Eddie Jones' weakened England must deliver results despite injuries, suspensions

Eddie Jones faces the media after announcing his England squad for the autumn internationals David Rogers/Getty Images for Quilter

England are without 320 caps worth of experience due to injury, down to their fourth and fifth-choice players in certain positions and have a squad featuring eight rookies but make no mistake, the pressure is on Eddie Jones' side to deliver this autumn.

Jones said the above scenario "puts a bit of a hole in the experience in the forwards" but he knows anything less than three wins from the fixtures against South Africa, New Zealand, Japan and Australia will be seen as a step backwards for England, who have only won three of their past eight matches.

Those spring days of Grand Slams and winning runs in the early stages of Jones' tenure seem like lifetime ago, but the expectations and demands are just the same.

And now, with a 36-man squad where options at loose-head and No. 8 are sparse, the southern hemisphere nations lie in wait, preparing to storm into town.

Had you been told by Jones at the start of the year that Ben Moon and Alec Hepburn would be the two loose-heads set to battle it out for the No. 1 shirt for their opener against South Africa, then you would have tested his temperature.

But injury and retirements mean they are the next cabs off the rank. The same goes at No. 8 with the returning Ben Morgan. The options at the back of the scrum are Billy Vunipola and Nathan Hughes then everyone else. Even Jones could not have imagined his star No. 8 would have suffered three fractured arms in the last 10 months and his back-up No .8 Hughes would cop a longer-than-usual ban for tweeting during a disciplinary hearing.

So from the unlucky and stupid, step forward Zach Mercer or the born-again Morgan, who is reaping the benefits of Johan Ackermann's tuition at Gloucester.

It's all a little curious. Yet still Jones remains bullish and is capable of the odd curveball, such as with his decision over the captaincy for the autumn internationals, which is to be shared by Owen Farrell and Dylan Hartley.

It's a model which still needs to be finessed. "They'll hold hands when they run out," Jones said. "Dylan is always next to the referee so it's natural for him to speak to the referee. But they'll work it out. They've been playing together for I don't know how many Tests. They've basically captained team together, so it's a very natural situation."

But this is an astute decision. In a team void of experience in key positions, and then new combinations in the backs, a familiarity is essential. Hartley and Farrell bring that and both are certain to start against South Africa.

Farrell's promotion to co-captain places George Ford's potential place in a starting XV in danger. Jones has picked just two 10s in this 36-man squad, leaving Danny Cipriani again on the outside looking in.

The fly-half has been playing superbly for Gloucester but Jones wants to see improvement in unknown aspects of Cipriani's game. Still, Cipriani's omission is baffling, so too the absentees Dave Attwood and Don Armand.

It is the backs which give some relief in light of the confusion in the pack. A fit-again Manu Tuilagi is a luxury Jones, nor his predecessor Stuart Lancaster in his later years, have enjoyed. Ben Te'o seems to time his fitness to perfection for international windows and the two would provide a blockbusting centre combination.

Then there are the options on the wings. Jonny May, Jack Nowell, Chris Ashton, Elliot Daly, Nathan Earle and Joe Cokanasiga are all wonderful options -- the latter has the potential to be a bolter and gatecrash next year's World Cup.

And it is that hovering tournament which remains the defining challenge of Jones' tenure. He knows there is pressure on him and is fully aware that if this autumn campaign returns anything less than three wins from four, then he will come under-fire.

Win the World Cup, and this time of injuries, suspensions, retirements and uncapped novices will be seen as nothing more than a time of lessons and character-building which helped build foundations for future silverware.