England head coach, Eddie Jones, has intimated for the first time that he may be open to persuasion about staying on beyond the end of his current contract in 2019.
The Australian, as he named seven uncapped players in a 37-man training squad for a three day training camp in Brighton on Sunday, raised the possibility that he might stay on post the World Cup in Japan were he to be as successful with the national team through to that point as he has been since taking over 11 months ago with a perfect return from his nine matches in charge.
"If we do well, there will be a discussion (with the RFU) and that will take place after we do well," said Jones who had insisted that the only thing he would be doing at the end of his four year stint would be to head into retirement 'to watch cricket in Barbados.'
The 56 year old is well aware of the fickleness of the job.
"It's not my decision. If we won't deliver the only thing they'll be asking me is the time of my flight out of here. It is very flattering but these things run their natural course. Look at Jose Mourinho. Everyone thought he was going to change Manchester United and two games later they are saying he has made all these mistakes. That is the life we live. When you win games, your stock is pretty high. If we lose against South Africa ( on November 12th), people will be asking why the RFU have employed this Australian. There won't be any discussion then about 2019. "
Jones has been preparing the ground to that end from the minute he came into office last November following the dismissal of Stuart Lancaster. As then, so now, the selection conundrums facing him revolve around openside flanker and inside centre. Two of the new caps, Wasps' Sam Jones and Leicester's Bulawayo-born, Mike Williams, are to be tried out in the no.7 role over the coming weeks, starting with the camp based at Brighton College.
There will be no gentle immersion into the England environment for any of those involved, the rookies especially, with Jones intent on finding out whether they have the head and the heart and the lungs to cope with the rigours of international rugby. The England head coach does not have riches from which to choose at openside, and certainly not a classic 7 in the mould of a Richie McCaw or Michael Hooper. James Haskell fitted the bill but he is ruled out of the Old Mutual Wealth four-test series in November.
"We are looking for a destructive defensive player not your traditional seven," said Jones who took soundings on Jones from one of his trusted sources, former Wallaby and Wasp, George Smith. "George rated him as a very physical, aggressive player. It is a matter now of testing him to see whether he can make that jump. The way we train, we will test him. All of them. We will test their resolve and see how they operate when they are uncomfortable."
Gloucester no.8, Ben Morgan, is back in the fold for the first time under Jones.
Jones has seven players from his possible starting 23 on the sidelines with injury. Owen Farrell has yet to start this season due to a back problem. His Saracens teammate, Alex Lozowski, has been included in the wider, 45-man Elite Player Squad, but not in the immediate training group. Jones does not see him yet as a test player, and will look for fly-half back-up through Henry Slade and Alex Goode were Farrell not be back by November. Jones will give him as much time as possible.
The inside centre berth is a bit threadbare with the confirmed absence of Manu Tuilagi and the doubt over Farrell. Worcester's uncapped, Ben Te'o, has a chance to impress as do Ollie Devoto and Slade. Jones is upbeat rather than downcast at the prospect of some players not being available.
"It is not a test for us, it is an opportunity," said Jones who has enough resources to hand to leave our the likes of lock, Dave Attwood, flanker, Tom Wood, hooker, Tom Youngs, centre Luther Burrell and fly-half, Danny Cipriani. "It is not the end of the road for any of them."
Harlequins wing, Marland Yarde, has fallen down the pecking order, included only as injury cover for Jonny May with Bath's Semesa Rokoduguni pushing up the rankings. Quins' young centre, Joe Marchant, continues to press his claims
England under 20 backs coach, Rory Teague, who helped England to a World Cup in June, will assist Jones for this series. Judo coaches, J P Bell and Kate Howey, will be in Brighton to advise on grappling skills at the breakdown. The November test squad will be named on October 26th.