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26th Jan 2022

England players organised team meeting in pub after “bonfire” beside team hotel

Patrick McCarry

Tom Curry

“I like your cardie, mate!”

For all the disruptions they have endured in the past week – Covid, injuries and nearby “bonfires” – England head coach Eddie Jones is in buoyant form.

The today’s virtual Six Nations launch, Jones held court on misogi sessions, dirt-biking, chats with ‘funny guy’ Roy Keane and still found time to heap pressure on tournament favourites Japan. In a playful mood, Jones was quick to jump on any loose questions or poor fashion choices from journalists.

England’s Six Nations preparations have not gone smoothly. Jonny May and Courtney Lawes have picked up injuries, Owen Farrell is off for surgery and out of the championship, and Joe Marler has tested positive for Covid. In addition to that, the team had to switch hotels after a fire broke out near the one they were staying at, last night. Jones explains:

“We were getting ready for we were planning to have a team communication session, which is all about them talking about their goals and just getting to know each other a little bit better. There was some smoke coming out of a man-hole and then, all of a sudden, it lit up and a huge bonfire came out, so we had to evacuate the hotel.

“At one stage, we were going to go to the Cotswolds and get some sleeping bags! But we got a fantastic logistics manager, who arranged accommodation at Hilton – the players and the staff separately because of the circumstances. We got through the night and we’re here today, mate.”

Jones adds that the fire broke out next to the hotel, so none of the England players or staff were at risk, at any stage.

“Just a minor disruption in the scheme of things,” he says. “A good disruption, you know. because again everyone had to adapt… we enjoy those sort of things, I think. Every time we do a little bit better. We had a similar situation with the typhoon in 2019 World Cup where we had to move our tills quickly, and so the guys have been in that situation before.”

England head coach Eddie Jones pictured before a match against South Africa in November 2021. (Photo by Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images)

England players hold meeting in a pub

Eddie Jones holds a lot of stock in his squad developing a leadership group, so they can make the big on-field decisions when the time comes.

Jones says he will not officially name England’s leadership group for the Six Nations until closer to their opening game with Scotland. Smiling, he beams with pride as he recalls how the players had to adapt when they needed a new venue for a player-led team meeting, on Tuesday night.

“There’s a core leadership in there [already] it’s a great leadership group. For instance, last night, we had two events that were ran by the players. The first one was a talk with [former Olympian] Jessica Ennis-Hill. George Furbank and Maro Itoje took responsibility for that.

“They then told me that they had team communications [a meeting], which we ended up having yesterday. We had it in a pub, yeah, and Maro took responsibility for it.

“So, what we’re trying to do there will be a core group, which is made of four or five vice captain. They are almost like the captain – they’re going to make sure they develop a responsibility for the other guys on the team.”

Team meetings in a pub. England thinking on their feet going old-school with their approach.

It may not have been the original plan, but they may do it again if they get off to a winning start against Scotland.

– Additional reporting by Cormac Ruane

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