Eddie Jones has revealed that cracks have appeared in his England squad, admitting his side's "complacency" about unity has contributed directly to their disastrous slump in form.
Jones, who has included Danny Cipriani and eight uncapped players in his 34-man squad to tour South Africa, also voiced his belief that English sportsmen are more prone to "selfishness" as he attempts to lift his side following three successive defeats that condemned them to their worst-ever Six Nations finish.
The Australian clearly believes certain individuals avoided their responsibilities as England finished fifth in the Six Nations after defeats to Scotland, France and Ireland, and his words serve as a clear warning ahead of a daunting tour.
Jones would not identify the culprits but instead made it clear that a similar lapse in standards would not be tolerated despite a national culture he believes makes players more prone to put themselves first.
"It [England's] is a sporting environment here that is based around selfishness, about individual gain," said Jones, who has worked in Australia, Japan and South Africa, as well as England. "We are constantly battling it. We got complacent about unity without a doubt [in the Six Nations]. It always happens. Whenever you're going well everyone's together at the front of the bus, everyone's got their shirt off, everyone's singing the song.
"When you lose there are always one or two who get up the back and say, 'well it's not my fault as I've done my job and the other blokes need to do it better'. It is definitely a key issue. Just look at the commercial opportunities here compared to other countries. They are much greater. We have been on top of it. Maybe we are not on top of it now. It is a constant issue for us."
Jones also issued a warning to Cipriani, who he has rewarded after a fine surge of form in the second half of the season, telling the Wasp that "there is always a plane back from Johannesburg" if he steps out of line.
Despite that comment there are no caveats to his selection, Jones insisting that if all goes well then Cipriani is in line to have a crack at selection for the 2019 Rugby World Cup, with a slot at full-back also a possible option. Jones did not alert the 30 year-old to his inclusion nor has he discussed the player's temperament with him, even though previous England coaches, such as Martin Johnson and Stuart Lancaster, found cause to overlook him on a regular basis.
"If he's a good character he could be in the team for a long time," said Jones. "If he's a bad character, there's always a plane back from Johannesburg. I'm convinced there is something he can offer because he's made changes to his game, and his character will come through. He better have good questions. If they are terrible questions then it's not a good idea [to challenge me].
"The baggage doesn't worry me. It's how he behaves in front of me. It's how he comes in, how he reacts and how he communicates with other players, how he responds to coaching, how he's able to understand how we want to play and fit in to that mould. We have to give him flexibility, though, to display his talent. He's definitely got a creative talent and we don't want to annul that, but he has to understand that there is a team and he has to play within that team."
After naming the most inexperienced squad of his tenure so far - with the exception of the tour to Argentina when he was shorn of his Lions - having included the likes of Brad Shields (much to the annoyance of the NZRU), Cameron Redpath and Nathan Earle, Jones also expressed his belief that Owen Farrell will emerge as a fine captain in the absence of Dylan Hartley, who is still recovering from concussion. Jones puts much of England's lengthy spell of success - 22 wins from 23 games before their recent struggles - down to the tight-knit brotherhood fostered by Hartley, and he hopes Farrell will assume the mantle.
"Dylan has been absolutely outstanding at getting the team to work together," said Jones. "Owen did a good job for us in the Six Nations. He is a strong guy, respected by the players. It will take him time. No young captain starts out well. It's about hard yards. The first bit is tough and he will have to go through that. Experience is the greatest teacher of all."
There will be no gentle immersion for Farrell with the first of the three Tests at Ellis Park. Even so, Jones has unilaterally declared that the intention is to aim for a 3-0 series win, akin to England's historic exploits in Australia in 2016.
"We're on a mission for England rugby and the mission is to win (3-0) in South Africa," said Jones, who also announced that Scott Wisemantel, an Australian who worked with him at the 2003 and 2015 World Cups, will be England's attack coach for the tour.
"No-one has ever won a series 3-0 there so we can do something that nobody's ever done. We set the benchmark in Australia so we can do it in South Africa. It's a fantastic opportunity. Johannesburg is the spiritual home of Springbok rugby. It's probably the most physically intimidating ground in the world. To win a Test there you need people at their best, physically and emotionally, and that's our target."
Jones acknowledged that selection was a balancing act, especially with those who need a rest such as prop Dan Cole, scrum-halves Danny Care and Richard Wigglesworth and flanker James Haskell. However, the compelling need to perform on the last tour before the World Cup in Japan means that the likes of prop Mako Vunipola and lock Maro Itoje are needed, particularly with Courtney Lawes and George Kruis injured.
There are three young back-rowers included - Tom Curry, Ben Earl and Jack Willis - as England continue their search for a dominant breakdown specialist at No 7. Shields' inclusion means no place for Exeter Chiefs talisman Don Armand. Billy Vunipola is selected but may not be fit to tour after recently recovering from a broken arm.
Jones backs his judgement despite what critics might say, be it on Cipriani, Armand, whoever. "Life is full of contradictions," said Jones. "Three games ago I was the best thing that ever happened to English rugby and now I am the worst thing that ever happened to English rugby."
England squad for South Africa Tour
Full backs: Mike Brown (Harlequins) Elliot Daly (Wasps) Nathan Earle (Saracens)* Jonny May (Leicester Tigers) Denny Solomona (Sale Sharks)
Inside backs: Danny Cipriani (Wasps) Owen Farrell (Saracens) George Ford (Leicester Tigers) Alex Lozowski (Saracens) Cameron Redpath (Sale Sharks) * Dan Robson (Wasps)* Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs) Ben Spencer (Saracens)* Ben Te'o (Worcester Warriors) Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers)
Back five: Tom Curry (Sale Sharks) Ben Earl (Saracens)* Jonny Hill (Exeter Chiefs)* Nick Isiekwe (Saracens) Maro Itoje (Saracens) Joe Launchbury (Wasps) Chris Robshaw (Harlequins) Brad Shields (Hurricanes/Wasps)* Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs) Billy Vunipola (Saracens) Jack Willis (Wasps)* Mark Wilson (Newcastle)
Front row: Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs) Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers) Jamie George (Saracens) Joe Marler (Harlequins) Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins) Mako Vunipola (Saracens) Harry Williams (Exeter Chiefs)
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