Twickenham - Eddie Jones believes the uncapped pair of Lewis
Boyce and Alec Hepburn have what it takes to succeed in the demanding role of
an international loosehead prop.
The duo have been included in his initial England squad for
next month's Six Nations Championship opener away to Italy.
With the experienced Joe Marler, a Harlequins team-mate of
Boyce, suspended and Ellis Genge and Matt Mullan injured, England lack proven
cover for Mako Vunipola.
The loosehead and tighthead props, who pack down either side
of the hooker in the front row, are the cornerstone of the scrum.
An often physically-sapping part of rugby union, the scrum
is particularly important to teams such as England who pride themselves on
forward dominance and look to use the set-piece as the foundation stone of
But England coach Jones said the days when all props had to
worry about was how they scrummed were long gone.
He was, however, optimistic the 21-year-old Boyce, a former
England Under-20 international, and Exeter's 24-year-old Hepburn both have the raw
ability required for modern Test rugby, with one of them in line to at least be
on the bench when England begin their quest for an unprecedented third
successive outright Championship title in Rome on February 4.
"A hundred percent," Jones told reporters at
Twickenham on Thursday after unveiling his 35-man squad.
"They've both got the potential. You've got to
remember, with international rugby, it's like you have talent to come in the
room and then once you get in the room it's how hard you work and how much you
want it and how much you're prepared to put in," the Australian added.
"These boys have all got talent. There's another 35
players in England who have got enough talent to play international rugby. It's
whether they've got the desire, that ability to dig deep when it hurts."
Former Australia and Japan coach Jones said the requirements
placed upon the player wearing the No 1 shirt were colossal.
"You just look at loosehead props now, what they're
required to do. It is amazing. You've got someone like Mako Vunipola, he's 125
kilogrammes, that's big enough to be a Sumo wrestler.
"He makes 20 tackles a game, carries the ball 10 times,
cleans out 20 times, scrums 15 times, lifts in the line-out 18 times. What
those guys do now, compared to what a prop did 10 years ago, has increased at
"Because of that, they're in pain the whole time.
That's hard work. It's hard work to do.
"So the test is the mental part of it, whether they can
keep doing that. Whether they can get off the floor quickly and get back in the
defensive line. It's not about talent," insisted Jones, a hooker in his
playing days with Sydney club Randwick.
England might not have needed to look to Joyce and Hepburn
for the Italy game had Marler, a veteran of 53 Tests, been available.
But the 27-year-old, whose career has been blighted by
disciplinary lapses, was given a six-week ban earlier this month after being
sent off for recklessly shoulder-charging TJ Ioane during Harlequins' 30-29
defeat by Sale in the English Premiership.
With suspensions in rugby union applying across all
competitions, Marler has now been ruled out of both the game in Rome and the
following week's clash with Wales at Twickenham.
"I'm very disappointed mate," said an unimpressed
Jones. "He's very disappointed in himself. He feels like he let Quins
down, he loves being in the England side.
"He's got to get through his ban and then come back as
the fittest loosehead prop in England."