Eddie Jones expects England players to return from break in better shape

Eddie Jones expects many of England’s top players to return in better shape following their enforced break due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Premiership Rugby resumes next week having been suspended since March, while the Rugby Football Union’s plans for a phased return to action at grassroots level were this week approved by the government.

“A lot of the players have come back in actually better general condition than they were before, so they’ll get better as each game goes on,” England head coach Jones told the PA news agency.

“I think it’s like anyone in society. Some people have really found their way, found a way to communicate through Zoom and their businesses have flourished.

“But other people have struggled and it will be the same for the players. But the one thing about our players, and particularly the English players, they’re highly motivated.

“So I think most of them will be in a better spot than they were before.”

Jones and RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney were among those supporting the Ready4Rugby initiative at Twickenham on Saturday.

Youth players from local club Grasshoppers RFC demonstrated an adapted 10-a-side non-contact form of the game that will enable grassroots clubs to reopen.

“It’s the first time back since coronavirus, so it’s a really special moment for the sport,” Jones added.

Ready4Rugby enables two teams of up to 10 players to engage in training and match activity in their own club environment and it is hoped inter-club games will take place in September.

“It’s really important,” Sweeney told the PA news agency. “We have roughly 2,000 clubs around the country and our network of community clubs is really the bedrock of the game.

“We’re concerned that the longer you don’t play rugby, we’re worried about losing some of those younger players to different sports.

“So to get them playing again is great and hopefully this will enable clubhouses to open, they can start generating revenue, selling food and drink and so on. It’s really welcoming to see something moving now.”

Wasps Ladies and England scrum-half Claudia MacDonald is a big fan of the new version of the game.

“These guys were taught it two minutes before they went out on the pitch and picked it up incredibly quickly,” she said.

“It’s really simple and easy to play and they’ve all loved it.”