Jones eyes World Cup ahead of Samoa clash

Julian GUYER
England's head coach Eddie Jones gestures during a training session at Twickenham Stadium in London on November 17, 2017, ahead of the autumn international rugby union test match against Australia

England coach Eddie Jones believes a Test against Samoa at Twickenham on Saturday will be a "fantastic dress rehearsal" for the 2019 World Cup in Japan.

Jones has made nine changes to the side that beat his native Australia by a record 30-6 at Twickenham last weekend for what will be England's final international of 2017.

Having coached Australia to a 2003 World Cup final defeat by England and guided Japan to a shock win over South Africa at the 2015 edition, Jones is convinced squad depth is the key to winning rugby union's biggest prize.

To that end Jones, who has won 21 of his 22 Tests as England coach, has benched regular captain Dylan Hartley for the Samoa match, while first-choice goalkicker Owen Farrell is not even in the matchday 23.

Meanwhile the team will be co-captained by fly-half George Ford and back-row Chris Robshaw, England's full-time captain before Jones took over following the hosts' first-round exit at the 2015 World Cup.

British and Irish Lions hooker Jamie George, all of whose 19 previous England appearances have come off the bench, finally starts now that Hartley is among the replacements.

"We want to play better this week and this is a great opportunity to show the depth in the squad and the depth of leadership," Jones said at England's training base in Bagshot, southwest of London, after naming his side to play Samoa on Thursday.

"We have a four-day turnaround (against Tonga and the United States) in the World Cup and this game is a fantastic dress rehearsal for that."

Jones, who has made no secret that his ultimate goal with England is to win the next World Cup, added: "At the end of the day, the World Cup isn't going to be won by 23 players. The World Cup will be won by a squad of 31 players.

"The ability of a squad to adjust and adapt while putting in cohesive performances is going to be so important."

Turning to his change of hooker, Jones said: "Dylan has been doing a reconditioning programme this week and wasn't training with the squad.

"Jamie has sat on the bench behind Dylan and now it's his time to start."

With both Nathan Hughes and Sam Underhill injured, Jones has been forced into re-shaping his back row.

Robshaw makes his first start at openside flanker since Jones took over following hosts England's first-round exit at the 2015 World Cup, with Maro Itoje on the blindside flank and Exeter's Sam Simmonds given a full Test debut at No 8.

- 'Selfless' Robshaw -

Robshaw has taken possession of the No 7 shirt despite Jones stating in a newspaper interview two years ago that the Harlequins loose forward was only a "six-and-a-half at best".

"Chris will play the way he plays every week and that's being absolutely selfless for the team," said Jones.

"He'll make his tackles, go for the ball, get back up after the Samoans make a line-break and he'll just keep working. There'll be no changes despite the number on his back."

Jones added: "Contradictions are a big part of life.

"I could be like the media. I could change my tune every week.

"You guys are allowed to, so I'm allowed to."

Meanwhile Ford said that while it had still to be decided whether he or Robshaw would lead the side out at Twickenham, there was no uncertainty over their respective duties come kick-off.

"I'll lead the attack and Chris will lead the defence and the forwards, so I'm sure we'll to help each other during the game," explained Ford.