Eddie Jones has admitted he is powerless to stop England’s problem with off-field indiscipline after omitting Ben Te’o from his World Cup squad following his altercation with Mike Brown at a recent training camp in Treviso.
Te’o was the high-profile omission from England’s 31-man squad for Japan after a second breach of discipline in recent months, having been forced to apologise to his teammates along with Billy Vunipola following a late-night drinking session at the end of the Six Nations, while Brown was also omitted by Jones.
England’s last overseas World Cup eight years ago was blighted by off-field problems including the infamous dwarf-throwing incident in Queenstown and Manu Tuilagi’s ferry jump in Auckland. More recently Tuilagi was sent home in disgrace from an England training camp along with Denny Solomona for a late-night drinking session two years ago.
Jones refused to confirm that the omissions of Te’o and Brown were a result of their altercation but he predicted further issues arising between now and the end of England’s World Cup campaign. “I’m sure we’ll have our problems and we’ll deal with it,” said Jones.
“We’re like any family – everyone sits around the dining table, everyone enjoys good conversation but you know there are problems and we’re exactly the same. We’ve got 31 sitting around the table, we can have nice conversations [but] you know potentially there’s a problem. The players – they are adults, they’re responsible, they want to play for England and we could have some problems. If we do, we’ll deal with them.
“Every team has problems‚” don’t believe the Legacy book [about the All Blacks culture], which everyone seems to base their opinion on teams on. No team’s like that – every team has its problems.”
Owen Farrell, confirmed as Jones’s World Cup captain, added: “We want to police ourselves as much as we can. The thing of being part of that is making sure that we’re being good lads and I think we have a good group.”
Jones did not rule out the possibility of calling on Te’o in the event of injuries elsewhere, but refused to reveal the names of the players put on standby. “I’m not going to go into reasons why he’s not been selected. We’ve had that conversation with Ben. He understand it. Whether he agrees with it is another matter. He’s not in our top 31 players at the moment.”
In place of Te’o, Jones has selected Piers Francis among his centres and called on the rookie flanker Lewis Ludlam, who made an impressive debut against Wales, as well as Ruaridh McConnochie, the uncapped Bath winger, who caps a remarkable rise, having only made the transition from sevens to XVs last summer. With question marks over Jack Nowell’s ankle injury – the Exeter winger is hoping to be fit for England’s final warm-up match against Italy on 6 September – Jones has included six back-three players, meaning he has gambled with only two tightheads in Kyle Sinckler and Dan Cole and two scrum-halves – Ben Youngs and Willi Heinz. Brad Shields, who is currently nursing a foot injury, and Harry Williams are among those to miss out. “It’s our best 31,” insisted Jones. “I’m convinced it’s our best 31. I could have picked more experienced players but I just don’t feel they’ll give us what the younger guys will give us.”
McConnochie is the first uncapped member of an England World Cup squad since 2011, when Joe Simpson was included by Martin Johnson. He was due to make his debut against Wales last Sunday but was ruled out with a hip injury, prompting the 27-year-old to fear the worst. ‚ÄúIt was a dark 24 hours with the injury,” said the Olympic sevens silver medallist. “Then come this morning I was quite at peace, if it didn’t happen I’d have no regrets over the process. Eddie has been great all the way through. He said something really good to me at the start which was you are in because you’re great at what you do. That gives an uncapped player like me massive confidence.”
Forwards Dan Cole (Leicester, 86 caps), Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter, 12 caps), Tom Curry (Sale, 11 caps), Ellis Genge (Leicester, 10 caps), Jamie George (Saracens, 37 caps), Maro Itoje (Saracens, 27 caps), George Kruis (Saracens, 32 caps), Joe Launchbury (Wasps, 59 caps), Courtney Lawes (Northampton, 72 caps), Lewis Ludlam (Northampton, 1 cap), Joe Marler (Harlequins, 58 caps), Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins, 22 caps), Jack Singleton (Saracens, 1 cap), Sam Underhill (Bath, 9 caps), Billy Vunipola (Saracens, 42 caps), Mako Vunipola (Saracens, 53 caps), Mark Wilson (Newcastle/Sale, 13 caps).
Backs Joe Cokanasiga (Bath, 5 caps), Elliot Daly (Saracens, 31 caps), Owen Farrell (Saracens, 70 caps), George Ford (Leicester, 56 caps), Piers Francis (Northampton, 5 caps), Willi Heinz (Gloucester, 1 cap), Jonathan Joseph (Bath, 41 caps), Jonny May (Leicester, 45 caps), Ruaridh McConnochie (Bath, uncapped), Jack Nowell (Exeter, 33 caps), Henry Slade (Exeter, 22 caps), Manu Tuilagi (Leicester, 33 caps), Anthony Watson (Bath, 34 caps), Ben Youngs (Leicester, 86 caps).