Eddie Jones hopes England will emerge from one of the most demanding seasons in the game’s history by supplying a record number of players to next year’s Lions tour.
With the Gallagher Premiership resuming earlier this month because of the five-month interruption caused by Covid-19, any personnel facing South Africa next summer will have endured a year of continuous rugby.
But Jones confronts the workload by outlining his determination to supply the bulk of Warren Gatland’s squad knowing it means England will have excelled.
Sir Clive Woodward’s bloated Lions touring party of 2005 saw 20 Red Rose stars embark for New Zealand – a record number supplied by one country in the professional era.
“The circumstances dictate that it’s a difficult season, we all acknowledge that,” said Jones, speaking on behalf of Umbro, the new Official Technical Kit Partner to England Rugby.
“But I think the planning between the clubs and us will result in our players being in as good a condition as they can be.
“And then, how many will go on the Lions tour? Well I am hoping 20-plus. I want to see a record. I think 100 per cent that’s possible.
“I want our side to be by far the dominant force in the Lions. And that will be a consequence of them playing well for England.”
The path to South Africa begins on October 31 when England conclude their 2020 Six Nations with a re-arranged fixture against Italy and the trip to Rome is then followed by the autumn’s Eight Nations Tournament.
For the first time, Jones’ approach to selection could be significantly shaped by a statistical approach that he believes could be illuminating.
“One of our sponsors is Red Bull and we’ve managed to speak to a number of people from them. They have obviously set-up quite an efficient football factory at the moment,” he said.
“They have done really well and they’ve been quite innovative in how they recruit players based on the information they collect. So we are going down that track.
“One of the things that is important in that area is obviously being able to finance the research, so we are dealing with that at the moment.
“There are three sources of data for selection. There are live games, there is the video of games and then the metrics around performance.
“Metrics are one of the things that are missing and certainly football is way ahead of us in this area, which is one of the reasons we’ve spent some time looking at football.
“Take Mako Vunipola, who is probably one of the best looseheads in the world. He carries the ball 15 times a game.
“His longest carry is probably three seconds. So he has got the ball in his hand for 45 seconds. So for 79 minutes and 15 seconds he ‘s working off the ball – and we don’t really have any metrics to measure the effectiveness of his movement off the ball.
“It is quite a big project and it is something we are looking at the moment, investigating, and we will keep investigating.”
* Eddie Jones is an Umbro ambassador. Umbro will be launching its new England Rugby kit on the 7th September. For more information visit: www.umbro.co.uk/rugby