Eddie Jones has challenged Henry Arundell to earn a spot in England’s World Cup squad next year, revealing it took him five minutes to decide the 19-year-old full-back warranted a first call-up.
Arundell was among the eye-catching inclusions named on Tuesday in a 36-man training squad for a three‑day camp, capping a breakthrough season at London Irish in which he has scored several remarkable tries, including a length-of-the-field effort against Toulon this month.
Jones compared him to Matt Giteau – the former Australia Test centurion who the England head coach unearthed when in charge of the Wallabies – and challenged Arundell to bolt into the World Cup squad for France 2023 in the same way Nehe Milner-Skudder did for the All Blacks in 2015.
They are both examples he has frequently used but it was telling to hear Jones reveal how quickly he was convinced of Arundell’s potential, having watched Irish’s draw with Wasps a few weeks ago in which he scored a dazzling try. Arundell is also eligible for Wales and Scotland but would be captured by England if he makes his full debut on the summer tour of Australia.
“He has 12 months to find his feet. Remember Nehe Milner-Skudder? He came from nowhere in 2015 and that is the sort of thing a young guy can do,” Jones said.
“The reason I have compared Arundell [with Giteau] is a similar story. You get reports through on young players, and where there is smoke there is usually some fire. I remember getting a report on Giteau, what he could do, and then you go and watch him play. Within five minutes you can generally work out whether he’s got it or not, whether he’s got something special.
“I gave you that example of Arundell [against Wasps]. And Giteau was the same, I went to watch him play half-back for his club, and within five minutes you could tell he had something about him.
“Then the hard part comes, when they’ve got to work really hard, they’ve got to not believe what’s being said about them, that they’re not kid-wonder, that they’ve got to apply themselves to the task and that’s when the real player comes through.
The test of a young player to become a good Test player is their ability to work hard, their ability to take knocks, their ability to keep resilient physically and mentally and to have that mindset to keep improving.
“From what I know of him, and I have met him once very briefly, he has got good attributes. But we will only see that on the three days of training we have.”
With 10 uncapped players in the squad it has been picked with an eye on the England v Barbarians match on 19 June – when Premiership finalists will be unavailable – and a number of senior players including Henry Slade, Ben Youngs and Joe Marler have been rested. Sam Simmonds is injured and his club, Exeter, expect him also to miss the trip to Australia as he requires surgery on his hip. Notable selections include the prop Mako Vunipola who, as reported by the Guardian, is back in Jones’s thinking having been out of the picture all season.
Jones, meanwhile, conceded there is pressure to win in Australia with the forthcoming camp drawing a line under England’s disappointing Six Nations performance. Jones took part in a formal review, conducted by the Rugby Football Union’s anonymous panel, and though he insisted it was a productive process, there was a sense he has had more enjoyable experiences during his tenure. He is due to leave the role after next year’s World Cup and all but confirmed reports he has been sounded out about joining Racing 92 in the French Top 14.
“The support [from the RFU] has been first class, but my responsibility is to win,” Jones said. “In this job there’s always pressure, of course there’s pressure to win in Australia. It’s normal to be criticised, to be under fire a little bit. I don’t think you ever get used to it, to losing. It’s not a pleasant experience. But you take the positives out of the situation you have.”
Of the link with Racing, he told Sky Sports: “Obviously people ask you questions and if you reply it becomes a huge story. Maybe there has been a telephone conversation. Sometimes I don’t handle those things, other people handle it for you. I’m a rugby coach and I love coaching, and I still feel like I have plenty to contribute.”