Eddie Jones plans to lift England out of the lower tier of European rugby by reversing a culture where players have been happy to collect caps rather than honours.
England have won only one Six Nations crown since 2003 while Wales, Ireland and France have shared out the rest, leaving England in the bottom tier.
On a day when he announced Northampton’s Dylan Hartley as his new captain, Jones revealed his belief that in the past England’s players have seen international selection as their main ambition — at the cost of their success.
“There is a big difference between playing for England and winning for England. If you want to win for England you have to strive every day to be a better player,” he said.
“Maybe in the past it has been just enough to win a cap without winning and the results would certainly indicate that.
“When I showed the players the Six Nations results and where we are ranked since 2003, I think they were relatively shocked. It means at the moment we are in tier three of Europe. In the bottom three teams.
“To change that is about 3% - but that 3% is hard because it is doing all the things you don’t want to do.”
Hartley has responded to the controversy over his appointment as England captain for the RBS 6 Nations by declaring: “I am me.”
Hartley has amassed 54 weeks of suspensions for a range of offences including eye-gouging, biting, head-butting and swearing at a referee, but has been entrusted with the task of leading the national team’s post-World Cup healing process.
Jones views the 29-year-old hooker as the standard-bearer in his mission to restore the might of England’s pack, who he believes lost their snarl under previous regimes.
Hartley makes no apology for a dire disciplinary record that has prevented him from appearing in one World Cup and on one British and Irish Lions tour, and will continue to play with the fire that has served him well over 66 caps.
“I am me. It’s there in print for you to see what I’ve done wrong and what I’ve been guilty of,” said Hartley, who answered “simple” when asked to describe his leadership style.
Aside from his lengthy list of misdemeanours, there is also concern over Hartley’s fitness given he has missed seven weeks of the season with concussion and then suffered a rib problem.
He has started Northampton’s last two matches, however, and insists the enforced break will be beneficial heading into the Six Nations, while Jones promised a gruelling week ahead in training that will leave his “butt hanging on the ground” to sharpen his conditioning.
Hartley has led England on one previous occasion – in a 14-14 draw against South Africa in 2012 – but yesterday’s longer-term appointment provides a fuller episode of an eventful career that saw him arrive on these shores from his home town of Rotorua, New Zealand, as a 16-year-old. “It’s a bit weird. It’s funny, because the first time I went to Twickenham I had my backpack on and jandals — which are now flip-flops – and went to an under-19 training camp,” Hartley said. I went through security and saw the James Haskells and Tom Crofts getting dropped off in their chinos and blazers. I thought, ‘jeez, I’m a long way from home here’.
“But 14 years later I’m still here. It’s been bumpy, but it’s been fun. I wouldn’t change any of it. Maybe without the setbacks I wouldn’t be sat here.” Hartley, who became a father for the first time last August, will take shelter from the pressures of international captaincy in the company of the young family that has offered him a fresh perspective on life.
“Rugby is my life and has been for the last 10 years or so. It’s actually quite nice to have an off switch, going home,” he said.
Elsewhere Wales have fitness concerns ahead of their RBS 6 Nations opener in Dublin, with flanker Sam Warburton and utility back Liam Williams on their way back from respective ankle and foot injuries.
Skipper Warburton played for the first time since the end of November in the Cardiff Blues’ European Challenge Cup victory over Calvisano last Friday, while Williams has been sidelined since suffering a recurrence of a foot injury during the World Cup clash with Australia in October.
Both players could play for their regions this weekend, with Jenkins saying he expects Williams to figure for the Scarlets in their Guinness Pro12 trip to Connacht.
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