England coach Eddie Jones said that off-field problems will be part and parcel of his side’s Rugby World Cup campaign, after his surprise move in leaving out center Ben Te’o from his squad for Japan.
The former rugby league star was the major omission when Jones on Monday announced his 31-man party, with Te’o losing out to Piers Francis, who only has five caps behind him.
Te’o has long been a favorite of Jones during the Australian’s time as England boss, but a reported altercation with fullback Mike Brown during a training camp in Italy a fortnight ago cast a cloud over his possible involvement at the World Cup.
Jones, who took charge following England’s first-round exit on home soil in 2015, refused to reveal whether disciplinary reasons were behind his decision to ditch Te’o.
England’s last overseas World Cup campaign, in New Zealand in 2011, was marred by several embarrassing off-field incidents, but Jones said that there was only so much he could do in a bid to avoid fresh trouble.
“I’ve coached for 25 years, I’ve never been confident in a team being smooth,” Jones said. “We’re like any family — everyone sits around the dining table, everyone enjoys good conversation, but you know there are problems.”
Jones had previously set great store in experience, but his party for Japan features an uncapped player in Bath wing Ruaridh McConnochie, with three of his 31 — scrumhalf Willi Heinz, flanker Lewis Ludlam and hooker Jack Singleton — only making their England debuts in Sunday’s 33-19 warmup win over Wales at Twickenham.
By contrast, Jones has now jettisoned fullback Brown, scrumhalf Danny Care and backrow Chris Robshaw, a former England captain.
Jones was adamant the extra injection of energy would make up for any deficit elsewhere.
“I could have picked more experienced players, but I just don’t feel they’ll give us what the younger guys will give us,” Jones said. “I think the game’s changing a lot, too… It’s become such a power game.”