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Jones defends NZ-born Heinz's England call up

© AFP/File / by Julian GUYER | Gloucester's New Zealand scrum-half Willi Heinz takes part in a captain's run training session at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh, Scotland on May 11, 2017

BRIGHTON (UNITED KINGDOM) (AFP) - 

Eddie Jones has insisted he is happy to pick anyone qualified to play for England, regardless of their birthplace.

Gloucester's Willi Heinz joined England for their latest training camp in Brighton, with the New Zealand-born scrum-half qualifying through his grandmother.

Heinz represented New Zealand's Under-21s and even played against England for Super Rugby outfit the Crusaders in 2014 before joining Gloucester in 2015.

Jones, speaking Tuesday at England's hotel in Brighton, on England's south coast, said of Heinz: "He's got a good feel for the game, but you've got to remember we're bringing him in for this training camp only. I wouldn't be making a big song and dance about it."

Plenty of rugby pundits believe it is embarrassing that a country with a large playing base such as England should have any need at all for 'imported' players.

In the meantime Jones, himself an Australian who as well as coaching his native Wallabies has also been in charge of Japan and acted as a consultant to the South Africa side that won the 2007 World Cup, is simply happy to operate under the rules as they stand now.

"It's not my job to worry about how they qualify, it's my job to pick players that qualify," said former schoolteacher Jones.

"I don't care how they qualify, I'll pick them."

- 'Good schoolteacher' -

Bristol's Gloucester-bound fly-half Jason Woodward, another New Zealand-born back, has also been given his first England call-up by Jones.

Their selections for the training came after Sale's New Zealand-born wing Denny Solomona, who played international rugby league for Samoa, was included in the England squad for next month's two-Test tour of Argentina after qualifying via residency.

"That's the rules we play under," said Jones. "I obey them like any good schoolteacher does."

Six Nations champions England will face the Barbarians in a non-cap international at Twickenham on May 28 -- the day after the English Premiership final at 'headquarters'.

This week has seen Jones without players from five clubs -- Premiership semi-finalists Saracens, Exeter, Wasps and Leicester as well as Northampton, who are in the play-offs for next season's last European Champions Cup spot.

If Northampton beat Irish province Connacht on Saturday they would go into a play-off final the following weekend.

That would rule Northampton hooker Dylan Hartley, England's first-choice captain under Jones, out of facing the invitational Barbarians.

Vice-captains George Ford (leaving Bath for Leicester) and Harlequins fullback Mike Brown might then be vying to skipper the side.

"It's a one-off game, and leadership doesn't happen overnight," said Jones. "But this whole period of time is an ideal opportunity for us to build depth and offer some players, who haven't had a major senior leadership role to step up, and that's the advantage.

"If Northampton lose (against Connacht) we'll pick them if they win which we'd anticipate they would, that's why we've brought extra players in for this camp.

"We've tried to cover a number of contingencies by bringing extra players into this camp."

He added: "All these players have a great attitude, they all want to play for England which is fantastic, and what we want.

"It's a great opportunity to work with them, see what they need to do, give them a glimmer of hope and if they don't play in the BaaBaas game they go back to work a bit harder and they stake a claim for a position."

by Julian GUYER

© 2017 AFP