'He might be like Samson' - Jones jokes over reasons for Wood recall

Updated: 

Eddie Jones jokingly likened Tom Wood to biblical figure Samson as he explained the reasons for recalling the Northampton Saints flanker to his England squad.

Wood, who last represented his country at the 2015 World Cup, initially fell out of favour under Jones - the 29-year-old revealing in March that the Australian had previously labelled his performances "distinctly average".

However, with a number of flankers ruled out of England's upcoming Tests through injury, Wood was included in a 33-man squad on Wednesday.

Asked at a news conference why Wood was back in the frame, Jones quipped: "I think it might be the long hair and the beard, mate. He might be like Samson, gets stronger with longer hair and a beard."

England's coach went on to explain the genuine factors behind Wood's recall, adding: "He's done really well. I've been really impressed with his work-rate. Ever since we picked the first squad, I've been in contact with him, we've asked him to do certain things and he's done that. He'll certainly be in contention for a spot."

James Haskell, Jack Clifford, Sam Jones, Mike Williams and the versatile Maro Itoje are all unavailable for the Tests against South Africa, Fiji, Argentina and Australia.

Wood's Northampton team-mate Teimana Harrison is in contention to replace Haskell at seven and was praised by Jones on Wednesday.

"I was very impressed by Teimana Harrison last week [as Northampton were thumped by Castres in the European Champions Cup]. I thought he was exceptional in a Northampton side that didn't do so well. I thought that was the best game I've seen from a seven in a Premiership team."

Chris Robshaw could also switch back to the openside, despite Jones having been critical of the former captain's efforts in that position during the World Cup, when Stuart Lancaster was in charge of England.

"It's always an option - he's still got that six and a half jersey tucked away," said a smiling Jones. "He can move from six to six and a half, so another half point to seven's not really gonna matter. At this stage, we still see him as our best six."

Regarding the absence of the influential Itoje, who has a fractured hand, the 56-year-old added: "It's disappointing, but injuries are part and parcel of the game. He'll have that finger operation, he'll be out for six to eight weeks and come back refreshed.

"For a young guy like him, while there's short-term disappointment that he's not playing for us and he's not playing for Saracens, I think he'll benefit from it. A good rest, he can regenerate his body and he'll come back even better."