Jones wants England to clear the air over World Cup, Saracens scandal


Twickenham (United Kingdom) (AFP)

Eddie Jones hopes a "long debrief" will allow England to focus firmly on the Six Nations without their upcoming Championship campaign being overshadowed by any lingering World Cup regrets and the Saracens salary-cap scandal.

The England coach's task in bolstering his squad's morale after a comprehensive 32-12 defeat by South Africa in November's World Cup final in Yokohama has been compounded by the crisis engulfing Premiership and European champions Saracens since England returned from Japan.

Last weekend saw Saracens accept relegation rather than open up their books to further scrutiny for the salary-cap breaches, which have already cost them 35 points and a £5.36 million ($6.97 million) fine, amid suggestions the London club had failed to reduce their wage bill by some £2m in order to comply with this season's regulations.

There are seven Saracens players in England's Six Nations squad, including key figures such as Owen Farrell, Jones's captain in Japan, and lock Maro Itoje.

But Jones is determined any uncertainty over their long-term club and Test futures, or the bitterness felt by many within English rugby towards Saracens, does not derail his squad's Six Nations title ambitions.

To that end, the Australian plans to hold a clear the air meeting with his players at the start of England's warm-weather training camp in Portugal on Thursday.

"It is a great opportunity for us to get it all out on the table," Jones told reporters at Twickenham on Monday after unveiling a 34-man party for the Six Nations.

"It is going to be a long meeting. We have got a World Cup debrief, we have got to debrief Sarries. If there are any other issues, we have got to sort it out."

- 'Say what you feel' -

Asked how any lingering tensions would be defused ahead of England's tournament opener away to France in Paris on February 2, the former Australia and Japan coach added: "It is common sense. Say what you feel.

"If players are angry about it then say it... I don't envisage any problems at all, in fact I think it is an opportunity for the team to get tighter."

Jones insisted dealing with club rivalries was a common issue for all Test nations.

"We are like a family around the dinner table, someone wants to have pasta for dinner and the other one wants to have rice.

"Every national team I have coached has those problems. I remember coaching Japan and the Panasonic players hated the Suntory players -- hated each other. So we had to sort it out. That always happens."

There are 22 survivors from Japan in England's squad for the Six Nations, with Jones having come within 80 minutes of completing his four-year project to turn them into world champions following his initial appointment after their first-round exit on home soil in 2015.

"Some people will still be hurting, some won't remember it and will just get on with it. Everyone is different.

"We've got to make sure we learn from it. It was a failure for us in the final."

Immediately afterwards Jones, also Australia's coach when they lost the 2003 World Cup final to England in Sydney, shouldered the blame for the defeat and he underlined that point on Monday.

"I accept full responsibility for the performance. It was my fault. I didn't prepare the team well enough and I know how to fix it."

He added: "There were various things in hindsight I'd do differently which I'm not going to go into detail.

"I can live with that because I know I can do it better."