Squad Analysis: Why has Eddie Jones rung the changes this Six Nations?
You may pick any number of surprise omissions to give cause for a raised eyebrow over this morning following Eddie Jones’s latest England squad announcement. With Danny Care, Danny Cipriani and Zach Mercer standing amongst some of the most curious exclusions. So why has Eddie Jones rocked the boat this Six Nations so close to a World Cup?
Power and form lead the way in this morning’s England squad, with Eddie Jones bringing about significant change and an almost unrecognisable predicted 23 in contrast to the first matchday squad that took to the Murrayfield turn three long years ago.
Just thirteen of 2016’s matchday 23 have survived 36 months of highs and lows under the Australian’s charge. With the satisfaction of back-to-back trophies and a Wallaby whitewash dampened with the fifth-place finish in last year’s tournament and a 1-2 series defeat in South Africa. Whether by hook or by crook the absences vastly experienced heads Dylan Hartley, Joe Marler, Chris Robshaw, Jonathan Joseph, Anthony Watson, James Haskell and Danny Care make for a much changed, fresh-faced training squad at Pennyhill next month.
The return to fitness of Harlequins flanker Jack Clifford and Exeter centre Ollie Devoto stand as two of the most perplexing call-ups for those onlookers championing the Don Armands, Danny Ciprianis and Ryan Mills of this world. While equally, Jones has at last rewarded Premiership form, with Wasps’ scrum-half Dan Robson and Gloucester wing Ollie Thorley included in a squad that looks set to continue the development of England’s armoury.
With Chris Robshaw and Sam Underhill side-lined Jones is hunting for game changers, veering away from the conservative flankers included in his early success with the breakdown specialist, sprinters and game changers. Further elaborating the advancement in England’s firepower.
Ben Earl and Jack Clifford - Robshaw’s and Underhill’s replacements - are two opensides capable of filling in at number eight, boasting the acceleration and power to replicate Underhill’s immense carrying performances against the Springboks, All Blacks and Wallabies last autumn. Although, they will face the not insignificant task of displacing Sale Sharks’ Tom Curry if they are to achieve anything further than bench appearances over the next eight weeks.
The logic of Jones’s desire to change the face of England’s aptitude for destruction is further revealed in the inclusions of the in-form trio of Robson, Thorley and Ollie Devoto within the backline. All three men have struggled with their respective injury concerns over the last year or so, but each possesses the capacity to provide game-changing moments.
Thorley’s pace and power, Robson’s attack-favoured methods and Devoto’s propensity for game line offloads (see his try assist against Castres last weekend) leave no illusion over Jones’s modifications in the lead up to the World Cup later this year. However, the question remains, will Jones’s hunt for explosive results end for the better or worse the national side? The risk of such change in personnel proving more detrimental than prosperous is perhaps the biggest concern for fans yearning for a Six Nations trophy in the lead-up to the World Cup this year.
But for all the potential risks paired with the aforementioned changes, the potential within this latest squad to thrill with feats of attacking marvel could see the nation basking in the Eddie Jones-John Mitchell brain trust in the lead up to Japan. When combining the latest squad additions with the rare commodities of seeing both Vunipola brothers, Nathan Hughes, Kyle Sinckler, Ben Te’o and Manu Tuilagi all fit, there is plenty of scope for excitement for the Red Rose this year.
Ali Stokes’s England XV to face Ireland
- Mako Vunipola
- Jamie George
- Kyle Sinckler
- Maro Itoje
- George Kruis
- Brad Shields
- Tom Curry
- Mark Wilson
- Ben Youngs
- Owen Farrell
- Joe Cokanasiga
- Ben Te’o
- Henry Slade
- Jonny May
- Elliot Daly
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