Will Eddie Jones turn to his explosive youth to tackle Wales?

Eddie Jones faces what looks to be the biggest game of England's 2019 Six Nations campaign, with a trip to Cardiff to take on the only other side capable of claiming a Grand Slam, Warren Gatland's Wales.

By Alistair Stokes
20th February 2019
By Alistair Stokes
20th February 2019

Eddie Jones faces what looks to be the biggest game of England's 2019 Six Nations campaign, with a trip to Cardiff to take on the only other side capable of claiming a Grand Slam, Warren Gatland's Wales.

The Irish challenge proved subdued and the French were, well, monstrously French, and not in a 'jouez jouez' way. The Welsh have been forewarned better than most of the threat of this resurgent English side and will be in possession of ample game footage following the first two rounds and an autumn campaign. With the added influence of the traditional spike in both the thundering volume of Welsh supporters and player performance whenever an English side roll into the Principality in search of a Grand Slam, this could be a genuine banana skin for a side currently storming along in fifth gear.

So, with this challenge and the added pressure of their impressive performances in their first two matches, will Eddie look to shake things up and search for a new dimension to shock Wales by turning to his explosive youth?

Should the Australian choose to follow this particular avenue, he has the opportunity to utilise the likes of loosehead prop Ellis Genge, scrum-half Dan Robson and Bath's towering winger Joe Cokanasiga; while admittedly Robson is no youngster at the age of 26, he is still within the larva stage of his international career after making his debut from the bench against France.

With no Mako Vunipola anchoring down the front row, Genge looks the most likely of the trio to earn a start at the Principality, with only Exeter Chiefs wily 29-year-old Ben Moon - who is currently in possession of five caps to Genge's six - standing in his way. Anyone that has watched Genge's career since joining Leicester Tigers from Bristol in 2016 will be well versed with the former number eight's explosive carrying game and abrasive attitude that has earned him the nickname 'baby rhino'. Moon would without a doubt provide the most stable of platforms for England, but Genge could be a man to keep the Welsh defence scrambling in Vunipola's 121kg absence.

In the case of Robson, it would come as a sizeable surprise to see Jones ditch 82-times-capped, two-time British and Irish Lion (named in the initial 2017 touring squad before withdrawing) Ben Youngs for the man permitted just ten minutes of action over the opening weekends. However, Eddie Jones is about as predictable as a French performance, British politics or an Owen Farrell tackle.

Alongside the influence of fellow Aussie attack coach Scott Wisemantel and Kiwi defence coach John Mitchell, England seem to have established an innovative edge. If England truly wish to try and dominate the Welsh in the same manner they slew the Irish and silenced the French - and prepare Robson for a potential World Cup role – then handing the talented Mr Robson a start could prove practical. Although, arguably, this is also a surefire way to trash a player's confidence in the most fervent of cauldrons of noise and confusion for a travelling English side.

Unlikely, but Robson could provide an edge yet unseen under Jones, and catch the Welsh napping after underwhelming opening performances.

Lastly, the 6ft 4", 118kg Cokanasiga enjoyed a storming start to his Test career after claiming two tries in as many appearances against Australia and Japan late last year. Since making the well-trodden path between London Irish and Bath last summer, the Fijian-born wing has been wowing English crowds with pace, power and subtle skills, something Jones has not failed to notice.

It is well documented that Jones has been hunting for a significantly improved physical presence in his backline and is obviously desperate to get Cokanasiga up to speed at the international level.

All three are likely to be involved in the matchday 23 named tomorrow morning, but should Jones turn to the trio in starting capacities, we could be set to see yet another blistering performance from the men in white. Equally, such changes could prove detrimental to both England’s high-velocity form and the threesome’s fledgling careers.

The Rugby Magazine

Filed under: International, Six Nations, England, Wales
Written by: Alistair Stokes
Follow: @alistokesrugby · @therugbymag

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