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Forgotten Talents: Lost in the Shadows of England’s Shine

With England going from strength to strength under Eddie Jones' leadership, I take a look at the forgotten talents who have been lost in the shadows of the shining stars of the new regime.

Eddie Jones and his victorious English side have stolen all the headlines this morning, with a convincing win down under yesterday securing their first ever series victory on Aussie soil with a test to spare. A heroic display of defensive prowess saw England survive with just 29% of territory and 26% of possession, and the faces of Chris Robshaw, Dylan Hartley and James Haskell cover this morning’s front pages as a reward for England’s two hundred strong tackle count.

September’s devastating loss to Wales at Twickenham seems a long time ago for the boys in white, who have been rejuvenated under Jones’ new management structure. With a Grand Slam earlier this year, and now an Australian series win under their belts, England’s dominant performances have seen them climb from eighth in the world rankings to a new height of second under Jones’ leadership, and they can’t seem to step a foot wrong.

But, as Jones’ revitalised England celebrate their victorious tour down under, those who have yet to play a part in proceedings slip further and further into the shadows. With big changes made by the new leadership, it’s those who lost out in tough decisions who now have to sit and watch from home as their teammates are lauded with praise.

Indeed, as the successes of the Jones campaign grow, so too does the pile of English forgotten talents.

Alex Goode – Saracens

You have to feel for Alex Goode. This year’s Premiership Player of the Season was instrumental in helping Saracens to lift both the Aviva Premiership and Champions Cup, but has to watch from the shadows as teammate and Discovery of the Season Maro Itoje steals the spotlight. Sidelined in preference of Harlequins‘ Mike Brown, who has struggled to find form since the brutal concussion he suffered against Italy last February, Goode has had to watch criticism pour in for his teammate, but has yet to be rewarded with a run around. With Jones opting for the defensive style of play which suits Brown over the more dynamic Saracen, Goode will hope for a time to shine next weekend now that the series is wrapped in England’s favour.

Tom Youngs – Leicester Tigers

It looks like Tom Young‘s time in an England shirt is well and truly over. A year ago, Youngs was one of the first names on Stuart Lancaster‘s team sheet, gaining twenty eight England caps under the previous regime. Earlier this year, his failure to makes Jones’ England squad for the 2016 Six Nations was a shock to many, alongside the bold appointment of rival Dylan Hartley as captain. Fast forwards six months and Tom Youngs is a long forgotten name, with Hartley producing man of the match worthy displays in strong performances which have cemented his role at the head of the England team. Ruled out for the rest of the season back in March for a back injury after just thirteen appearances for the Leicester Tigers, and with fellow hooker Jamie George impressing down under, it looks like Tom will have to settle for watching younger brother Ben Youngs take the spotlight they once shared.

Tom Wood – Northampton Saints

Another legacy from the Lancaster era, Wood started the England World Cup campaign as a first choice six. With fourty two caps to his name since his debut in October 2011, and after vocalising his desire to take on the England captaincy from Chris Robshaw after the disastrous World Cup, Tom Wood was shocked when Jones labelled him distinctly average and excluded him from the Six Nations squad. Plagued by injury over the last couple of years, Wood had hoped that a strong end to the season for his home club, Northampton Saints, would convince Jones of the case for his inclusion down under. But, now omitted from both squads, Wood can only watch the rejuvenated duo of James Haskell and Chris Robshaw outclass the Australian back row, whilst Six Nations player of the tournament Billy Vunipola continues to shine in the number eight shirt. And, with young Harlequin Jack Clifford a firm favourite in Eddie Jones’ books, Wood is another one to add to the forgotten pile of the post Lancaster era.

Joe Launchbury and Courtney Lawes –  Wasps and Northampton Saints

A year ago, this young pairing looked like England’s future, and were the first names on most team sheets. The vibrant talents struck up a strong partnership in the second row, with Exeter Chief‘s Geoff Parling also featuring in Lancaster’s selection. But, with Parling omitted first from Jones’ Six Nations campaign, and then the tour to Australia, and Lawes and Launchbury having to settle for a place on the bench in Australia, England’s second row has seen a dramatic shakeup. New into the squad has been Saracens duo George Kruis and Maro Itoje – the latter of whom is critics favourite for a future England captaincy – and the pair have dominated in England’s impressive forwards display. Unheard of a year ago, when Kruis was barely on the scene at a club level, the pair are now indispensable to both Saracens’ and England’s lineups, and Itoje’s meteoric rise to worldwide fame is unprecedented. Their inclusion, however, is at the loss of their predecessors, who now look unlikely to ever live up to the huge expectations that were once placed upon them.

Danny Cipriani – Wasps

It’s impossible to write about omitted English talent without a mention of Wasps’ Danny Cipriani. Since his return to English rugby, the fly half has continued to impress, and was named in the provisional squad for Jones’ tour to Australia despite later being dropped to the second tier. A chequered off-field history had left him out of favour under Lancaster’s reign, alongside a move to Australia to play for the Melbourne Rebels, but returning to England to play for both Sale Sharks and now Wasps has propelled him back into the spotlight. Starring currently for the Saxons, he has added value from both the boot and in his creativity on the field, and taken the snub from Jones in his stride with gracious displays in the media and a reformed attitude to his game. Momentarily forgotten as the battle between first choice fly halves Owen Farrell and George Ford has taken the spotlight down under, Ford’s struggle at Twickenham against Wales may leave the England door open for Cipriani in the future.

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