England stars to remain in hotel during autumn campaign with state-of-the-art games room keeping cabin fever away… but Eddie Jones still fears breach of protocols will burst bubble
- England will remain in their squad bubble for all of their autumn fixtures
- But head coach Eddie Jones is preparing for strict protocols to be broken
- He expects discipline issues around keeping all players adhering to rules
- There has been state-of-the-art games lounge made to ward off cabin fever
England players will be prevented from socialising away from their team hotel during the autumn campaign in a bid to prevent a Covid outbreak — but Eddie Jones is braced for the likelihood of protocols being breached.
The national coach welcomed a provisional training squad into camp in Teddington, south west London, on Tuesday with a message about the need for responsible behaviour and positivity amid the pandemic.
England face six matches, including five Tests, from October 25 until December 5 and Jones outlined the measures which would be taken to preserve a virus-free ‘bubble’.
Eddie Jones fears the England bubble at the team hotel may be burst by indiscipline
With the outbreak at Sale serving as a timely warning, he said: ‘You have to have agreement about life in the bubble, which we will do today. We should be so grateful for this opportunity. I’m so excited to be coaching England again and I expect the players to have a smile on their faces when they come in.
‘They will understand their responsibilities but, like every other young man around the world at the moment, they have discipline issues. We want to minimise those discipline issues but I can’t guarantee that they won’t happen.
‘As young men, we all make mistakes. When you are in your 20s and 30s you make mistakes. None of us are exempt.’ Asked if his players would be allowed to venture out of their hotel in their downtime, Jones added: ‘We have to reduce the chances of communal infection which means that we don’t have any contact with the community.
‘By default, that means we will be staying in the Lensbury (team hotel). The main thing is that we understand the responsibility we have got.
‘We are the England national rugby team. We have been given the opportunity to play rugby in quite difficult situations.
‘We have broken the campaign down into blocks so the first block is until the end of Italy (Six Nations game in Rome on October 31) and then we will have a break and the players will need to be disciplined once they go home. Then we come in again for another couple of games, have a break again and then have the next couple of games. That is how we will deal with it.’
Jones revealed that an RFU sponsor has assisted with autumn preparations by creating a ‘state-of-the-art games lounge’ for the England squad at their hotel, as a means of combating cabin fever. ‘If I was 30 years younger I’d go in there, but I feel a bit old walking in,’ he joked. ‘The staff have done a fantastic job setting up the Lensbury.’
England are not the only ones gearing up for life in a sporting bubble. Wales are making their own arrangements to operate a strict regime. Speaking after naming his autumn squad on Tuesday, head coach Wayne Pivac said: ‘We think our environment will be very tight. We, as the leaders in the group, have to maintain discipline and make sure that the education is in place.
Wayne Pivac warned that anyone breaching his protocols will be released from the squad
‘There will be Covid instructions throughout our time together. We will be very diligent in the way we operate and make sure we fulfil our fixtures.’
Asked what would happen if players breached the agreed protocols, Pivac added: ‘There have been examples of a couple of footballers. If that happened in our environment, they’d be released from the squad. It’s as simple as that.
‘There is too much at stake, too much riding on this. We certainly won’t tolerate any individuals putting the team or competition at risk.’
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