On Tuesday a 26-man England Rugby training squad assembled in Brighton for a three-day camp. Even though only there are many familiar faces missing due to their Premiership semi-final commitments this opening camp marks the start of England's preparations to head Down Under.
There's no doubt that the RBS 6 Nations Grand Slam was a triumph however every single player, and member of England's management, are under no illusions regarding the magnitude of the task ahead of them. First, England will face a full strength Wales side without a whole host of their first choice players and then the intensity will rise again with the prospect of facing Michael Cheika's Wallabies in their own back yard.
Eddie is right when he says that in the summer England will be facing a 'higher pace' and 'higher intensity' and while he knows that they cannot make huge physical gains in four weeks he wants the side to make mental changes. He is adamant that his England side will not make excuses and focus on the fact that it's been a long and tough season because if they do then they've talked themselves out of a victory before they've even got on the plane. Instead he wants players that 'are desperate to change the history of English rugby' and players that want to 'get in the face of the Australians and make them feel uncomfortable'.
Those already assembled in camp need to quickly switch back into England mode and for some of the individuals that are training in Brighton they are fighting for a few boarder line spots on the plane that are up currently for grabs. Eddie ruled out the prospect of Sam Underhill touring, saying that he had a good discussion with the young flanker and that given the number of injuries he's had this season having a full pre-season would be best for his development. The hope with Sam is that he will be ready to be selected in November. The reports of a phone call with Steffon Armitage seem to be unfounded and negotiations regarding ensuring that Ben Te'o's contract at Worcester starts in time appear to be ongoing but not complete yet.
Eddie shared openly his perspective on a number of players that are currently in Brighton. Clearly the start of this week can't have been easy for George Ford however Eddie praised the fly-half's output on day one;
"Well he is playing for England now, he doesn't have to worry about his club. All that he has to worry about is playing well for England. Given the circumstances I had a quick chat with him yesterday and said 'if you want to have a couple of days off?' He said, 'No I want to train'. He's here, he trained well today and is fully committed to be the best player that he can be."
Danny Cipriani is another that's in camp and it's fair to say that Eddie's assessment wasn't the most positive regarding Sale Sharks' ten;
"He's been ok [at Sale]. He has been good enough to get into the squad here. He has done a good job at Sale. He has got to understand that at 28-29 he has got to evolve into a different sort of player and that's the process he is going through now. Whether he can make himself into a worthwhile international player is his challenge."
Another discussed was captain Dylan Hartley. The Northampton Saint is fit and training and Eddie commented that he trained 'very well' on Tuesday and praised his attitude and application in wanting to go out and take to it Australia. All indications are that Dylan will continue to hold onto the captaincy, even though it was initially provided only on a 'tournament basis' for the RBS 6 Nations.
The final point that England's head coach addressed was regarding the future steps between now and the draw for the 2019 Rugby World Cup. It has been announced that this draw will take place in May 2017 and he was very clear about where they needed to be at that point in time;
"We have to target getting into that top three in those 13 Tests [between now and the draw] and that means you have to beat the sides ahead of you. When you get to fourth in the world, you have to beat the sides at one, two and three. We play the sides at one and two, so they're massive opportunities for us."
The short session at the start of England's summer tour preparations cemented in my mind the ambition that burns inside Eddie Jones. He's a man that knows what he wants and is absolutely unrelenting in his pursuit of it. On Sunday [22nd] morning he'll announce his Australia tour & Old Mutual Wealth Cup squad and in all honestly we shouldn't expect too many, if any, surprises. Instead the aim is to take his existing group of players up another level and to continue to strive for success he believes England rugby are capable of.Suggest a correction