Eddie Jones confirms he will walk away from England in two years - and fires warning to Owen Farrell

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Eddie Jones oversees training - GETTY IMAGES
Eddie Jones oversees training - GETTY IMAGES

Eddie Jones confirmed he is entering the “last chapter” of his England reign as he issued a warning to his captain and senior stars that they must up their games to remain part of his World Cup plans.

In the most shocking selection of his six-year tenure as England head coach, Jones dropped four of his most senior players in George Ford, Jamie George and Billy and Mako Vunipola for a two-day mini training camp. Owen Farrell was retained despite also struggling for form, although Jones was clear that he must "stoke the fires" if he is to be retained as captain for the autumn international campaign against Tonga, Australia and South Africa.

That will represent the first of five campaigns - two sets of autumn internationals, two Six Nations and next summer’s tour to Australia - leading into the 2023 World Cup, which Jones confirmed will represent his final act as England head coach. “It is the last chapter for me, the last two years,” Jones said. “I have never been so excited in my life. And I think the squad we’ve assembled is just the start.

“Almost after the Lions tour you draw a bit of a line in the sand because then you're in the last two years before the World Cup and everything you do counts. We've got five campaigns before the World Cup so in every campaign you want to get a little bit better and get to the World Cup ready to win.”

As first revealed by Telegraph Sport, that has involved Jones culling much of his senior leadership, although he emphasised the “door is not closed” on the old guard. “They need to find their best,” Jones said. “They probably haven’t been at their best over the last period of time, so we are giving them the opportunity to find their best.”

Fly-half Ford and both Vunipola brothers have filled the role of vice-captain under Jones and together with hooker George, who captained the Lions in a tour match, represent 276 caps worth of experience. Another 50-capper and Test Lion, Elliot Daly, is absent as he has an operation for a lower leg fracture that is likely to rule the Saracens utility back out until December.

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Farrell is given a reprieve for now despite Jones’ admission that he has been below par which resulted in him being dropped for a matchday 23 for the Lions’ final Test against South Africa. Jones’ vote of confidence, however, is conditional on him recapturing his previous form. “He has not been at his best over the last period of time but I am convinced that we can get him back to his best and then we will decide the leadership of the team,” Jones said. “At this stage there is no reason why he won’t be captain.

“He had Covid before the Six Nations, his team was in the Championship, they had spasmodic training sessions, he didn’t get high-quality games. This has been a difficult period for the players. Some players have reacted well and some players have not reacted well. For some players, we have decided to give them a rest and for others they need to get back in and stoke the fires. I have got no doubt that Owen will be back to his best by the autumn.”

There are eight uncapped players in the squad, including Harlequins wing Louis Lynagh who is also eligible for Australia and Italy as the son of Wallabies legend Michael. According to Jones, the apple does not fall far from the tree, “Louis has that (same) ability to power through defenders.” The other uncapped players are Harlequins flanker Jack Kenningham, Wasps hooker Gabriel Oghre, Sale scrum-half Raffi Quirke, Harlequins hooker Sam Riley, Sale prop Bevan Rodd, Northampton back Ollie Sleightholme and 31-year-old Gloucester centre Mark Atkinson.

Meanwhile, there are 10 other players included who made their debuts in the summer, such as fly-half Marcus Smith whom Jones believes can fill a similar role for England to what Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo’unga do for the All Blacks. “You’ve just got to see the way that Barrett and Mo’unga are playing for the All Blacks,” Jones said. “What’s needed in a modern day 10 - a 10 that can take the line on, can be aggressive, know when to hold his depth, and be an extra man in defence.”

Jones described the mixture of youth and experience, bolstered by the return of 31-year-old prop Joe Marler, as “intoxicating”. However, Jones was clear that even if the likes of Ford and the Vunipolas return, he is intent on revamping the leadership group. “If you look at the squad, increasingly since 2016 ours has become more diverse and has a greater range of ages,” Jones said. “If we go from Ben Youngs at 31 to 18-19 year-olds we have a great spread of different backgrounds and want the leadership group to reflect that diversity.”

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