Rugby World Cup 2019: Eddie Jones says Ben Te’o move has no impact on his plans and reacts to James Haskell news

Te’o has made himself unavailable to be an emergency injury replacement by moving to France, while former Jones lietenant Haskell has signed a deal to embark on an MMA career

Jack de Menezes
Thursday 22 August 2019 18:05
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Eddie Jones hoping Kamikaze kids Curry and Underhill will be fit to face Ireland

Ben Te'o’s sudden move to Toulon had no impact on England’s Rugby World Cup replacement list, despite the centre being an obvious choice to receive a call-up in the event of injury in Japan, claimed Eddie Jones.

The former Worcester Warriors centre ruled himself out of England contention on Wednesday by signing a deal with French club Toulon, meaning that he falls foul of the Rugby Football Union’s regulations to only select players based within the country or those who have signed a deal to do so.

Te’o found himself axed from the England squad earlier this summer following an altercation in Italy with veteran full-back Mike Brown, and their pair were notable omissions when Jones named his 31-man squad last week with the likes of Ruaridh McConnochie and Piers Francis named instead.

Te’o is understood to be deeply unhappy with the decision, and subsequently agreed to join Top 14 side Toulon where he is expected on Friday to undergo a medical. But Jones, who has repeatedly said over his four-year tenure as England boss that he will only select players who want to play for England, said on Thursday that Te’o’s sudden unavailability does not alter his contingency plans in the event that injury strikes during the World Cup.

“Everyone makes a choice,” Jones said. “Ben's made his choice. So we wish him all the best and we just get on with it.

“We got some word that was about to happen. Everyone makes their choice, we were happy for him to make his choice.”

Pushed further on whether his reserve list has had to be altered since Te’o’s announcement, Jones added: “Not really, no.”

Focussing on his current squad, Jones named a much-changed side to face Ireland this Saturday that sees the Australian revert to the George Ford-Owen Farrell axis that he depended on heavily throughout the first two years of his reign. The pair line up together at fly-half and inside centre respectively, with Manu Tuilagi returning outside them, meaning England will start the Twickenham encounter with a trio that has just five minutes of experience playing together in those specific positions.

“We've picked more of the experienced players, a lot of those guys came back in the third group of players, so we wanted to give them the necessary physical and mental preparation time and now we feel they're ready to play,” Jones said.

Te'o will not be available for England during the World Cup

“It's about finding out what sort of tactical approaches we can employ and use in Japan, because we're going to need a few. We want to see a passing game, we played a quite tight game against Wales, and last week there were zero line breaks. So we feel like this game we probably need to pass a bit more, and with George at 10 and Owen at 12 we think we can do that.

“It's a different combination, something we want to see. Owen can run, pass and kick, so it gives us a different perspective at 12. And Manu's more of a ball runner, that takes him out a bit wider. And we'll see how they go.”

Jones also acknowledged James Haskell’s decision to embark on a new career in mixed martial arts, which comes just three months after his retirement from rugby union following a difficult year littered with injuries.

Haskell was invited into the England camp on Wednesday to join the squad for a training session despite his retirement, and Jones was quick to thank the former Wasps and Northampton flanker for what he had given the national side over the last four years.

“I think he's got a good imagination!” laughed Jones. “We're really pleased he's doing well. He came in yesterday and did a weights session with the boys. It was really good to see him, he was a great servant for us.

“He's been a great England player, so it's good to find that he's got a new career ahead of him. Whether he's any good or not ... but I'm definitely buying tickets to his first fight. I've already got an order in. I'll be sitting ringside, hopefully I don't get any of his blood on me.”

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