Jones loves the target on his back

Wed, 24 Jan 2018 19:47

SIX NATIONS REACTION: England are the team everyone else always wants to beat - and coach Eddie Jones would not have it any other way.

The Australian's injury-hit squad head into next month's edition looking to become the first side in the tournament's long history to win three successive outright Championship titles.

But even when they have not been at the summit of European rugby union, the Red Rose have always been an inviting target.

"Everyone wants to beat England," said Jones at the Six Nations launch in London.

"We have to live with that expectation and embrace that because We have the most money, the most players.

"It's like the Rugby Championship where everyone wants to beat New Zealand and South Africa but they don't necessarily want to beat Australia.

"But in this tournament, you can feel it, the priority of every team, they can make their tournament a success if they beat England."

Jones, Australia's coach when they lost the 2003 World Cup final to England, added: "It just raises the stakes for us.

"We're up for it. All these injuries create an opportunity for us - we'll show you how good we are."

Jones has lost just one game - when Ireland denied his side a second straight Six Nations Grand Slam last season -  since taking over as England coach following their first-round exit on home soil in the 2015 World Cup.

Yet despite that impressive run of results, Jones has sought to portray England, second only to world champions New Zealand in the global rankings, as outsiders to retain their title.

"I've read a number of commentaries on the Six Nations... Ireland's provincial sides are doing well, Scotland had a good year-end series, we had a muddling autumn series and have a list of injuries as long as my arm. We sneaked one team [Saracens] through to the quarterfinals of the European Cup... it's all doom and gloom."

Injuries, however, are a real concern with Chris Robshaw, the former England captain, and fullback Mike Brown now among those who could miss the Six Nations opener away to Italy in Rome on February 4.

Flank forward Robshaw has a back problem and Brown is struggling with blurred vision.

The Harlequins duo will continue their rehabilitation at England's training camp in Portugal.

"Chris Robshaw would win any sort of water Olympics at the moment. He's unbelievable in the pool," Jones said.

"If we play Italy in the pool he'd be all right, but if we're playing rugby then he'd be borderline to get there.

"Mike Brown is starting to do some light skills today [Wednesday] and we'd be hopeful that by the middle of next week he'd be all right to train. He's also borderline for Italy."

Meanwhile Jones said reserve tighthead prop Kyle Sinckler could miss the entire tournament with a hamstring strain "of significance".

England are now without 16 players heading into the Italy match although they are not alone among the Six Nations teams this season in dealing with a raft of injuries, raising fresh concerns about player welfare in the brutal world of modern rugby union.

Jones said last year's British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand may have had an impact, but accepted that alone could not explain the injury toll.

"You just have these runs. I don't think it's anything significant," he said.

"For the Lions players you can understand that the injury risk is high because of the lack of a proper pre-season that they have, but obviously they're not all Lions players."

Agence France-Presse

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Fri, 23 February 2018
Highlanders v Blues 06h35 Dunedin
Rebels v Reds 08h45 Melbourne
Munster v Glasgow Warriors 19h00 Irish Independent Park
Dragons v Edinburgh 19h30 Rodney Parade
Leinster v Kings 19h35 RDS
Scarlets v Ulster 19h35 Parc y Scarlets
France v Italy 20h00 Paris
Sat, 24 February 2018
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Ireland v Wales 14h15 Aviva Stadium
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Harlequins v Newcastle Falcons 15h00 Twickenham Stoop
Bulls v Hurricanes 15h15 Loftus Versfeld
Scotland v England 16h45 BT Murrayfield
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Sun, 25 February 2018
Zebre v Cardiff Blues 13h00 Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi
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Saracens v Leicester Tigers 15h30 Allianz Park
Team P W D L Pts
Ireland 2 2 0 0 9
England 2 2 0 0 9
Wales 2 1 0 1 6
Scotland 2 1 0 1 4
France 2 0 0 2 2
Italy 2 0 0 2 0