England captain Owen Farrell will miss the Six Nations with an ankle injury that requires surgery.
Farrell, who has not competed since exercising in England’s win over Australia in November, was set to return to Saracens last weekend.
However, he injured his other ankle in a collision while training at Saracens.
Farrell will undergo surgery late Wednesday and Saracens say they expect him to be sidelined for eight to 10 weeks.
“It was a huge blow for him personally and for the team it was a blow,” Jones said.
“But obviously it’s an opportunity for others to step up to leadership roles and let other players play for those 12 players.
“We see it as more than an opportunity. In rugby these days it’s rare to have your best team on the field. We’re pretty used to that. There’s opportunity. to build a little more leadership depth.”
England’s preparation for the tournament was met with a series of problems.
Center Manu Tuilagi is rated with only a 50% chance of playing any part of the tournament after struggling in his recovery from a hamstring problem, while winger Jonny May may also be sidelined during this time because of a knee injury.
Courtney Lawes, considered most likely to be promoted to captain in the event of Farrell’s absence, was unable to train as he resumed work on his way back from a concussion, while supporter Joe Marler is in quarantine after contracting Covid for the second time in less than three months.
The team, which was based in Brighton for a week of training, also had to move hotels after an electrical fire that, in Jones’ words, caused “manholes to send flames three or four feet high in the air.”
England’s first match is against Scotland on 5 February.
The loss of Farrell left England with inexperienced players and poor coordination in midfield.
Exeter’s Henry Slade has been a mainstay for the team for the past few seasons and has come on at the age of 12 before that, most recently an 18-7 win in November 2020 against Ireland.
However, the 28-year-old is often more outwardly centered. Joe Marchant, Mark Atkinson and Luke Northmore are the other midfield specialists in Jones’ squad, but they have only made eight caps.
Elliot Daly, was included in the England squad alongside Leicester’s George Ford in recent days, could have been another option, but Jones preferred to use him at full-back or as a winger.
Exeter wing Jack Nowell is was also used as a center against Japan in November 2018, although the experiment has not been repeated since.
BBC rugby correspondent Chris Jones
Only last week, Eddie Jones kept Farrell as captain, placing great faith in him to restore top form and fitness after a few difficult seasons.
But a monstrous training-field injury to Farrell’s remaining ankle affected Jones’ best plans, and after a few days of guesswork and uncertainty, it was confirmed that Farrell needed surgery. technical and will not feature in the Championship.
This will be the first Six Nations Farrell has missed in seven years, and will force Jones to rethink both his construction and leadership plans.
While Marcus Smith owns the No 10 shirt, he lacks experience in the midfield, while Courtney Lawes’ expected appointment as reserve captain has been delayed due to his return later. injury.