Jones Q&A: Updates on injuries and facing Italy

  • Take our England against Italy quiz - here
  • Itoje determined to continue improving - more
  • England face Italy on Sunday in Rome

Ahead of England's NatWest 6 Nations opener against Italy on Sunday, head coach Eddie Jones provides an update on injuries, selection and the progress of Maro Itoje.

Can we run through the injuries?

"Well the only guy that is not training today is Zach Mercer as he's got a bit of a viral infection.

"We've had some miracles, some great recoveries and some fantastic work from the medical and strength and conditioning staff so at this stage we have 34 players here and 33 are available for selection."

So Brown, Robshaw and Itoje are all training?

"They all did some return to play stuff yesterday and they all came through really well."

How has Zach Mercer impressed you over the last week and is he in contention? 

"He's doing ok but he has a lot of work to do - physically he has a lot of work to do.

"You put him next to Haskell and you can see the physical work he's got to do to be a Test player but he's got other attributes.

"He's just got to get stronger. We play a very physical game and you need physical strength to play well."

Would Sam Simmonds still be the front runner at this stage?

"Well he is definitely in contention, strongly in contention."

A word on Maro Itoje, he made his debut two years ago how's he developed as a player?

"Exceptionally well. He's played for the Lions and been part of a side that drew a series in New Zealand, won two Six Nations titles so for a young guy he's been in successful teams, plus obviously all his club success.

"Just his maturity is the thing that impresseses me the most, he wants to take more responsibility within the team which is absolutely outstanding.

"He can become a lot better and there's at least one area of his game he can significantly improve and he's working on that pretty hard at the moment - his ball carrying.

"He can be a much more effective attacker and he's working on that at the moment with Steve Borthwick who's doing some great work with him and certainly he's moving in the right direction."

See England take on the Barbarians in the Quilter Cup at Twickenham on 27 May –