Dylan Hartley insists Eddie Jones’ pledge to introduce “chaos in the house” has already begun as England’s players seek to become completely self-reliant in time for the World Cup.
Jones revealed his intention to drive his squad out of their comfort zone over the next two years to ensure they are prepared for all eventualites when their Japan 2019 campaign opens against Tonga in Sapporo.
England were exposed by Italy’s controversial no-ruck tactics during this year’s RBS Six Nations and Jones knows that any such difficulty in adjusting if an equally confusing scenario arises could lead to ruin at the global showpiece.
Instead of looking to be rescued by directives from Jones and his lieutenants sat in the stands, Hartley insists the players must learn to become the masters of their own destiny and have been practising for different eventualities during their pre-autumn training camp in Portugal.
“That Italy game was a massive learning tool for us,” said the England captain.
“Before that match we talked about adapting as a team on the field, but the obvious thing to adapt is the attack, so what areas of the field to play in.....it’s easy to analyse that sort of thing.
“But when something is presented that you haven’t really thought about... that was a completely new picture so it made us think a bit more laterally about what can be presented on match day.
“We sometimes do things like practise lineouts without a hooker.
“What happens if we lose a player to the bin, if we lose a lock?
“We have to find new combinations at line-out time.
“We have to be more self-reliant with players leading things and I already see that happening now.
“You’ve got a team looking after itself so if something does happen, players are working it out for themselves rather than looking to the coaches’ box for help.”
England open their autumn series against Argetina next Saturday knowing the countdown to Japan 2019 has truly begun following the confirmation of the fixture schedules and host cities on Thursday.
To illustrate the proximity of the tournament, Jones laid out rugby balls on the training ground pitch. “We pictured it by putting out 12 balls – 12 is how many games we’ve got this season,” said Hartley.
“A visual thing is good sometimes. It’s 12 match weeks until we’re a year out, which is not that long.
“Those 12 weeks are going to go pretty quick, so we need to make sure we give it our all and make the most of them.
“We can’t miss an opportunity, we want to have a good year, but we take our eyes off the first ball – Argentina in two weeks – then it’s all void. So while we’re aware of the bigger picture, we’re focused on Argentina which we’ve been preparing for since August.”
Jones, meanwhile, insists player disquiet over Marland Yarde’s misconduct at Harlequins will not influence whether he is selected by England for the upcoming autumn series.
Yarde has been strongly condemned by Chris Robshaw after his failure to attend three club training sessions this season resulted in his sacking, the errant 25-year-old subsequently joining Sale. Robshaw stated that Yarde had “run out of lives”, adding the club was better off without him, and it is a view shared by senior Quins team-mates who are also part of England’s warm weather training camp in Portugal.
A wing injury crisis has accounted for Elliot Daly, Jack Nowell and Jonny May for the opener against Argentina, limiting options in the position, and Jones will decide tomorrow whether to reinforce the fit trio of Anthony Watson, Semesa Rokoduguni and Denny Solomona.
Jones admits Yarde would have been cast into international exile had he transgressed on England duty, but he makes it clear he alone will decide if there is a way back this autumn.
“We never involve players on selection. That’s one thing I’m big on,” said Jones. “The great thing about what Chris Robshaw said is that he was honest and I love players being honest. We want the players to be honest about things.
“But what he said about Marland won’t have any effect on his selection for England.”