In a bid to get England back to their competitive best, coach Eddie Jones has handed over the playmaking duties to Marcus Smith.
Jones selected a new-look squad for a November itinerary of matches against Tonga, Australia and South Africa at Twickenham, with 77-times capped flyhalf George Ford jettisoned in favour of Smith.
Jones has confirmed that the 22-year-old Harlequins playmaker would feature in the series at flyhalf, with England captain Owen Farrell at inside centre.
Jones labelled Ford as a “good player”, however adding: “I think we’ve got to become much more aggressive in the early part of when we get the ball and we’re keen to know what Marcus and Owen can do together.”
Not known for lavishing praise on players, Jones also singled out Tom Curry as “someone who has done remarkably well” for England and even suggested the loose forward could emulate an all-time great.
“He came in as a very strong defensive player but I think he can really progress his attacking game now, similar to what [former New Zealand captain] Richie McCaw did,” said Jones.
“There’s no limit to where his game can go.”
Meanwhile, Jones defended criticism for the high staff turnover, saying he is a “reasonable person”.
A report in The Times cited anonymous accounts from players and former coaching staff to portray Jones as a harsh taskmaster presiding over a joyless regime.
Jones took charge of England after their embarrassing group-stage exit on home soil at the 2015 Rugby World Cup, guiding them to the final in Japan two years ago where they were well beaten by South Africa.
The vastly experienced Jones is contracted to lead England at the 2023 World Cup in France.
Questions over his methods, however, resurfaced following England’s record-equalling low finish of fifth in this year’s Six Nations.
Former All Blacks head coach John Mitchell’s exit means England are now working with their third defence coach in Jones’ six years at the helm, while in the four years up to the 2019 World Cup England used five different sports psychologists.
“Everyone has an opinion on how you operate. I can’t say it’s right or wrong, I try to be a reasonable person,” Jones told BT Sport.
“I’ve coached for a fair period of time and there have probably been times when I haven’t been as nice as I’d like to be. But I endeavour to be fair all the time and I’m excited where this team is going to go.
“The only thing you can do is respond and the only way we’ll respond is by playing good rugby, so that’s what we intend to do.”
‘Brutal’ was one word used to describe Jones’ treatment of staff but the 61-year-old, Australia’s coach when they lost the 2003 World Cup final to England, responded by saying: “I think the fact that I’ve been coaching for this period of time would indicate that that’s not the truth.
“Has it been a high turnover of staff? There’s been turnover in certain areas where we’ve looked to refresh the staff.
“This is my sixth year in the job and you’d expect that from your support staff. I think we’ve got a very good staff here and we appreciate their hard work.”
© Agence France-Presse