Eddie Jones admits he was left thinking “what have I got myself into” after he recalled taking charge of England training for the first time.
The Australian replaced Stuart Lancaster in November 2015 after England’s World Cup campaign on home soil ended in elimination at the group stage and Saturday’s Calcutta Cup meeting with Scotland at Murrayfield sees Jones return to where his tenure began in 2016.
Jones has since led England to an impressive 24 victories from their 25 matches – their only defeat coming against Ireland – but the former Australia and Japan boss reveals he was left in no doubt about the size of the task on his hands early on in his role as head coach.
“After the first training run – I had a look at it on video the other day – I was thinking ‘goodness me what have I got myself into here?”‘ Jones said.
“The players weren’t fit. They wanted to play a system of attack, a system of defence and I thought ‘this is going to be hard work’.
“After 20 minutes, they were just shot. They couldn’t run anymore. The basics of Test rugby is physical conditioning. You’ve got to be fit enough to play.”
England have begun their bid for a historic third consecutive Six Nations title in encouraging fashion with back-to-back wins against Italy and Wales but Jones has spoken of his amazement at the speed at which his players adapted to his demands.
“I was massively surprised how quickly the players changed,” he said. “It’s hard for good players to change so it’s a great credit that they’ve been able to accept that they needed to change and have done so.”
Jones argues the greatest transformation in the England squad since his arrival has been their ability to take control of pivotal stages in encounters when the pressure is at its highest.
“They’ve learned how to play winning rugby. They’ve learned to develop a mindset to find a way to win Test rugby. They like winning,” Jones said.
“Test match rugby is about winning, it’s not about entertainment. If you want entertainment, watch Super Rugby.”