Eddie Jones was evidently delighted with his new faces in England’s demolition job at Twickenham on Saturday, and while he admitted that the three tries Fiji scored in the 58-15 rout means they still have work to do on their defence, he was able to joke at his old rival Warren Gatland amid talk of the British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand next summer.
Jones had special praise for Elliot Daly and man-of-the-match Semesa Rokoduguni, who made his first appearance since he was dropped after one sole appearance against the All Blacks in 2014 and announced his return with two tries. In total, England scored nine tries against a poor Fijian side who found themselves 31-0 before they woke from their slumber.
The Australian joked after the match once again that the performance was “the best fish and chips in England”, but he was keen to praise Rokoduguni for overcoming his international pain two years ago – under Stuart Lancaster – to turn in an impressive attacking performance.
“He promised two tries and he got them,” Jones praised. “I thought he did really well. It’s difficult when you’ve had a hard personal experience like he has from two years ago. He came back today, was nervous before the game, but the players supported him very well and he played well.”
Jones also had high praise for Daly, who impressed for the second week running despite being moved to the wing to accommodate the returning Jonathan Joseph.
“He [Daly] was good, he was really good,” Jones added. “Good shoes, good feet, nice sense of awareness and worked off his wing, so he’s presenting a great option for us. Versatility, he can play 13 or 11, I want to see if he can play 15 in the future for us, but really good.”
Daly’s form gives Jones a selection dilemma, although he will be the first to welcome that issue. Joseph also marked his return to the starting XV with two tries, having started the 37-21 win over South Africa last weekend among the replacements.
“His [Joseph] defence was absolutely first-class,” Jones continued. “He’s a great reader, a great chop-tackler, he was very good today.
“We’ve got some good [selection] questions to answer. All things being equal we’ll pick a good side next week.”
The victory means that this resurgent England side have now recorded 11 consecutive wins since their humiliating Rugby World Cup group stage exit and subsequent arrival of Jones to replace Lancaster. With a Six Nations Grand Slam and whitewash series victory in Australia already under his belt, Jones has been clear in his determination to take on the All Blacks at become the world’s leading side, but he insisted he always believed England had it in them to embark on this current run that saw them draw within one victory of their longest winning streak in their history.
Jones said: “Yeah, because there’s talent here mate. That’s what I said all along, there’s talent. When you’ve got talent you’ve got chances, and there’s no way we’ve come anywhere near maximising out talent yet, and that’s the exciting thing for us.”
Jones even allowed himself to cast an eye on Wales’s close call against Japan, the side he left to take charge of England, as he labelled the 33-30 win in Cardiff “not a good result” for their neighbours. He faced questions once again on whether the likes of Steve Borthwick will be included among Gatland’s Lions squad, and even though he gave his full backing to any of his backroom team who are offered the chance to head to New Zealand next summer, he couldn’t help but joke at his Antipodean rival.
“I’m not Warren Gatland and I don’t look like Warren Gatland. He’s got a few k’s [kilograms] on me so I can’t even answer that,” he said, tongue in cheek. “You’ll have to ask Warren, I’m not offering [Steve] the Lions job. It’s not a concern, all I’ve said is that I’m happy for all of our staff apart from myself to be involved in the Lions and if they get offered a job, I’ll be encouraging them to take the job, and I’ll be encouraging them to get down there and work out how to beat New Zealand because that’s our aim. They can help the Lions and they can help us.
He added: “You get to understand everything about New Zealand rugby, and the if they’re still No 1 when we play them, they’re the side we want to beat, but we’re not sure they’re going to be No 1 then.”
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