Once Again Eddie Jones’ selection for England’s Six Nations squad raised eyebrows to say the least. He has left out in-form players such as the Simmonds brothers and Alex Dombrandt. As well as dropping the likes of Piers Francis and Mark Wilson who were part of England’s World Cup Final reaching campaign in Japan.
The decision to include uncapped members such as Jacob Umaga, Fraser Dingwell and George Furbank will be welcomed by many but perplex others. Overall though, such surprising selections have become almost a trademark of Eddie Jones’ tenure.
David Challis has an in-depth look at the squad and tells us why we should not be surprised by the selections. Also looking at what we can expect from this years’ Six Nations.
Jones traditionally uses the first squad to blood players
Jones has called up over 100 players to various training squads during his time with England. This England Six Nations squad follows the same pattern. International squads have very little time to work together and as a result, blooding new players can be difficult. Jones is using the training week before the first game to test individuals and see if they are up to the standard he expects.
The likes of Furbank, Dunn, Stuart and Moon will all be under the spotlight in training to see if they make the grade. Jones has no issue with dropping players without a second thought. I fully expect this squad to change a lot over the coming weeks with these new players very much under threat.
Squads change significantly throughout a tournament
England’s Six Nations squad is always subject to many changes and tweaks. It is not uncommon for more experienced players to miss out on selection only to be called up in the later weeks as demands change.
The likes of Ben Spencer and Mark Wilson are still likely to play a role in this Six Nations but Jones knows they can slot in at a moments notice. Hence why he is more likely to take a chance on someone less experienced now rather than later.
Jones does not tend to pick on premiership form
Jones infamously simply does not pick on the basis of who is having the best season in the Premiership. Historically the likes of Don Armand have been tearing up trees at club level but never received a call up to the England squad. Jones instead picks on the basis of his perceived opinion of players at international level.
Although the likes of Joe Simmonds and Marcus Smith have had strong seasons so far for their club, in Eddie Jones’ mind that does not automatically entitle them to a call-up. He instead picks more off instinct and thus far you cannot argue with it.
Vunipola’s injury likely caused chaos
One of the biggest gripes people have with England’s Six Nations squad is the lack of a specialist no 8. This was caused by Billy Vunipola pulling up injured just a day before the announcement.
Much like Jones used Vunipola in the World Cup, most would have expected him to start and complete almost every minute of the tournament. When Vunipola went down Jones likely did not have time to restructure his squad to accommodate the loss.
The assumption being that Jones would not have trusted Nathan Hughes or Alex Dombrandt to be his only specialist no 8 in the squad. This meant he probably replaced Vunipola with a more versatile back-row player.
This may come back to bite Jones but if he sees Vunipola as directly irreplaceable then a more dynamic and versatile back-row makes more sense. Again, this is not to say that the situation will not change over the coming weeks.
It is amazing how short-term the memories of most sports fans are. It was just over two months ago an Eddie Jones-led side were dismantling the All Blacks in Japan. Personally, I think he has earnt a bit of slack and historically his ID of young talent is exceptional.
It is a rebuilding period for most international sides and a few surprise selections were always inevitable. Advice to fans would be to once again stay patient and trust in a coach that clearly has the pedigree and aptitude to do this job.
Eddie Jones has named his squad for the 2020 #GuinnessSixNations ?
2️⃣2️⃣ players featured in the Rugby World Cup
8️⃣ uncapped players
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) January 20, 2020
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