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Jones names strongest England squad ahead of key Ireland clash

 

Eddie Jones
Eddie Jones

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

Eddie Jones is confident his team can derail Ireland's Six Nations defence at the first attempt after labelling the squad he picked yesterday his strongest yet.

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The Australian named the panel for the first game only as he seeks to hone in on the Dublin date on February 2, meaning captain Dylan Hartley was left out due to injury. Owen Farrell, son of Ireland assistant Andy, will skipper the team.

With Manu Tuilagi and the Vunipola brothers fit, the England supremo was in bullish form. Like Joe Schmidt, he'll take his team to Portugal for a warm-weather camp in advance of the tournament and is hoping to hit the ground running by beating the champions whom he described as the world's best team.

"At the moment, yes," he said when asked if this is the strongest squad he's picked since taking charge. "I think we are in a really good position. We are excited about the opportunity ahead of us.

"It is a World Cup year so that is always at the back of your mind. But clearly our focus is on beating Ireland. It is the first game of the tournament, it is the most prestigious tournament in the northern hemisphere.

"We want to make sure we put our best foot forward and I think the squad we have got is a very strong squad, and very capable of beating Ireland. To do that, we need 35 players competing for spots and training at a high level in that camp, for that reason we decided not to take any rehab players."

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