Rugby Union

Jones casts doubt over England's World Cup hopes without Smith

Eddie Jones casts doubt over England’s World Cup hopes without fly-half Marcus Smith… as former head coach insists he has ‘moved on’ ahead of Twickenham return

  • Ex-boss Eddie Jones believes England need Marcus Smith to win the World Cup 
  • Steve Borthwick is expected to favour pairing of Owen Farrell and George Ford
  • Jones is preparing for a Twickenham comeback as Barbarians coach on Sunday 

Eddie Jones has reiterated that he was backing Marcus Smith to expand England’s attacking repertoire before being sacked – and cast doubt on the national team’s World Cup hopes if they adopt a purely pragmatic approach.

The former Red Rose head coach is in London with the Barbarians, preparing for a Twickenham comeback on Sunday against Steve Hansen’s World XV. 

He insisted that he is looking forward to returning to the stadium and has no hard feelings towards the RFU for his shock dismissal late last year, after a sequence of disappointing results.

Jones is in diplomatic mode on this visit before his second stint in charge of the Wallabies starts with a Test against South Africa in Pretoria next month. 

But his words may serve as a warning to England about their strategic direction as his successor, Steve Borthwick, is expected to favour Owen Farrell and George Ford over Smith going into the World Cup this autumn.

Eddie Jones believes England need Marcus Smith if they are going to win the World Cup

England head coach Steve Borthwick is expected to favour Owen Farrell and George Ford

When asked about Smith, Jones said: ‘He is a (All Black fly-half) Richie Mo’unga-type player, who will take a long time to mature. That’s the reality, but is he worth maturing? I thought he was, but it’s up to other people to judge.’

Borthwick has spoken candidly about the state England were in when he took over six months ago – claiming that they were not performing well in any area. 

Instead of being hurt by that assertion, Jones agreed with it, but also explained that it was a by-product of future planning.

‘It is true,’ he said. ‘We were trying to build a team to win the World Cup.’ 

Pointedly, he went on: ‘I don’t believe you’re going to be able to win the World Cup by just kicking. I don’t believe you can. I can be proven wrong, but I think with the grounds as they are, you are going to need to play more positive rugby.

‘It’s because of the conditions and speed of the ruck ball. The interesting thing watching South Africa in November is that they started running a lot more from kick-return and it opened up for their outside backs. I think that’s the trend of the game. You have to go quickly. You can’t just play slowly.’

Jones claimed there was not much dialogue now between him and his former assistant, Borthwick – ‘it’s dried up a bit’ – and was at pains to emphasise that he has banished any trace of sentiment towards England. 

‘I love the team I’m coaching, but then when I move I don’t have any regrets; any bad feelings,’ he said.

‘I want that team to do okay, but there’s no emotional attachment to that team any more. They (England) are just one of the six teams in the Six Nations. I watch them and I think about – like all the teams – how I would coach them if I had that team. Then if we come up against them, I’ve already got something in my head.’

Moving on was a swift process after his RFU sacking. 

Jones claimed it took him two or three weeks to come to terms with what had happened and look ahead to the next project. 

Jones is preparing for a Twickenham comeback as Barbarians coach on Sunday

‘Post England, I always knew there were possibilities,’ he said. ‘There was always going to be a job there.’

The prospect of Sunday’s appointment at Twickenham is one which enthuses him. There will be no sense of unease. 

‘I loved my time here and I’m looking forward to it,’ said Jones. ‘The sun is shining. It will be unbelievable.

‘I am going to enjoy every moment of it. I don’t hold any grudges against anyone. I have moved on. If they have not moved on, that’s their problem, not my problem.’

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