England Six Nations team management have confirmed that former Republic of Ireland international Felix Jones will become their new defense coach, with previous defensive specialist Kevin Sinfield moving to a new role. Jones joined England after helping South Africa to two World Cup successes, and although his move was confirmed last year, it is only now that England have clarified his exact role in head coach Steve Borthwick’s staff.

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Jones, 36, was previously Munster’s attack coach before he turned down a contract extension from the province in 2019. He then joined his former Munster coach Rassie Erasmus at the Springboks shortly before they won the 2019 World Cup.

Jones’ Transition to England’s Six Nations Defensive Coach: A New Chapter

Jones’ role at the Boks initially involved analyzing opposing teams, but he soon became involved in hands-on coaching of all aspects of their game. His influence within the group grew over the next four years. Jones was based at home in Ireland in between Boks competitions, working with South African players based in Europe.

In the meantime, he learned more about the defensive side of the game from one of the best, Jacques Nienaber. The Springboks’ defensive mastermind also worked for Munster during the brief Erasmus era and is now Leinster’s senior coach.

Having started his coaching career on the attacking side of the game, Jones will now take over as England’s defensive coach for the start of the upcoming Six Nations tournament. I am thrilled to be working with Felix, a coach with an incredible reputation and vast experience in international rugby, said Borthwick. With his experience of Irish rugby and his wealth of knowledge operating in the Southern Hemisphere, he will bring a new dimension to our coaching team.

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Sinfield’s Transition: From Defense Coach to Skills and Kicking Coach

Rugby league legend Sinfield took on the role of defense coach in December 2022 but now moves into a new role as England skills and kicking coach. As they look to build on their third-place finish at last year’s World Cup, Richard Wigglesworth will remain as England’s attack coach and Tom Harrison will remain as scrum coach.

Borthwick has appointed New Zealand coach Andrew Strawbridge as consulting coach for the first four weeks of the Six Nations. Strawbridge was New Zealand’s skills consultant for the 2023 World Cup. You can also read England Rugby announce new coach ahead of Six Nations.

“Andrew is another coach with a wealth of knowledge, Borthwick said. He has worked extensively and successfully in Super Rugby and international rugby, most recently with New Zealand to help them reach the final of the 2023 Rugby World Cup.”

Andrew has an incredible reputation for player development and has helped a large number of players become some of the best in the world. His work in the contact zone is incredibly highly regarded as he provides teams with the fastball, they need to launch a threatening attack. I can’t wait for him to join the team and bring the tremendous value I know he will bring.

England open their Six Nations campaign away to Italy on Saturday 3 February and take on Ireland at Twickenham in the fourth round on 9 March. Rugby fans can book England vs Ireland Tickets on our website at exclusively discounted prices.

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Harlequins and England still sweating on Joe Marler injury as Six Nations looms

Harlequins remain hopeful that Joe Marler has avoided a long-term hand injury, with England also sweating on the suitability of the prop. Marler and Quins are still awaiting MRI results after the 33-year-old was forced to leave Saturday’s 32-26 Premier League win over Gloucester at Twickenham.

Marler carried his fine Rugby World Cup form back into the home season with Quins and will play a central role in England coach Steve Borthwick’s plans for the Six Nations. Bristol prop Ellis Genge is struggling to shake off a hamstring problem in preparation for England’s Six Nations opener against Italy in Rome on Saturday, February 4.

Sale goon Bevan Rodd will miss the entire Six Nations due to toe surgery, so England could make do with Marler, who will be available for Test duty next month. Director of Rugby Billy Millard insisted Quins’ medical team will continue to assess the extent of Marler’s injury but said he hoped the experienced campaigner could avoid a lengthy lay-off.

Joe has seen specialists and is still undergoing evaluation, Millard said. I don’t want to speculate, but fingers crossed it’s just a short-term deal, it’s important to us in a lot of ways.

“God bless him, Joe fought hard for us at the weekend. We’ve got Fin Baxter coming in and doing a really good job for us too, so we’ve been lucky in that position. But fingers crossed for Joe, hopefully it won’t last long.”

Genge’s Six Nations Fitness Battle: Bristol’s Confidence

Bristol remain confident Genge will win the Six Nations fitness battle and be ready to start the tournament opener in Rome. Genge will be among the front-runners to replace Owen Farrell as England captain, with the regular captain taking a break from the Test match.

Given his strong form, the likes of Bath’s Beno Obano could considered. Saracens front rower Vunipola will also involved after missing the World Cup with a back problem. The 32-year-old will now be free to play in the Six Nations, but will miss the previous four club matches due to suspension.

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Vunipola sent off in Saracens’ 37-19 Premier League win over Newcastle at StoneX Stadium on Saturday for a heavy tackle on Falcons hooker Brian Byrne. The Lions squad have suspended for four weeks and will miss Sarries’ remaining matches this month.

This means Vunipola will not be able to head into the Six Nations with even a few minutes of recent matches under his belt. However, Borthwick will be able to rely on his experience and resilience if the England manager decides to bring him back into the team. Vunipola told an independent disciplinary hearing that he did not consider the challenge worthy of a red card, but the panel disagreed. He was unable to complete the World Rugby school program as he did so in 2022.

As such, he will now miss Saturday’s Premier League trip to Leicester, European matches against Bordeaux and Lyon, and the Championship match against Exeter on January 27.

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