Eddie Jones will take inspiration from the manhunt of Osama bin Laden as he hopes to equip England for the “most volatile rugby environment we have ever seen”.
Jones recently spent “a fascinating couple of days” with the Navy SEALs in San Diego to glean a better understanding of helping players “to cope with the unexpected” as cards, head injury assessments and refereeing interpretations influence every match.
A year out from the World Cup, the landscape has reinforced his long-held belief that adaptability will be crucial. Jones used Operation Neptune Spear, which was carried out by the Navy SEALs in 2011 despite a helicopter crash-landing, as an analogy for England’s preparations.
“You know the Osama thing, they practised that whole project for 12 months for 38 minutes of work,” Jones said. “And the first thing they did was wrong. The helicopter hit the wall [of the Bin Laden compound]. They had 12 months to prepare, went through it religiously and they still got something wrong, but then they were able to cope with it and get it done within 38 minutes.
“You look at the analogy between us now. Twelve months to the World Cup, we’re playing for a game that’s got 35 minutes of ball in play, so the ability to dress-rehearse, prepare the players for what’s coming up, whether it’s the first round, second round, third round, whatever it is, that is the opportunity going forward. Exciting isn’t it?”
Continuing parallels with the Navy SEALs, Jones said England would be staging their own “mini hell week” in Jersey ahead of the autumn internationals against Argentina, Japan, New Zealand and South Africa.
Eddie Jones’ England side face Argentina, Japan, New Zealand and South Africa in the autumn internationals.Credit:Main photo: Louise Kennerley
He cited New Zealand’s 39-37 win over the Wallabies in Melbourne, when the visitors lost David Havili, Quinn Tupaea and Sam Cane before half-time, as an example of the chaos that can descend in the heat of a Test match.
Experience will be crucial for England, but Will Joseph and Henry Arundell, both of whom will attend the training camp, were name-checked as youngsters who impressed on the tour of Australia in July.
“We saw in Australia some really good toughness and togetherness, especially in the second and third Test, and some young guys coming through,” Jones said. “Just watching Arundell and Will Joseph at the weekend [for London Irish against Bristol] makes you excited. They’re humble, they want to get better, they’re training hard. And who knows where they can go.
“That leadership part is really important for us because we’ve got this group of young players coming through. We’ve got to get that right balance of people and skills and mindset to lead the team into what’s going to be probably the most volatile rugby environment we’ve ever seen.”
Jones suggested that Ireland and France were “nose and nose” at the top of the international scene. South Africa and New Zealand, he said, sat third and fourth, with England nestled in behind them.
Returning to the meeting in Melbourne between Australia and New Zealand, won by the All Blacks after a controversial call from referee Mathieu Raynal to punish Bernard Foley for time-wasting, Jones reiterated his belief that rugby union could be played at a quicker rate.
“It’s a poor part of our game,” he said. “There’s not enough ball in play or fatigue in the game, and there are too many stoppages. Anything referees can do to speed up the recommencement of play, the better it is.”
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