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- English rugby union player
Eddie Jones has backed Maro Itoje to become England captain, reversing his view that the forward is not suited to the role.
Jones had claimed that Itoje was “very inward-looking” and “doesn’t influence people off the field” and revealed that he had sent the 27-year-old to acting classes to improve his communication skills.
However, in an exclusive interview with Brian Moore's Telegraph podcast, which you can listen to easily using the audio player above, the England head coach said that he has now changed his mind, insisting the Saracens second row has matured impressively over the past six months.
Jones also praised his contribution as a leader in England’s clean sweep of their autumn international campaign.
“I've never seen a guy mature as much as he has in the last six months so it's been a really good period for him,” Jones said. “I'm going to contradict myself – and contradiction's a big part of life – but I've got no doubt in the future he will captain England. Whether that's in my time or someone else's time.
"He is really moving in the right direction and it was interesting the role that he played in the team during the autumn. He took on the role responsible for team communication. It is when the team get together to talk about things they need to talk to. And no one's done a better job than he has done so I'm really pleased with the way he is moving.”
In the wide-ranging interview, Jones admitted he has burnt out coaches, revealed the team's work with an inner city school teacher and forensic psychologist, questioned the role of technology in rugby and doubted South Africa's World Cup 2023 chances.
Jones also revealed that Luke Cowan-Dickie was originally schemed to fill one of the vice-captain roles for the autumn series before the Exeter hooker was ruled out with ankle injury. With Owen Farrell also missing two of the three matches, Courtney Lawes stepped into the breach as a captain and Jones wants to reduce the leadership burden on a single individual.
“We need a group of players who can step into the breach and that was one of those pleasing things of the autumn. We want to have a team where certainly a few people have ‘c’ or ‘vice c’ next to their name but the real leader is the team itself. And that was a really big move.
"I felt we made a small step towards that in the autumn. We're certainly not there yet but we have just got to keep working on it. I was really pleased how Owen came back. So when he comes back from his injury which I'm sure he will, he will be a key player in our group going forward.”