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Eddie Jones unrepentant as England delay team announcement for Fiji match

Published 17/11/2016

Eddie Jones has delayed naming his England team to face Fiji until Friday morning
Eddie Jones has delayed naming his England team to face Fiji until Friday morning

England have taken the highly unusual step of delaying their team announcement for Saturday's clash with Fiji by 24 hours as they monitor the fitness of a trio of players.

In a break with established protocol, the starting XV and replacements bench will be named on the eve of the second autumn international at Twickenham as Billy Vunipola, Nathan Hughes and Elliot Daly battle to prove their availability.

Mystery shrouds the nature of their ailments with England willing only to offer broad descriptions - Vunipola has 'upper body soreness', Hughes is struggling with a 'lower leg injury' and Daly has an 'upper body injury'.

However, Hughes and Daly were able to take an active role in training on Thursday's final session of the week.

Furthermore, Tom Wood has rejoined the squad to provide injury cover having been sent back to his club on Tuesday, although the Northampton captain is currently struggling with illness.

World Rugby has confirmed that England have not broken any regulations in the postponement, although from January a recently-ratified rule stating team announcements must be undertaken 48 hours before kick takes effect.

Head coach Eddie Jones is unrepentant over the delay, despite Fiji naming their team on Thursday as scheduled.

"I don't have to discuss it with Fiji. There's no regulation. We didn't ask them to name it 48 hours before. There is no regulation. There is no etiquette," Jones said.

"In normal circumstances you want to name it 48 hours before because that it is in line with World Cup regulations and that's good practice.

"But unusual circumstances, and the regulations allow this, mean that you can do it at another time so we're happy to do it at another time.

"I don't think there is any advantage in it. We're not looking for an advantage. There are some serious injury concerns that we have.

"People have named teams and then changed before kick-off but we don't have a history of doing that. I don't have a history of playing ducks and drakes with selection.

"Bill and Nathan are still carrying knocks from the South Africa game, Elliot Daly is still carrying knocks from the previous game so we're looking to see how they resolve themselves in the next 24 hours before we make a final decision."

England are wrestling with uncertainty in the back row and on the left wing with the possible loss of Vunipola and Hughes leaving Jones' plans in tatters.

Hughes has been earmarked for openside, but the Grand Slam champions could face Fiji with a loose trio of Chris Robshaw, Harrison and Wood, forcing cover to be summoned from outside the squad to provide bench cover, most likely Ben Morgan.

Jonny May was rested on Tuesday and Thursday, but it was thought that Daly was the preferred choice for the left wing with his fitness issue confusing matters.

England are 1/150 favourites to extend their flawless record against Fiji to seven matches and Jones intends victory to be delivered by "boring them to death".

The free-spirited Pacific Islanders are famed for their power, athleticism and unpredictability, so Jones predicts that success lies in the form of a structured game.

"They want to have a kava party but you can't join the party. We don't want to have a kava party, we want to eat fish and chips, so we will be making sure we eat fish and chips on Saturday," Jones said.

"You just don't want to open the game up too much. You go anywhere in Fiji and kids are playing with the ball, they are throwing it around.

"At the age of 10 kids can throw 15-metre torpedo passes through their legs, so we've got to play a very structured, controlled, positive game."

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