Jones unconcerned with players' roots

LONDON • Eddie Jones has defended his decision to select three New Zealand-born players for an England training camp in Brighton and insisted he will pick anyone available to him, despite World Rugby's clampdown on players switching allegiances on residency grounds last week.

Having already selected the New Zealand-born Sale wing Denny Solomona in his squad for the tour to Argentina, Jones cast an eye over the New Zealand-born full-back Jason Woodward at last week's training camp and raised a few eyebrows when announcing the 30-year-old New Zealand-born Gloucester scrum-half Willi Heinz for the three-day get-together on the south coast.

"I don't control who qualifies and who doesn't. It's not my job. You're talking to the wrong person. My job is to pick players who qualify to play for England," said Jones, who has also picked the Worcester and former South Africa Under-20s prop Nick Schonert for the Brighton training camp.

"If you have a problem with how they qualify, speak to the people who make those rules because I don't. I don't care how they qualify, I'll pick them. That's the rules we play under. I obey them like a good schoolteacher does.

"(Heinz) has got a good feel for the game, but you've got to remember we're bringing him in for this training camp only. And I wouldn't be making a big song and dance about it."

Heinz and Woodward have entirely legitimate claims - both have English grandparents - and, while they may face the Barbarians on May 29 in an uncapped fixture, neither is in the touring party for Argentina.

Jones, himself an Australian who coached his native Wallabies, Japan and acted as a consultant to the South Africa side that won the 2007 World Cup, played down their inclusion, claiming he was working with players "seventh or eighth choice in their position".

However, the timing of their selection is not aided by the fact that last week the World Rugby council voted to extend the residency rule from three to five years from 2020 - Solomona being the most recent player to qualify for England within the 36-month time frame.

It is also hardly a glowing endorsement of the English age-grade system, despite the Under-20 side claiming the Six Nations Grand Slam this year.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 18, 2017, with the headline 'Jones unconcerned with players' roots'. Print Edition | Subscribe