England coach backs Joseph after hat-trick

England's Jonathan Joseph (right) tackles Italy's Luke McLean.
England's Jonathan Joseph (right) tackles Italy's Luke McLean. PHOTO: REUTERS

ROME • While Eddie Jones has a "pretty good idea" of his squad for a crucial Six Nations clash against Ireland in a fortnight, there is a pretty good chance Jonathan Joseph will be in his starting XV.

England, who flopped out of the World Cup as hosts last year, saw Joseph score three second-half tries on his second consecutive start, as Jones' men followed last week's battling 15-9 win over Scotland at Murrayfield with a 40-9 dismantling of Italy in Rome.

Having escaped the injuries so dreaded against the usually physical Italians, England are now set for two weeks of intense focus on beating Ireland in a fortnight.

"We've had two games and two wins and no major injuries, so we're sailing along pretty well at the moment," said Jones, who became England's first foreign head coach when he replaced Stuart Lancaster in the wake of their World Cup debacle.

England have finished runners-up in the last four Six Nations and are set to welcome an Irish side bent on atoning for an opening draw with Wales and Saturday's 10-9 defeat by France in Paris.

But Jones, sounding jovial and bullish after a much-improved second-half performance saw Bath's Joseph score his maiden England hat-trick, says he has already seen enough to know the nucleus of his match-day squad.

"I've got a pretty good idea at the moment," said the Australian. "For each game we'll have a particular game plan and depending on who is suitable for that game will play."

Jones ruffled a few feathers when he demanded England give Italy a good "smacking" in Rome, but, after resisting on their way to trailing 9-11 at half-time, Italy finally caved in. When Joseph intercepted Leonardo Sarto's pass to Michele Campagnaro in the 52nd minute, Italy's heads began to drop.

The speed and alertness of England's replacements was soon felt, and error-stricken Italy were hastened to a chastening defeat when Joseph added another two tries and Owen Farrell one. For Jones, it was all part of the plan.

"We weren't expecting to score a lot of points in the first half, we were expecting to do that in the second half and that's how it turned out," he said. "We could have easily scored 60 points out there."

Jones was quick to credit the 24-year-old Joseph, who played down suggestions that he had been trying to prove a point.

"It was more a case of just wanting to do my country proud, my family proud," he said. "I don't take any game lightly, I want to prove myself every game."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 16, 2016, with the headline 'England coach backs Joseph after hat-trick'. Print Edition | Subscribe