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Sport

England coach Jones prioritising ruck speed over COVID concerns

LONDON (Reuters) - England coach Eddie Jones says he is focusing more on the changing face of the ruck than the potential impact of COVID-19 as he begins his preparations for six weeks of international rugby.

FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union - Six Nations Championship - England v Wales - Twickenham Stadium, London, Britain - March 7, 2020 England head coach Eddie Jones during the warm up before the match REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo

Jones is starting a three-day training camp on Tuesday with a multitude of players unavailable due to club commitments and coronavirus issues, after 16 positive player tests at Sale led to the postponement of one game and the cancellation of another.

“I’m not a health commissioner, I’m a rugby coach and the only thing I worry about is the rugby,” Jones told a remote news conference on Tuesday.

“I really don’t know what’s happened (at Sale), all I try to do is select the players that are available. I think this is going to be the way it is at the moment. I just saw the (England) football, they had three players unavailable this morning, they can’t go into camp. It’s a fact of life at the moment, that’s what we have to deal with, we can’t get too worried about it.”

Jones has been zipping up and down the country taking in as many Premiership games as possible and devouring TV footage from oversees and says he is working on ways to ensure the changing approach to refereeing the breakdown is quickly transferred to his camp.

“In New Zealand Super Rugby and Top 14 we’ve seen a lot more quick ruck ball,” he said. “We’ve also seen a lot more transition in the game because if you’re good at the breakdown you not only have the opportunity to have quick ruck ball, you also have the opportunity to turn the ball over.

“So if that continues in test rugby we need to be equipped to play a little bit flatter and a little bit faster and then into transition to be able to flick the switch quickly and get in position quicker than the opposition.

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“We’ve been doing some preliminary work on that and we’ll wait and see how the game evolves now.”

England have a non-cap game against the Barbarians on Oct. 25 before travelling to Italy for their rearranged final game of the Six Nations on Oct. 31, when a victory could give them the title.

They then have four games in the new Autumn Nations Cup series, though it looks as if they will be played without any supporters on site.

“We’d like fans to be in the ground but they can still watch on the various transmissions,” he said. “Our job is to put a smile on people’s faces, and that’s what we are going to try to do.”

Reporting by Mitch Phillips; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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