The head coach has had to contend with one disciplinary issue already this summer following an altercation between Ben Te’o and Mike Brown during their Italian hot-weather training camp last month, although both players missed out on selection in the final World Cup squad.
Jones stressed that Te’o has not been selected because he doesn’t feature among England’s 31 best players, but he elaborated on what he expects along their World Cup journey – and the Australian is not predicting smooth sailing the whole way.
“I’ve coached for 25 years, I’ve never been confident in a team being smooth,” he said when reminded of England’s last overseas World Cup eight years ago.
In 2011, Martin Johnson’s attempts to win the World Cup were derailed by ill-discipline throughout their stay in New Zealand. One high-profile incident in Queenstown saw a number of players engage in a late-night drinking session, which involved the well-publicised dwarf-tossing saga, while Manu Tuilagi was cautioned and fined for jumping off an Auckland ferry.
Jones has encouraged players to take on responsibility themselves when it comes to discipline, though the fiery Australian is not afraid to dish out punishments where necessary as Te’o can attest to, but he is prepared for speedbumps to come up along the way in Japan.
“We’re like any family – everyone sits around the dining table, everyone enjoys good conversation but you know there are problems and we’re exactly the same,” added Jones. “We’ve got 31 sitting around the table, we can have nice conversations. You know potentially there’s a problem. All I can do is trust the players – they are adults, they’re responsible, they want to play for England and we could have some problems. If we do, we’ll deal with them.
“Every team has problems… don’t believe the (All Blacks) Legacy book, which everyone seems to base their opinion on teams on. No team’s like that – every team has its problems. I’m sure we’ll have our problems and we’ll deal with it.”
Jones has spoken previously to his predecessors in Johnson and Stuart Lancaster, who saw their campaigns unravel for very different reasons, but he is firmly of the opinion that the manner in which squads manage themselves remains the same as it ever was.
“The senior players run the team but sometimes the coach has got to come in and tell them to pull their socks up, or pick up the bottles,” he said. “Nothing’s changed – it seems like there’s this new phenomenon called a leadership group. Ever since I’ve been involved with rugby, there have always been guys leading the team, that’s the nature of rugby and nothing’s changed.”
There are no concerns on the matter for captain Owen Farrell though. The fly-half has taken on the full captaincy since Dylan Hartley fell out of the squad, but has long been one of the established players who has set the expectation levels both on and off the field.
“As far as going forward as a group, we want to police ourselves as much as we can,” Farrell said. “The thing of being part of that is making sure that we’re being good lads and I think we have a good group.”