Jones willing to pick anyone who qualifies for England

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Denny Solomona.

Denny Solomona. (Photo: Samoa Observer / File)

LONDON (AP) — Until the new test rugby eligibility rules kick in, Eddie Jones says he will pick anyone who qualifies for England.

World Rugby has extended the residency qualification period from three to five years, but it doesn't come into effect until 2020. In the meantime, Jones vows to select anyone available for England.

That includes New Zealand-born scrumhalf Willi Heinz, who qualifies for England through his grandmother. Heinz, at Gloucester, played against England with the Crusaders in 2014. He's also played for New Zealand Under-21s. His selection for the England training camp this week, in the absence of players from five top clubs, drew criticism.

"It's not my job to worry about how they qualify, it's my job to pick players that qualify," Jones said on Tuesday.

"I don't care how they qualify, I'll pick them. That's the rules we play under. I obey them.

"Some players ring me and say 'I want to play for England.' Others I ring and say, 'Look, you qualify, would you like to be involved with England?' They either say yes with a smile, or they don't. Everyone's got a choice."

Also in the squad were New Zealand-born flyhalf Jason Woodward, playing at Bristol, and New Zealand-born winger Denny Solomona, who represented Samoa in rugby league and was qualified on residency at Sale.

Jones has drafted a squad without players from Saracens, Exeter, Wasps, Leicester, and Northampton, who are involved in the English Premiership or European playoffs.

He's preparing the rest to play the Barbarians on May 28 at Twickenham, before a two-test tour of Argentina.

Despite vowing to pick players from any available source, Jones insisted he does monitor the number of overseas-born players in England's ranks.

"I'm always balancing that," Jones said.

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