Eddie Jones urges ‘ruthless’ England to channel Muhammad Ali and get Six Nations campaign back on track

England blew a seven-point lead with 20 minutes to go to lose 20-17 at Murrayfield, leaving them with a defeat in their third Six Nations opener in a row.

Jones has named a much-changed squad full of energetic runners to take on Italy, and is looking to “ruthlessly light up Rome” with a show of dominance like Ali’s over Sonny Liston in their second robbery in 1965, which produced a iconic image.

“We want to be ruthless,” he said. “We have a chance on Sunday to atone for what we did last Saturday.

“We can only do that by being really ruthless and having this vision of Muhammad Ali standing over Sonny Liston. That kind of image in your head where you really want to tackle them.

Jones was left with an extremely experienced bench of six players with over 30 caps, four of whom started last week. Jones wants them to finish job after job of more inexperienced colleagues.

“With the players we took off the bench, if you look at our squad, we’re probably short of seven front row players, very conservatively,” Jones said.

“When you look at the quality of our bench, it speaks to the strength of the team.

“We have what would be considered a very young and inexperienced squad. I think that’s around 350 caps, which is half the number of caps you need in your squad to win a World Cup.

“We have a good mix for this game of a young and dynamic starting XV and a more worldly and experienced finishing eight. It’s possible the round of 16 will have the opportunity to be Muhammad Ali over Sonny Liston.

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Jones said he was impressed with his players’ reaction to the defeat in Edinburgh, even though captain Tom Curry and one of his three vice-captains Luke Cowan-Dickie had barely trained this week in due to “bumps and bruises”.

“It’s the hardest weeks to prepare for,” Jones said, “but it’s easier that we had a disappointing result against Scotland, so the attitude, the application of the players has been first class. .

“During these weeks you sometimes lose that one or two percent discretionary effort, but I haven’t seen that. We have prepared very well. Italy are a team that are improving.

“The response has been good. They were extremely disappointed after the game. We bounced back, practiced Tuesday night, doing an old school session under lights that wouldn’t qualify for broadcast, and they did really well. They had a good session on Wednesday and trained very well today.

“The problem with these situations is that there is a lot of outside noise, a lot of opinions, a lot of judgment on the players, and it is important that the team understands what is important, what we have to rather than being seduced by other comments. Staying committed to the team is the most important thing. I’ve seen a lot of that this week.

One of the six players promoted to start this week is Alex Dombrandt, whom Jones likened to the legendary South African number 8.

“It’s not an orthodox No. 8, it’s a free No. 8,” he said.

“He reminds me of Bobby Skinstad, because he puts himself in good positions to attack. It’s the kind of game that’s going to have quite a lot of space, so that will suit him.


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