England have confirmed that captain Owen Farrell will be out for the whole 2022 Six Nations campaign after sustaining an ankle problem.
The Red Rose skipper has been out of action since November after coming off injured in the victory over the Wallabies in the Autumn Nations Series.
Farrell was due to return last weekend for Saracens’ Challenge Cup tie against London Irish, but suffered a setback ahead of that clash.
A blow for Farrell and the team
“Owen is out of the Six Nations. It’s a massive blow for him personally and for the team it’s a blow,” Jones said.
“But it’s obviously an opportunity for other guys to step up into leadership roles and for other players to play for that 12 jumper.
“We see it more as an opportunity. In today’s rugby, having your best team on the field is a rare occurrence. We’re pretty used to it. There’s an opportunity there to build a bit more leadership depth.”
British and Irish Lions flanker Courtney Lawes is pencilled in to replace Farrell as captain, resuming a role he filled with distinction during the autumn.
Lawes is progressing through the return-to-play protocols for concussion sustained on Northampton duty against Ulster on January 16 but should recover in time for the trip to Murrayfield.
“Courtney is progressing nicely and we’re still hopeful he’ll be available for Scotland,” Jones said.
The outlook on Jonny May is less positive, however, with the Gloucester wing set to miss the whole Championship because of an ongoing knee issue.
“Jonny’s more likely than not going to have some surgery, but the details on that are a bit sketchy at the moment. He’s more than likely to be out of the Six Nations,” Jones added.
Exeter lock Jonny Hill has had the boot removed for his foot injury and is also a doubt for the Calcutta Cup showdown.
“It’s going to be touch and go for the Scotland game, but we’re cautiously optimistic he’s going to be right,” Jones said.
England’s ill-fated build-up to the Six Nations experienced its most dramatic day yet when Joe Marler tested positive for coronavirus and the squad was forced to change hotel after a fire erupted from a manhole on the Brighton seafront.
While there was no risk to the players from the electric fire that was exacerbated by a gas leak, the incident has caused additional disruption just hours after Marler had been forced home to isolate.
“The players were going to have a team communication session, which is all about them talking about their goals and purpose and getting to know each other a little bit better,” Jones said.
“There were billows of smoke coming out of a manhole and all of a sudden it lit up and a huge fire like a bonfire came out of the manhole.
“We had to evacuate the hotel and at one stage we were going to go to the Cotswolds and buy some sleeping bags!
“The players and the staff stayed separately because of the short circumstance. We got through the night and we’re here.
“We’re hopefully back in the hotel by midday and the boys will start doing a gym session this morning at Brighton college.
“It’s good disruption because everyone had to adapt. We had to change our programme today.
“The players had to sleep in maybe uncomfortable beds last night and they’ve got to get on with it today.
“We enjoy those sorts of things. Every time we deal with it a little bit better.
“We had a similar situation with the typhoon in the 2019 World Cup when we had to move hotels quickly, so the guys have been in that situation before and they lead the way.”