Rugby: Jones' England to be fitter and faster

Coach Eddie Jones, unhappy with England's performance despite beating Scotland in their Six Nations opener, is looking to field a faster pack against Italy.
Coach Eddie Jones, unhappy with England's performance despite beating Scotland in their Six Nations opener, is looking to field a faster pack against Italy. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

LONDON • Eddie Jones believes his England squad are not fit enough to challenge the world's best teams and wants his players to deliver a faster brand of rugby against Italy on Sunday.

Changes are also set to be made to the starting XV who beat Scotland 15-9 in Edinburgh on Saturday. There will not be sweeping alterations but Jones says he may "conceivably pick a faster pack", as he seeks to transform last year's World Cup plodders.

The uncapped Maro Itoje and Josh Beaumont have been retained in a 25-man squad for the Italian job, with Jack Clifford and Mako Vunipola also pushing hard.

With 15 forwards named, Jones could opt for six-two bench split. Either way, the 21-year-old Itoje and Beaumont, 22, are edging ever closer to senior debuts.

Elliot Daly and Matt Kvesic, however, have been released back to their clubs.

"We were happy to have won but we certainly weren't happy with our performance," said Jones, who is looking for an improved display against opponents who ran France close, 21-23, in Paris. "We'll pick a side specifically for Italy… it won't be dissimilar to Scotland but the batting order might change."

He is also promising England "will be a fitter side than we are now" by the end of the Six Nations.

"I'm not saying we are unfit at the moment but there are periods of time in the game when we haven't got the concentration and the application to do what we want to do," said the Australian.

"The players are fit enough to play in the Six Nations but we definitely won't be fit enough to play in Australia on hard tracks. We will pick that up through training and, by the end of the Six Nations, we will be in pretty good fettle."

He declined to elaborate on whether he felt England had got their pre-World Cup conditioning wrong but wants to see more attacking intent in Rome.

"If we play well, we'll score points," he said. "If we play really, really well, we'll score a lot of points. Obviously Italy are part of the equation but that's how we're thinking."

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 11, 2016, with the headline 'Jones' England to be fitter and faster'. Print Edition | Subscribe