Eddie Jones joked that his wife would need a half-and-half shirt after England drew Japan in the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
A year after losing the final to South Africa, England were handed as favourable a pool schedule for the tournament in France as they could possibly have hoped.
Jones’ team avoided the host nation as well as Australia, Ireland and Scotland. Instead they will face Argentina and his former team Japan, the darlings of the last two tournaments.
“I had this strong gut feeling that we were going to get Japan and I wasn’t disappointed,” he said. “I think my wife has already bought a half-English, half-Japanese shirt!
“I will do some work on her over the next two years to make sure she has got the right shirt on.”
England, the only northern hemisphere country to win the World Cup, are third favourites behind three-time winners New Zealand and France.
With two to advance from each of the four pools, they could have fared a lot worse than a group which also contains yet-to-be-known qualifiers from Oceania and the Americas.
Scotland and Ireland were pooled with the world champion Springboks whilst Wales, not for the first time, must get past Australia and Fiji.
England fans should bear in mind that Argentina toppled the All Blacks last month, whilst Japan beat Ireland and Scotland last year. Nonetheless they will expect a quarter-final against either Wales or Australia.
In the other half of the draw France and New Zealand, paired together in Pool A, will vie to avoid a semi-final clash with South Africa.
Speaking from Tokyo, where he is spending Christmas, Jones admitted that England are going through a “rebuilding phase”.
Asked to mark their autumn campaign out of 10 he replied: “10 – because we won two trophies”.
He added: “Everyone can criticise the way we played but at the end of the day, that’s the objective. The only currency we have is winning.”
Jones did, however, concede for the first time that he was not satisfied with the limited attacking game that won England the Six Nations and Autumn Nations Cup.
He admitted “our attack lacked precision – the passing precision is just not there” and blamed it on the lack of a pre-season in this most difficult of years.
“We are asking our rugby players to play back-to-back seasons with no pre-season so the chance for them to hone those fine skills hasn’t been there,” he said.
“We’ve given three weeks of our preparation away this year to the clubs to make sure the players get rest. I’m not trying to make excuses. That’s the reality of it.”
2023 WORLD CUP DRAW