Eddie Jones says England have failed to produce a world-class player since Jonny Wilkinson, but believes a number of his Grand Slam winners are close to ending that barren spell.
World Rugby layer of the year nominees Owen Farrell and Billy Vunipola, as well as fly-half George Ford — each of whom start against Argentina — are three England stars pushing hard for inclusion in a global XV.
“If you look at the record of English rugby since 2003, there’s only been one world-class player produced and that’s Jonny Wilkinson,” Jones said. “But some of our guys are moving towards that world-class area. I don’t think you get a stamp on your head to say you’re world class now and you’ve got that for life.
England have made four changes for Saturday’s match against Argentina with Tom Wood, George Kruis, Jonny May and Mike Brown returning to the starting 15.
Saracens’ England contingent have been compared with Manchester United’s ‘Class of 92′ — and George Kruis believes the same sense of brotherhood is developing among Eddie Jones’ men.
“We’ve got guys now who are starting to perform 8 out of 10 every game and when you do that then you become world class. Now we have a number of players who want to be part of a great team and want to be great players. They’re growing in assertiveness and in their desire to be better, which is fantastic.
“Before, there hasn’t been the desire from the players to push themselves and be great. To do that you have to work that little bit smarter and work that little bit harder.”
Jones is preparing for the penultimate international of an autumn that could conclude with a record-equalling 14th successive Test victory. Argentina play their final match of the season at Twickenham on Saturday.
“The first thing about playing against Argentina is that it’s a test of your manhood,” Jones said. “They are physical guys. When you go to Argentina, you have a big steak, don’t you? It’s all about being physical. That’s our first test. We’ve got no issue with that, we know that’s coming.”
Own Farrell (right) and George Ford (left) are pushing hard for inclusion in a global XV. David Rogers/Getty Images
Jones’ also aimed a barb at England’s Dec. 3 opponents Australia, saying Argentina’s last-placed finish in this year’s Rugby Championship failed to reflect the Pumas’ true quality.
“They were probably the second best team in the Rugby Championship,” Jones said, despite Australia finishing runners-up. “We are playing a very good side that we know if they scent any sense of complacency in us, they’ll be all over us like a rash.
“They’ve played some fantastic rugby and any team that stretches the All Blacks for 50 minutes is a really good team. They did that in the summer with some wonderful rugby.
“In terms of results, they dropped off towards the end of the Championship and they probably had some fatigue. But fatigue tends to go out the window when you know you’re going back to a six-week holiday because this is their last game of the year. They out All-Blacked the All Blacks and to do that you have to be pretty good.”
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