong thing and I don’t think he’s going to do it again.
“We had a look at Marland in regards to Denny, and the number of tries Denny scored is far superior and we want tries from that wing, so Denny gets the nod.”
Sign up to our mailing list here and we’ll keep you up to the minute with weekly updates from the world of rugby.