Eddie Jones targets five 'world-class' England players by 2019 World Cup
Tom Hamilton
January 14, 2016
'Squad a mix of experience and potential' - Jones

England coach Eddie Jones says he will make the new 33-man squad feel "a little bit uncomfortable" as he targets the development of five world-class players by the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

Jones took on the role on Dec. 1 and has spent the last 44 days watching every Aviva Premiership and European game going and also sought the advice of trusted confidants as he looked to get the right blend of youth and experience in his first squad. The decision to axe Tom Youngs was one of the headlines but it was another absentee, though due to injury and not form, Manu Tuilagi who was also high in the agenda.

Tuilagi played 29 minutes for Leicester last weekend -- his first rugby since October 2014 -- and was not included in the 33-man squad but will return to the mix in place of Ollie Devoto once he has returned to full fitness. Jones feels he could be England's version of Ma'a Nonu and says he "can be one of the guys the team is built around".

The Leicester centre is likely to be one of the players Jones feels can be classified as 'world-class' but he is expecting the squad he has picked to be taken to new levels of mental and physical endurance as he looks to stop England's poor record of just one Six Nations title since 2003.

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"I have no doubt that in this current squad of 33 there are four or five players who if they change their mind-set and they change their attitude, they can become world-class players," Jones said. "If we get four or five world class players -- and I'm not going to name them -- then we can be the dominant team in the world. That's what it takes.

Could these be the five world-class players? Manu Tuilagi - Tuilagi is the most destructive ball-carrier England boast and Jones is looking forward to getting him back to full working order after a lengthy spell out through injury.

Jack Clifford - Clifford can play across the back-row and has the perfect mentors at Harlequins in Chris Robshaw and Nick Easter. Jones sees his long-term future at No.8 but could be a short-term option at openside.

Maro Itoje - The ex-England Under-20s captain was included in the 50-man pre-World Cup squad but missed out on a spot in the final group. He can play in the second-row and in the back-row and is hugely promising.

Henry Slade - Jones sees Slade as either a fly-half or inside centre and has arguably the best passing game in English rugby. He is currently sidelined with a broken leg and dislocated ankle but Jones is a big fan. Expect to see him feature in Australia on the end-of-season tour.

'Jones must decide when players are ready'

George Ford - Ford struggled for form at the start of the season, put down to a World Cup hangover, but looked back to his best against Toulon at the weekend with two wonderful drop-goals. Aged just 22, Ford's potential is frightening.

"Our job is to develop those players and if we do that the side will come through. There are enough good, hardworking players here, but to be the dominant team in the world you've got to be better than good and hard working.

"You have to want to do that bit extra, seek that extra bit of advice, you have to look at doing things differently. You've got to be desperate and hungry for success."

It has been a whirlwind month-and-a-half for Jones who has travelled the length and breadth of the country meeting directors of rugby and a handful of players. He openly admitted on Wednesday that prior to arriving in England he did not know Paul Hill or Jack Clifford "from a bar of soap" but both have forced their way into his first squad. He feels Hill has "oodles of potential" while in Clifford's case it has been a "revelation watching him play".

Both may have to wait for their England debut as he looks to give the younger, more inexperienced players a gradual introduction to Test rugby and may only give them three games in the first year and then increase their exposure leading up to the World Cup in four years' time.

Brown: There is good times ahead for England

But first up on his radar is England's Six Nations opener against Scotland on Feb. 6 and he admits his 'honeymoon period' will be over on the eve of their Calcutta Cup clash. He will only pick a captain once he has established what his first-choice side is.

One of the more intriguing positions will be openside -- one that Chris Robshaw occupied for all but three matches under Stuart Lancaster. Robshaw will be a No.6 under Jones with the England coach labelling him "easily one of the best players in the Premiership" and will be looking to short-termism at openside in the opening games of his tenure to the extent he has encouraged Wallabies legend George Smith to help James Haskell in the dark arts of the openside position.

"If you look at rugby generally around the world and particularly at Test rugby, you need to have someone who is consistently good at slowing down opposition ball," Jones said. "A seven's primary job is to ensure that on your ball you get quick ball on that first ruck. On the opposition's ball they have to slow it down.

"We have to pick a bloke at the moment who can do that primary job of first-phase work. There are a couple of blokes in the squad who we think can do it, not on a long-term basis, but on a short-term basis.

"James Haskell might be one of them. Clifford's best position is definitely going to be No.8, but he might have to start off as a seven. [Matt] Kvesic can play seven. He's another option. We have three options there."

England coach Eddie Jones has shaken the establishment with his first squad © Getty Images

The battle for the starting centre berths will also be fascinating. A three-quarter axis of George Ford at fly-half and Owen Farrell at inside centre looks to be the most likely option, given the injury to Henry Slade, but whoever wears shirts in the midfield will have to fit Jones' blueprint.

"I want a 12 who can take the ball through the line. They've got to make sure they straighten the attack by running straight, so sometimes they've got to take contact, other times they've got to pass and other times they've got to kick. That's the sort of player we're looking for.

"The 13 is like your backs version of a No.8 who can do a bit of everything; he can link, he can put the ball behind them and he's a good communicator. We've got two guys with exceptional feet in Joseph and Daly, and they're not bad readers of the game.

"The 10 has got to be the bus driver and the servant. He has to know which route to take and know what the team needs to have, and we've got two guys who can do that in George and Owen. We're reasonably well set up. Obviously Manu would be a key player for us at 12, but we've got to deal with what we can deal with now."

The Jones era begins in earnest on Jan. 24 when the squad meet at their Pennyhill Park base for the first time. They will be thrown into shorter but more intense training sessions than they are used to and Jones is expecting, and welcoming, complaints. That's the start of the journey he hopes will see England claiming silverware but has warned hopeful supporters that he should not be seen as "the saviour of English rugby".

"My job is to create a winning English rugby team. That's what I have to do and that is what I am going to do. If players don't want to be part of that they don't have to be. The players have a choice; if they don't want to work hard they won't be there.

"It's going to take more than what they have ever done in their lives to create a winning England team, that's the reality of it. Something has to change. It's the old definition of insanity: someone expecting different people to do the same thing over and over again hoping to get different results. It doesn't happen. If we do the same as what we have done since 2003 then we will get the same results."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Tom Hamilton is the Associate Editor of ESPNscrum.

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