England head coach Eddie Jones has said his 2019 World Cup squad is 80 per cent complete, while his first choice XV is nearly 60 per cent done in his mind.
The next Rugby World Cup kicks off in Japan in September 2019, and speaking exclusively to Will Greenwood for Sky Sports, Jones confirmed he has 24 of his prospective 30-man squad already pencilled in.
When asked how close he was to nailing down a potential World Cup final XV by Greenwood, Jones added he had nine names in mind who are currently well placed.
Greenwood asked: A World Cup squad is 30, how many are you happy with? And a World Cup final is XV, how many have you got ready to play in a World Cup final tomorrow? Two numbers, squad and team:
Jones replied: I think about 80 per cent and 60 per cent, so we’re tracking pretty well.
We’ve got 24 out of the 30 approximately and nine of the 15. There’s a couple out there who have raw potential and if they can turn that into consistent performances then they’re there.
Bolters are more likely to be in the outside backs and back row, the other positions tend to be coupled with experience.
In a wide-ranging interview, Jones also revealed there is no age limit to success and places in his 2019 Rugby World Cup squad will not come down to a player’s age.
Instead, the 57-year-old former Australia and Japan boss says a player’s ability and worth to his plans will come down to their desire to improve as opposed to being excluded on the grounds of being in their teens or 30s.
Jones, who has only lost one Test match since taking the helm at Twickenham in November 2015, referenced Real Madrid and Portugal football star Cristiano Ronaldo as an example of how age is no barrier in sport.
It’s more about growth, Jones responded when asked if he had an age preference. It’s more about how much desire they’ve got to get better.
If you’re an older player you can always get better. You know I just saw [Cristiano] Ronaldo won the best soccer player in the world at 32.
He looks fitter than he did at 26, so it’s all about that desire to get better and as you get older you have to put in different types of sacrifices, and if you’re prepared to do that there’s no age limit.
Similarly with the young guys, if you’re prepared to learn about the game, if you’re prepared to come out here like George Ford and Owen Farrell, and Jonny Wilkinson before that, and do the hours and practice and be the best you can be at that age then there’s no age limit at the bottom end.
England host Argentina, Australia and Samoa this autumn in the Old Mutual Wealth Series, and Jones added everything his squad do now is concentrated on the next World Cup in Japan.
Everything we do now is about developing towards the World Cup, he said. Improving every game, improving the depth of the squad, getting selection difficulties.
Everybody wants selection to be difficult, not easy. So that’s at the head of the list.
We’re gradually becoming more tactically adaptable and that’s going to be super important for the World Cup. I think the players are starting to take responsibility on the field.
You look at that second Test against Argentina. We started off with a philosophy of kicking for touch, trying to keep the game as tight as possible. We weren’t getting any pay from the lineout so we went to a more open game, tried to split the game up and it worked well for us.
The players’ ability to change from one to the other really impressed me and it was a young team.
Tune in to watch Eddie Jones’ full interview with Sky Sports at 10.30pm on Wednesday on Sky Sports Action.