Tom Youngs Dropped from Eddie Jones’ Elite Player Squad

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New England head coach, Eddie Jones and his coaching team have announced a 33 man Elite Player Squad (EPS) for the upcoming 2016 Six Nations. England will take to the field in their first match against Scotland at Murrayfield in a little under a month on 6th February. The headline news is the dropping of Leicester Tigers hooker Tom Youngs entirely from the squad along with recalls for Dylan Hartley, Manu Tuilagi and Chris Ashton who all did not feature at the 2015 Rugby World Cup under the previous coaching regime. Due to the EPS agreement with Premiership clubs a maximum of eleven changes could be made to the squad with this announcement.

Tom Youngs Dropped from Eddie Jones’ Elite Player Squad

Tom Youngs has been in fine form for Leicester this season both domestically and in European competition for the Tigers. Previously his set piece has been brought into question as he struggled notably at lineout time although his general field play meant many saw him as the first choice hooker. Eddie Jones, however, has signalled his intent to mould an England side in his own guise by selecting controversial hooker Dylan Hartley and the much touted Jamie George. Hooker is a key position that will undoubtedly see this decision dissected by fans and pundits alike. Disciplinary issues aside Hartley is still a contender for the captaincy and whilst lacking match fitness after a return from injury he most certainly has the skills and tenacity to be a world class player and is one of England’s most capped players.

Alongside Hartley other notable additions to the squad who have earned recalls are Saracens winger, Chris Ashton and Leicester Tigers centre, Manu Tuilagi. Again both of these players add a huge amount of international experience and are both proven winners on the European rugby circuit. Tuilagi is covered for his current injury by Bath’s Ollie Devoto but may well be ready for the later stages of the Six Nations to bolster the midfield. Ashton has repeatedly shown at Saracens that his international career is far from over with his clinical finishing skills and improved defensive abilities.

The inclusion of former players who fell out of favour under Stuart Lancaster adds much needed experience to Eddie Jones’ squad but alongside that the new coaching set up has embraced the emerging young English talent. Seven uncapped players have been named, Josh Beaumont (Sale Sharks), Jack Clifford (Harlequins), Elliot Daly (Wasps), Ollie Devoto (Bath Rugby), Sam Hill (Exeter Chiefs), Paul Hill, (Northampton Saints) and Maro Itoje (Saracens) are all included. Amongst those it is Maro Itoje who stands out as the player to watch should he be given his chance to shine during the Six Nations. The Saracens second row and number six adds versatility to the pack and most importantly turnovers. Itoje stands second in the turnover table of the Aviva Premiership with ten turnovers only beaten by his now England colleague Matt Kvesic (13). Standout performances throughout Saracens impressive start to the season have been epitomised by Itoje with his work rate second to none and his lineout work outstanding. Each of the uncapped players will hope that they have a role to play in what will be an intriguing Six Nations.

Whilst Tom Youngs is the headline player to be dropped from the squad there are a number of other notable players missing. As with any squad selection there will always be disappointed players but as Jones suggested any player not selected had simply not done enough. Brad Barritt, Tom Wood, Geoff Parling and Danny Cipriani are not included suggesting their performances in the opening rounds of the Premiership and Europe have not been enough to persuade the coaching set up that are ready for more international rugby. With George Ford and Owen Farrell both in fine form it was always going to be difficult for Cipriani to force his way into the squad but many supporters would have hoped that a different caliber of fly half may have had the chance under Jones. Wood and Parling miss out in what is a highly contested pack whilst Barritt may well miss out after disappointing performances at the World Cup and a move towards to a far greater attacking midfield threat.

Eddies Jones and his coaching set up have suggested with this squad announcement, a move towards an England rugby team with an attacking identity rather than the defensive approach last seen at the World Cup. In the backs selections such as Daly, Joseph, Yarde, Goode, Brown, Ashton and Devoto will lead to an attacking emphasis that England fans will not have witnessed in a long time. This, however, is dictated by the ability of the forwards to win and retain the ball against top nations providing the necessary platform. Young talent like Clifford, Itoje and Beaumont will complement the experienced performers such as the Vunipola brothers, Robshaw and Hartley. Steve Borthwick and Ian Peel have a major test ahead to recapture the success of former England packs as at the World Cup both the scrum, lineout and breakdown were dominated by the opposition.

The blend within the squad will now be tested in Edinburgh against a revitalised Scotland side who excelled at the Rugby World Cup. The debate will continue with many fans and pundits backing their own decisions but for now England’s first foreign coach has chosen his top 33 English players and they need everyone behind them. A view from the outside may well be what is needed to bring England’s form back to the standards of previous years that saw England become the only northern hemisphere nation to win a Rugby World Cup but a successful first Six Nations has to be the top priority for these young players and the new coaching set up.

England Senior squad for RBS 6 Nations and Elite Player Squad:

Forwards

Josh Beaumont (Sale Sharks)
Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers)
Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs)
Jack Clifford (Harlequins)
Jamie George (Saracens)
Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints)
James Haskell (Wasps)
Paul Hill (Northampton Saints)
Maro Itoje (Saracens)
George Kruis (Saracens)
Matt Kvesic (Gloucester Rugby) *injury replacement for Dave Ewers (Exeter Chiefs)
Joe Launchbury (Wasps)
Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints)
Joe Marler (Harlequins)
Matt Mullan (Wasps)
Chris Robshaw (Harlequins)
Henry Thomas (Bath Rugby) *injury replacement for Kieran Brookes (Northampton Saints)
Billy Vunipola (Saracens)
Mako Vunipola (Saracens)

Backs

Chris Ashton (Saracens)
Mike Brown (Harlequins)
Danny Care (Harlequins)
Elliot Daly (Wasps)
Ollie Devoto (Bath Rugby) *injury replacement for Manu Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers)
Owen Farrell (Saracens)
George Ford (Bath Rugby)
Alex Goode (Saracens)
Sam Hill (Exeter Chiefs) *injury replacement for Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs)
Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby)
Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs)
Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby)
Marland Yarde (Harlequins)
Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers)

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