Eddie Jones has told his players to expect a hostile reception in Australia before Tuesday’s flight down under but after handing a surprise recall to Billy Vunipola to bring some much-needed power to his side, he warned the Wallabies that England are “going after them”.
Since England’s disappointing Six Nations campaign, Jones has sought to breathe new life into his side, citing a need to blend power and pace.
Accordingly, and with Alex Dombrandt and Sam Simmonds both unavailable through injury, Vunipola has been recalled for the first time since the 2021 Six Nations. Danny Care has also made the 36-man squad and will be charged with injecting pace into the side while Ben Youngs and Joe Marler are among the notable omissions.
England head to Australia on Tuesday on the back of a humiliating 31-point defeat by the 14-man Barbarians last Sunday and though Jones has reinforced his squad with 12 players from Saracens and Leicester following Saturday’s Premiership final, there are still eight uncapped members of the touring party, including London Irish’s Henry Arundell and Will Joseph, who travel as apprentices.
Nonetheless, Jones has an eight-match winning streak over Australia since taking over as head coach and believes Vunipola can provide his side with what they have been missing, echoing his promise of a Bodyline approach six years ago before delivering England’s first ever series win against the Wallabies.
“We’ve got to go after them,” said Jones. “We’ve got a whole intention of going after them. Davie Rennie’s sides traditionally want to play on the front foot, so it’s gonna be who wins the front foot.” Asked if that was something Vunipola needed to provide, Jones added: “100 per cent. And we’ve got to try and play a bit differently to try and get that power, which we are continually investigating.
“For the squad to go to Australia, it is completely different conditions, really hard, flat tracks, abusive crowds, they are in the face, the Australians. The media are going to be in our face. They are aggressive. It is a really aggressive environment. You can learn so much about your players and your squad on those tours, and we’ve missed that.”
Jones was particularly taken by Vunipola’s performance in a losing cause for Saracens in the Premiership final, but on Sunday he suggested the No 8 would be unavailable for the tour due a suspected concussion. “Initially it wasn’t positive but they’ve since done all the checks they do and he’s in the position where he can go on the tour,” said Jones.
“He can definitely bring power. He’s got that dexterity, and subtle hands.
When he’s at his best, which we think he is close to now, he gives you something a little bit different. [In the final there was] massive ball carrying, good work-rate in defence and, when he carried, he carried with dexterity and power. He probably sat back a little bit and sometimes it takes a reminder to get them to sit forward a bit more. He’s had that reminder and we’re optimistic that we’ll see the best of him in the Test arena.
“He needed to find his best. He wasn’t at his best the last Six Nations he played with us, he was a bit up and down. I asked him to go away and find his best, I think consistently for Saracens he has been close to that. I thought in the final he was exceptional, he looked like a Test No8.”
Discussing the omission of Youngs, whose sister-in-law Tiffany recently passed away, Jones revealed that he decided it was best to rest the 32-year-old, who is England men’s most capped ever player, opening the door for Care and the uncapped Leicester scrum-half Jack van Poortvliet. “Everything is a factor,” said Jones. “We just feel for [Ben] to have his best shot at the World Cup, and he wants to go, he needs a really good pre-season, get himself absolutely in the best physical condition he can then come back and give it a shot.”