Eddie Jones has admitted he had to take 'risks' in opting for an inexperienced 31-man squad for the Rugby World Cup in Japan, omitting Lions' centre, Ben Te'o after a training camp altercation with Mike Brown and warning that there could be more problems ahead.
The England head coach revealed that it was the most 'stressful and painful,' part of the job to inform players that they had been left out and the calls were only made to those particular individuals on Monday morning following a two- hour management meeting on Sunday night at the team hotel in Chiswick during which Jones was persuaded to change his mind on one player by the four other coaches.
The chosen 31 only found out that they had made the cut on the coach down the M4 to their base in Bristol when their names appeared on a WhatsApp group created for Saturday's game against Wales in Cardiff. Only two scrum-halves have been named. Jones conceded that decision 'was a gamble.'
Jones refused to give specific detail as to the reason for the omission of Te'o but there is little doubt that the emphasis on discipline is vital ahead of a World Cup.
"We've had that conversation with Ben and he understands it," said Jones. "Whether he agrees with it is another matter."
Jones did not rule out the possibility that Te'o could get a call if there were a spate of injuries. The Australian is approaching his fourth World Cup campaign and is well aware that there will be bumps in the road ahead.
"I've never been confident in a team being smooth," said Jones. "We're like any family – everyone sits around the dining table but you know there are problems and we're exactly the same. We've got 31 having nice conversations (but) you know potentially there's a problem. All I can do is trust the players – they are adults, they're responsible, they want to play for England and we could have some problems. If we do, we'll deal with them. Every team has problems."
Owen Farrell will lead the team into the tournament and acknowledges that the squad will have to set its own standards.
"Going forward as a group, we want to police ourselves as much as we can," said Farrell.
Jones had initially set his sights on having a battle-hardened group heading to Japan but has picked a squad showing only 1008 caps, an average of 16 caps per man fewer than the New Zealand side that won the 2015 World Cup. The need to have in-form, zestful, hungry players has become an imperative, hence the inclusion of rookies such as Bath wing Ruaridh McConnochie and Northampton flanker Lewis Ludlam.
In the words of Jones, Ludlam has 'come from absolutely nowhere'. Jones who conceded that he had to change his view two years ago when he realised that the legs of his experienced core of players 'were about to fall off."
"It's our best 31, I'm convinced it's our best 31," said Jones. "I could have picked more experienced players but I just don't feel they'll give us what the younger guys will give us. It is nice to bring in new blood. It freshens everything up. There are risks involved in it, risks in every position. It's a stressful, painful period. As a coach it's probably one of my least favourite times. Telling players they haven't made the World Cup is not a nice conversation. Everyone reacts differently, because they're different people. Some players are in a state of shock, some players handle it and then go away and get angry, some players go away and kick their dog straight away. They're all different.'
Those that did make the cut were further uplifted by specially-compiled video messages of all those who had supported them through their upbringing at their junior clubs. Among them was 32-year old Gloucester scrum-half, Willi Heinz who has shot through the ranks over the last 12 months, only winning his first cap on Sunday against Wales and the only specialist back-up to Ben Youngs.
Fly-half George Ford, who played scrum-half in his formative years in rugby league, will step up in an emergency.
The same belt-and-braces situation also applies to the tighthead where Harlequins' Joe Marler, will move across if there are any eve-of-match issues affecting Kyle Sinckler or Dan Cole. Marler, only recently out of self-imposed retirement, has only ever played on that side of the scrum for Esher and Worthing at National One level although he was also assigned that stop-gap role for England in the 2015 World Cup.
Jones will only make changes to this squad in the event of injury even though he does not have to formally declare it to Rugby World Cup until September 8th. The head coach took the decision to name his squad far earlier than any other country after lengthy consultation with players and coaches from England's last two failed World Cup campaigns.
"The common theme that came through was that selection was a massive distraction for England (before those tournaments) so decided to take the course that rather than allow it to become a distraction we would allow the players to get on with the job," said Jones who has added three players for this weekend's game – flanker, Matt Kvesic, lock, Charlie Ewels and centre, Joe Marchant.
Exeter wing Jack Nowell, who has been recovering from ankle and knee problems sustained in the Premiership Final in June, has had a 'little set-back,' and may now not feature in any of the warm-up games prior to departure.
The shoulder injury incurred by Tom Curry will sideline him for 'a small amount of weeks,' while centre, Henry Slade will be out of action for another two to three weeks. Jones has put his faith in their recovery and in the ability of the 31 to deliver for England.
England's 31-man squad for Rugby World Cup 2019: Eddie Jones names one uncapped player
- Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers, 86 caps), Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers, 10 caps), Joe Marler (Harlequins, 58 caps), Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins, 22 caps), Mako Vunipola (Saracens, 53 caps)
Hooker - Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, 12 caps), Jamie George (Saracens, 37 caps, Jack Singleton (Saracens, 1 cap)
Lock - Maro Itoje (Saracens, 27 caps), George Kruis (Saracens, 32 caps) Joe Launchbury (Wasps, 59 caps), Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, 72 caps)
Back row - Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, 11 caps), Lewis Ludlam (Northampton Saints, 1 cap), Sam Underhill (Bath, 9 caps), Billy Vunipola (Saracens, 42 caps), Mark Wilson (Newcastle Falcons/Sale Sharks, 13 caps)
Scrum-half - Willi Heinz (Gloucester, 1 cap), Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 86 caps)
Fly-half - Owen Farrell (Saracens, 70 caps), George Ford (Leicester Tigers, 56 caps)
Centre - Piers Francis (Northampton Saints, 5 caps), Jonathan Joseph (Bath, 41 caps), Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs, 22 caps), Manu Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers, 33 caps)
Back-three - Joe Cokanasiga (Bath, 5 caps), Elliot Daly (Saracens, 31 caps), Jonny May (Leicester Tigers, 45 caps), Ruaridh McConnochie (Bath, uncapped), Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs, 33 caps), Anthony Watson (Bath, 34 caps)