England coach Eddie Jones insisted on Thursday his side’s Autumn Nations Cup opener against Georgia will be “no tea party” even though the Six Nations champions will be firm favourites to win at Twickenham on Saturday.
Georgia’s only two previous Tests against England ended in 84-6 and 41-10 defeats, at the 2003 and 2011 World Cups respectively.
But the Lelos are renowned for their scrummage power and Jones still has vivid memories of a brawl with the England pack during an Oxford training session in February of last year.
“We’re playing against a team that’s going to be hell bent on making the game difficult. Hell bent on making it a physical wrestle,” he said after naming his team.
“If you have a physical wrestle then it’s hard to move the ball. The game itself we know is going to be a big physical test. We’ve got memories of what happened in Oxford. When the first scrum went down they kept going.
“So this is going to be no tea party, this is going to be a hard, tough, physical game and we’re prepared for that. We’ve picked a side for that.”
– ‘Knockabout Willis’ –
Jones has given a Test debut to “flipping tough” flanker Jack Willis as last year’s losing World Cup finalists look to increase their squad depth ahead of the 2023 edition in France.
Willis won both the players’ and the English Premiership’s player of the year award during a 2019/20 season where the 23-year-old’s turnover skill helped Wasps reach the Premiership final.
“Jack has got a good nose for the ball,” said Jones. “He gets himself into good positions. He’s got good natural strength and he’s flipping tough.”
The former Australia coach added: “He reminds me a bit of Matt Cockbain, who played for the Wallabies during their most successful period in the early 2000s.
“In Australian slang we’d call him (Willis) a knockabout bloke. He just gets on with it. Nothing fazes him too much.”
Jones added: “You’ve got to have plenty of courage to put your head over the ball when you consider you’ve got 130 kg blokes ready to clean you out — and he does that consistently and a lot.
“The big thing for Jack will be learning discernment. He has to understand that at international level, he’s probably not going to get the leniency that he’s had at club level in keeping his hands on the ball.”