Eddie Jones believes England will contest the ‘most interesting’ 2023 Rugby World Cup group after the reigning Guinness Six Nations champions were drawn alongside Argentina and his former charges Japan.
The Red Rose will also go head-to-head with qualifiers from Oceania – either Samoa or Tonga – and the Americas in Pool D, as they look to ultimately go one better than the runners-up spot they claimed in Japan in 2019.
While England have avoided some of world rugby’s biggest hitters, Jones will be well aware of the threat posed by the Brave Blossoms, who he led to a famous win over South Africa at the 2015 edition of the competition, in England.
The 60-year-old is also looking forward to going toe-to-toe with the Pumas, who showcased their growing credentials with a maiden win over New Zealand in the Rugby Championship last month.
“It is probably the most contrasting pool in terms of styles and philosophy, which is what makes it the most interesting group,” said Jones.
“Japan will be tough because they play the game differently. We don’t get many chances to play against teams like Japan so we’re going to have to be really well prepared.
“Then you have the contrast of Argentina who played probably the most physical game of rugby we saw all 2020, against the All Blacks. It’s going to be a great challenge to see who gets through the pool.”
Progression from the group could throw up a quarter-final tie with either Guinness Six Nations rivals Wales, or Australia, who England beat in the 2003 Rugby World Cup final as they lifted the Webb Ellis Cup for the first time.
Jones said: “Wales are going through a sticky period, but they have plenty of time to get it right so we’ll worry about them further down the track.
“Australia have a great coach in Dave Rennie and they have some good young players coming through, so we know that’d be a tough match.”
While the countdown for the World Cup – which will be held in France between September and October 2023 – has firmly begun, England will continue their preparations with a Guinness Six Nations title to defend in 2021.
Having followed up their Championship win in October by claiming the inaugural Autumn Nations Cup title earlier this month, Jones is confident his team are heading in the right direction.
“We had nine new caps in 2020, so that’s a good progression for us. And we are going through a rebuilding phase at the moment,” he added.
“This year has been satisfactory. We won nine out of ten games, but never played at our best, so that’s exciting. It’s a great opportunity to keep improving.
“We have got to make sure the guys keep working hard, keep making sure they become better players and then we’ll have great competition.”