England wary of Lions 'distraction'

Fri, 20 Jan 2017 15:12

NEWS: England coach Eddie Jones is determined to avoid the "attraction" of a British and Irish Lions tour place becoming a "distraction" to his side during the Six Nations as he focuses on facing a revitalised France.

Jones guided England to a Six Nations Grand Slam during his first season in charge last year.

England begin their quest to retain the title against France at Twickenham next month.

England's current 14-match winning streak has led to understandable speculation about how many players they will have with the Lions for the combined side's three-Test tour of New Zealand in June and July.

Jones, who said the biggest challenge facing his side at the moment was "complacency", told reporters at Twickenham on Friday after naming his Six Nations squad: "If you read anything in the media at the moment players are talking about Lions, they're always asked about the Lions."

The Australian, whose England side will surpass the world champion All Blacks' world record of 19 successive top-tier Test wins if they complete another Grand Slam, added: "The Lions tour is always a massive attraction but also can be a massive distraction in terms of players focusing on the future rather than focusing on what's going on at the moment."

England finish their Six Nations campaign away to Ireland - their pre-tournament rivals for the title after their maiden win over the All Blacks in November - in what is already being billed as a possible tournament decider.

"Ireland isn't a concern for us, but if you keep on hearing that then that can get into the back of your head and become a distraction," said Jones, who has won all 13 of his England matches since taking charge following the 2015 World Cup.

Banishing that distraction is a process Jones aims to start when England travel to Portugal for a five-day training camp next week, with their attention solely on their February 4 clash against France.

"We've got a lot of distractions in front of us and part of our job is to make sure that we get the focus right and that's beating France," explained Jones.

"Our aim is to win the Six Nations, we're not trying to hide that but to do that we'll have to prepare for each game very well."

Former Australia and Japan coach Jones, asked how he would know if players were becoming complacent, replied: "It's the way they talk, the way they interact and the way they train. It's whether they do the small things. 

"That's where the observation skills of the coaches are so important. Because when you stop doing the small things that's when the performance deteriorates."

First up for England are an improving France side, who ran both Australia and New Zealand close before suffering 23-25 and 19-24 home defeats against the Wallabies and the All Blacks respectively in November.

"France are really starting to get their game together, they should have beaten Australia and certainly took New Zealand right to the wire. 

"If you look at the squad they've picked they are full of talent. 

"[Guy] Noves [the France coach] has got the team going in the right direction.

"I failed high school French, so I won't try to use too any French, but they've got the joie de vivre back in their game. 

"They've picked a big, physical team, they've got exceptionally gifted back-rowers that can jump in the line-out, can shift the ball, can run, can tackle, and they've got the two Fijian wing [Noa Nakaitaci and Virimi Vakataw]) that give it a bit of bite on the wing."

Agence France-Presse

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