Eddie Jones open to Richard Cockerill joining England set-up

Richard Cockerill
Cockerill spent 23 of the last 25 years of his career with Tigers

Eddie Jones says he sympathises with Richard Cockerill and is open to the possibility of the sacked Leicester boss joining England's coaching set-up.

Cockerill, 46, was dismissed as Tigers' director of rugby on 2 January, with the club fifth in the Premiership.

England head coach Jones told BBC Sport that despite having a forwards coach he would "never close the door".

Jones also said Dylan Hartley would continue to captain England if he was fit enough to be selected.

Northampton hooker Hartley is serving a six-week ban for catching Leinster's Sean O'Brien with a swinging arm in a Champions Cup match in December.

Jones, 56, said last month that the 30-year-old had "let his country down" with the third red card of his career.

But the Australian said on Tuesday that Hartley was "doing everything right" to be England captain for the forthcoming Six Nations.

Massive amount of sympathy for Cockerill - Jones

Cockerill had been a member of Leicester's coaching staff since 2004, taking over as head coach in 2009 and becoming director of rugby in 2010.

But following a 16-12 defeat by Saracens on New Year's Day, and with Leicester 15 points adrift of leaders Wasps, Cockerill was sacked.

Tigers' achievements under Cockerill
Leicester won three Premiership titles under Cockerill and were twice runners-up
Leicester were runners-up in the European Cup in Cockerill's first season in charge and won the LV= Cup in 2011-12

Jones said: "I have a massive amount of sympathy for Richard Cockerill.

"He is a great rugby guy, a great player for Leicester, has been a very successful director of rugby and coach.

"You don't like to see that happen to anyone but the reality of being a coach is that everyone goes through that and I am sure he will end up somewhere else.

"It has been a discussion point for the Leicester players. They are disappointed for Richard but know they have to get on with the job.

"We are very well endowed with the forwards coaches we have at the moment so we can always look at the possibility of that [getting Cockerill]."

Former England lock Steve Borthwick is currently England's forwards coach.

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'Hartley will be captain'

Dylan Hartley
Hartley was dropped from the World Cup squad in 2015 under former head coach Stuart Lancaster after he headbutted Saracens' Jamie George

Hartley's dismissal in Northampton's 37-10 home defeat by Leinster had jeopardised his involvement in England's Six Nations campaign, with their opening fixture against France at Twickenham on 4 February.

However, he is eligible to play again from 23 January.

Jones added: "A prerequisite to get into the England side is to be very fit and not playing games means he needs to undergo an unbelievably stringent fitness programme over the next five or six weeks. He is doing that and is in the best position to continue as captain.

"If Dylan is right to play, he will be captain.

"Everyone makes mistakes. In the last 12 months, he has made one mistake and done a hell of a lot of good things so his batting average is pretty high. If that falls, then we need to look at things.

"We have had a number of chats, not any longer than five minutes, but plenty of information has been exchanged. He understands where he is at and what he needs to do. He will do it."

Jones on England injuries

The former Australia coach said it was a "big relief" to have James Haskell back in contention after the flanker missed the autumn internationals with a toe injury.

Leicester centre Manu Tuilagi has been ruled out of England's training camp in Brighton next week after a knee injury cut short his involvement in the Tigers' defeat by Saracens.

Manu Tuilagi
Tuilagi had only recently returned to action after two months out with a groin problem.

"He was coming back into some form, getting his power back so it is enormously frustrating for him," said Jones.

Former England captain Chris Robshaw also faces a nervous wait to discover the extent of the shoulder injury sustained with Harlequins on New Year's Day, with England ordering a scan.

Zero tolerance fantastic - Jones

World Rugby has tightened the tackle law with immediate effect, clamping down on high and dangerous tackles by lowering the acceptable height of the tackle and increasing the severity of on-field punishment.

"I think it is fantastic," said Jones. "The game of rugby is such a great game and we have to keep improving it.

"Concussions is an issue that will be there more and more so the scrutiny for head injuries is nothing like it was three or five years ago.

"Over the next period of time, it is going to be quite difficult. We will then have a safer, healthier game.

"We played against Argentina with 14 men and it was a great game. We are preparing for that. The penalties over the next period of time will be harsh."

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