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Jones: Missing senior players gives us chance to evolve and adapt

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ddie Jones believes the withdrawal of three senior players from his Six Nations squad this week is an exciting opportunity to “evolve and adapt” his England team.

Joe Launchbury, Sam Underhill (both injury) and Joe Marler (family reasons) pulled out of England’s 28-man squad, with Jones turning to Wasps pair Tom West and Jack Willis, as well as Bath’s Charlie Ewels, to replace them.

Jones is already without props Mako Vunipola and Kyle Sinckler for the tournament opener against Scotland at Twickenham next weekend, leaving him inexperienced in that department. Beno Obano looks set to debut from the bench, with Ellis Genge starting.

“It’s a great opportunity for us,” said Jones. “As weird as it seems for a head coach to say, it excites me.

“We’re going to have to work a little bit harder, we’re going to have find solutions with the new guys coming in, we’ll have to work harder to get those connections right.

“We’ve got someone like Ellis Genge now and he’s not the elder statesmen in the squad in terms of front rowers. Four years ago, he was a young kid on the block, so it shows how the team has evolved. This is a great chance for us to evolve and adapt so we’re excited.”

Jones said Marler – who retired from international rugby in 2018 for personal reasons before returning in 2019 – will be welcomed back when he is ready.

“Joe has been a wonderful contributor to the team over the last four years. He’s a great man on the field,” he said. “He’s a tough, uncompromising player. Off the field he’s a character and we fully support his decision. There will be some time in the future when he’s ready to come back and will get selected. We’ll take that when it comes.”

Jones is currently on his penultimate day of quarantine having been identified as a close contact of forwards coach Matt Proudfoot, who tested positive for Covid-19.

England assemble today at St George’s Park, the national football base, before moving to the Lensbury in Teddington this weekend to prepare for the tournament.

The players have an “orientation day” with medical checks today before Jones joins them tomorrow afternoon. 


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