England head coach Eddie Jones spoke to RugbyPass from their training base as his side begins preparations to face New Zealand on Saturday. Reflecting on the nailbiting one point win against South Africa, Jones had some bad news regarding Sale flanker Tom Curry who limped off injured against the Boks.
Jones said, “It’s highly unlikely he’ll be available for the rest of the tournament. We’ve got Underhill or Wilson who can come in at 7 so we’re pretty well resourced in that area.”
Having been withdrawn late in the week, Jones was also able to give an update on Manu Tuilagi and the state of Courtney Lawes, adding, “Manu and Courtney are both progressing well, we’re hopeful that they’ll be full training on Tuesday.”
With Chris Ashton having earned his first cap for four years on Saturday, Jones spoke warmly about one of his men who beat New Zealand in 2012. Jones said, “Chris is determined to play for England. He sacrificed a lot in terms of his contract at Toulon so we’re pleased to have him back in the squad. He’s a good character, he’s good to be
around the squad. What I’ve really enjoyed about the squad, there’s a great deal of togetherness. We’ve got some new guys in the squad, some different characters and it’s a nice blend of players.”
Jones started Owen Farrell at fly-half for just the third time under his stewardship but when it came to describing how the 10-12-13 axis performed against the Springboks, Jones was less complimentary, “Very rusty, as you’d expect with three training runs. Certainly, we always knew that Owen could play 10 well. We know also that George and Owen could play together well at 10 and 12 so we’ve got two really good options in that area.”
Jones said, “We’re not the Springboks. We don’t play like the Springboks so it’s difficult to replicate things the Springboks did. But certainly they played with great aggression, great urgency, great effort and certainly those areas are areas we’re able to look at.”
Having now strung two wins together since five consecutive losses in 2018, Jones responded to whether England’s biggest challenge this week is convincing his players that victory against the world champions is a possibility.
Jones replied, “I think that’s part of preparing for any game. You’ve got to have the necessary belief within your squad that you’ve got the tactics right, you’ve got the fitness, you’ve got the chemistry of the team right. Once you’ve got that, then you’ve got an opportunity to put yourself in the position where you think about winning the game.”
Jones continued, “New Zealand’s an important game, don’t get me wrong. They’re the best team in the world and that’s exciting for us but in terms of preparation, the preparation’s about getting better and that’s the same for every Test match we play.”
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