A final chance for England’s forgotten men? The Gallagher Premiership has served up an absolute feast of rugby this season, perhaps the greatest in the professional era. To add yet more intrigue to the semi-finals, there may be an unexpected chance for England’s hopefuls to impress head coach Eddie Jones and the England Rugby selectors.
The list of talent is long and exposes just how much ability Eddie Jones has to choose from with the Rugby World Cup now firmly in view. Three immediate names come to mind. Gloucester’s Danny Cipriani, Saracens’ Alex Goode, and Exeter’s Don Armand. One could also add Ben Morgan, Jason Woodward, Olly Devoto, and Sam Simmonds to that list.
Such has been the intensity and standard of the Premiership this year, the aforementioned players could still conceivably nudge Eddie Jones.
Farrell v Cipriani to determine Number 10 jersey’s fate
Whether he likes it or not, Eddie Jones cannot continue to ignore just how good Danny Cipriani has been for Gloucester this year. The fact that Cipriani has managed to achieve such excellence for a new club and amidst all of the controversy from his unfortunate pre-season incident, is quite remarkable.
This coming weekend, Gallagher Player of the Year Cipriani goes up against England’s captain and leader, Owen Farrell. That contest alone is worth the admission fee.
The question that Danny Cipriani and his supporters have to hope for is that Eddie Jones can remain open-minded on selection. At the very least, Jones should make a decision on how well Cipriani goes against Farrell, that’s his job as England coach. If Cipriani does win the battle over Farrell then he must go to Japan as the third fly-half/utility player.
Jones should act on facts, not the past
Alex Goode, this year’s European player of the year has also done everything he can to impress Eddie Jones. Like Cipriani, it is becoming ever more perplexing on a weekly basis why Goode is being ignored. There can only be one reason why Cipriani and Goode are on the outer for England. Eddie Jones does not trust them to deliver on his terms.
11 – Only Danny Cipriani has made more try assists in @premrugby this season than @Alex_goode0 who has assisted 11, five more than any other non-half back; he’s also made the most carries, metres and beaten the most defenders of any @Saracens player. Smashed. ? #PremRugbyAwards pic.twitter.com/yKKf5cfdjc
— OptaJonny (@OptaJonny) May 17, 2019
Yes, Goode and Cipriani are prone to mistakes and yes there is an element risk for the wellbeing of the squad. However, it is an English trait of penalizing players on what they can’t do instead of what they can do.
It would be a travesty should Goode and/or Danny Cipriani not grace the World Cup this year.
Goode and Cipriani offer X-factor
Goode and Cipriani offer flare, vision and crucially an x-factor influence. Rugby’s World Cup history suggests that the winning team needs an element of x-factor to succeed.
1987 – Michael Jones and John Kirwan
1991 – David Campese and Tim Horan
1999 – Tim Horan and Stephen Larkham
2003 – Jason Robinson
2007 – Bryan Habana
2011 – Israel Dagg and Richie McCaw
2015 – Kieran Read and Dan Carter.
This England team has many x-factor players but, they are still to be fully exploited; especially under extreme pressure. The full back position is not cast in iron under Elliot Daly and a returning Anthony Watson. Alex Goode could fill in or at least provide an appropriate backup?
The same questions are asked for the first-five position. George Ford has been immense for the Tigers but, can he change a game like Danny Cipriani can when England need something special?
Don Armand makes up the hopefuls
Exeter’s Don Armand can do no more and is similar to Alex Goode and Danny Cipriani in that respect. He has consistently been the best backrower in the Premiership over the last three years. No matter how many tries, how many hard yards and even the occasional brilliant offload, Armand will not be in Japan.
Six years ago Don Armand was a relatively unknown 24-year-old back-row struggling to break into the Stormers Super Rugby side.
Fast forward to 2019 and he is poised to make his 100th Premiership appearance for Exeter Chiefs. pic.twitter.com/IwI9z1sFTY
— Rugby Kingdom (@RugbyKlngdom) May 17, 2019
Only Eddie Jones, his management, and the England Rugby selectors know why. Nathan Hughes and Brad Shields are ahead of Armand and – it seems – only a plethora of injuries will change Jones’ direction on the Exeter Chief.
Injuries and performance could sway England Rugby selectors
Eddie Jones has never been backward in coming forward. So there is hope in his forthcoming selection or culling. He will have the majority of his leadership team and senior players involved in the next two weeks. He alone will determine whether players like Goode or Cipriani can make the squad.
With England’s second-half capitulation against the Scots still fresh in the minds, Jones’ squad cannot yet be finalized. His thoughts and observations, as well as his assistant coaches, analysts and the few who have his ear, will all invest time to consider the probables and the possibles.
Over the next two weekends, England’s four best teams will fight it out and the English players involved deserve the chance to put themselves in the ‘shop window’. Eddie Jones and the England Rugby selectors must give them that opportunity to do so.
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