Rugby Thoughts -The Eddie Jones EPS

Finally we know Eddie Jones’ thoughts on who are the best English players. I’ll have a look at the squad position by position and from some other interesting angles.

Do we actually know who Eddie Jones thinks are the best English players or is this just stage one in him getting the squad together that he wants? We heard that the rules allowed him to change 10 players plus 1 because Burgess had moved back to Rugby League in Australia. So how many players has he brought in?

Paul Hill, Maro Itoje, Jack Clifford, Josh Beaumont, Elliot Daly, Manu Tuilagi, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Dylan Hartley, Matt Mullan, Dave Ewers, Chris Ashton, Marland Yarde. That is 12 players which is explained as May has been omitted due to his long term injury.

It looks like Jones made the maximum number of changes that he could under the rules. We don’t know if there are other changes that he wanted to make but couldn’t due to the restrictions he was under. It does provide an explanation why Kvesic who’s very much a 7 was brought in as cover for Ewers who’s not a 7 but a 6 or 8.

One thing to remember is that this is also the squad for the June International tour to Australia. This is why we are seeing injured players called up into the squad such as Ewers or Thomas.

Let’s have  a look at the squad.

Props

In: Dan Cole, Paul Hill, Joe Marler, Matt Mullan, Henry Thomas (injury replacement for Kieran Brookes), Mako Vunipola

Out: David Wilson

There were rumours circulating that Marler was going to miss out but that would have been a very big surprise. He is someone that not long ago people were suggesting was one of the best in the world in his position.

There are two surprises, in Hill who is the most capped player for England at under 20 level. The other was that Cole has managed to hold onto his place in the squad, this may have been down to the injury to Brookes.

It’s interesting that he has selected 6 props rather than the normal 5 but with the injury to Brookes and wanting to look at Hill it makes sense.

Hookers

In: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Jamie George, Dylan Hartley

Out: Tom Youngs, Rob Webber

The biggest shock was the exclusion of Youngs and plenty has been written and commented on it already. The signs were there with Jones saying he wants a hooker that hooks and Youngs and Leicester have said in the past that it’s not safe to hook.

So the flip side of that is the Cowan-Dickie is in. When he got his chance before the Rugby World Cup at Twickenham either nerves or adrenalin got the better of him. He has been a name that’s been talked about for a while and we are starting to see a trend of Junior Rugby World Champions coming through into the first team. In nearly all the positions we are seeing one player from either the 2013 or 2014 U20s winning sides. I’m surprised that Youngs isn’t there but I’m happy with the selection as Jones has gone with the 2 players for now and 1 player for the future/potential.

Locks

In: George Kruis, Maro Itoje, Joe Launchbury, Courtney Lawes

Out: Geoff Parling

Clearly the U20 player here is Itoje and the most talked about young player in England if not the world right now. Already been given the FEC (Future England Captain) tag it would have been a surprise if he hadn’t been selected. Basically the 4 select themselves and this was an obvious position.

Back-rows

In: Josh Beaumont, Jack Clifford, Matt Kvesic (injury replacement for Dave Ewers), James Haskell, Chris Robshaw, Billy Vunipola

Out: Tom Wood, Calum Clark, Ben Morgan, Nick Easter

If 2nd row was straight forward then the back-row is totally the opposite and it has been a problem area for England for sometime. I wonder if this is an area that Jones have finessed the rules. Is Kvesic one of hie first choices but by using him as an injury replacement for Ewers he doesn’t go towards the number of allowed replacements? We might get an idea once we see if Haskell or Robshaw get any game time.

Wood and Morgan have been constantly in the England side over the last few years and will be disappointed. Of those not called up Fraser is perhaps the only one who people thought might be here. If he keeps fit for the rest of the season I fully expect him to be pushing for a place.

Of the 4 young guns picked Beaumont is perhaps the only slight surprise and I think he is the future pick a bit like Hill and Cowan-Dickie. I would fully expect to see either Clifford or Kvesic in that number 7 shirt against Scotland which mirrors the Twitter poll I did.

Over all comfortable with the selections on reflection but I was surprised that Morgan and Wood were dropped whilst Haskell kept his place.

Scrum-halves

In: Danny Care, Ben Youngs

Out: Richard Wigglesworth

Joe Simpson has been really unlucky with the decision to use the space freed up in another position. Otherwise it is exactly as expected and as there aren’t the same restrictions as you get at the Rugby World Cup. There are no problems about calling a back up if needed so seeing only two players here isn’t a problem.

Fly-halves

In: Owen Farrell, George Ford

Out: None

Again another easy one and as I expected. I know that there was a big call for Cipriani to be called up but I feel that his time has come and gone. With Slade, Goode and now Devoto in the squad there is plenty of emergency backup in the squad to cover late injuries.

Centres

In: Elliot Daly, Ollie Devoto (injury replacement for Manu Tuilagi), Sam Hill (injury replacement for Henry Slade), Jonathan Joseph

Out: Brad Barritt, Luther Burrell

The other problem area for England over the last few years has been the centres. If we look at the first choice players they all play 13 normally for their clubs. So I am concerned about who Eddie Jones is thinking of for the 12 shirt. The clamour in the press has been for Slade to be given a shot but with his injury we are going to have to wait to see that. There has also been talk of Manu moving into 12 but with Toomua arriving at Tigers next season is that a permanent move?

Daly has been performing for Wasps so that wasn’t a surprise even if there are questions about his defence at times. It goes along with Jones talking about attack and keeping the ball in hand.

The injury replacements are interesting, Hill is the least heralded of Exeter’s young guns and has been held back by injuries. He’s another of those Junior Rugby World Championship winners and as a natural 12, is who I would like to see starting against Scotland. Whilst the poll below has not finished as I write this, that is clearly not a commonly held view. Devote was also in that U20s side but is Bath’s first reserve in the centres and his 3 year signing with Exeter from next season is interesting. That means that 3 of the players from the centres will all be at the same club. Due to him not cementing a starting berth at Bath, I think Devoto is the future player here and won’t get game time in the 6 Nations.

Back threes

In: Chris Ashton, Mike Brown, Alex Goode, Jack Nowell, Anthony Watson, Marland Yarde

Out: Jonny May

It’s a bit of a surprise to see 6 back 3 players picked in the squad. Does that mean he wanted to drop another one but didn’t have the room in the restrictions? Or does he want a closer look at a couple of players as he isn’t quite sure yet?

Ashton has been back in form and has worked on his game so it’s no surprise to see him selected. Yarde has now settled at Quins and is back to producing some of his best form so I have no arguments with either players getting picked. Likewise for the players kept, the back 3 has been an area of strength of England recently so no issues with the personal there either. It’s just how many Jones has chosen and at some point he is going to have to make a decision who fits his plan best.

My only concern is that Brown, a bit like Hartley, Farrell and to a lesser extent Care, has a tendency to lose his head at times. Players need to keep their focus and concentrate on their jobs rather than getting tied up in the niggle of the game. Jones has talked about wanting that edge, so it will be interesting to see if he can get these players to walk that tightrope.

Clubs

Saracens 8
Harlequins 6
Northampton Saints 5
Exeter Chiefs 4 (1)
Wasps 4
Bath Rugby 3 (2)
Leicester Tigers 2
Sale Sharks 1
Gloucester Rugby 0 (1)
Worcester Warriors 0
London Irish 0
Newcastle Falcons 0

Just a quick look at which clubs the players are coming from. Unsurprisingly the current Aviva Premiership champions and table toppers provide the most with Quins also highly represented. Despite their relatively poor season so far Saints still provide 5 players. Then you have the three clubs who are on the rise with a young attacking brand of rugby in Chiefs, Wasps and Bath. Tigers will be disappointed that only 2 of their players have been chosen and we will have to see if the changing in their attacking brand will increase that over time.

With the exception of Gloucester we then have a group of sides who (probably) have smaller wage budgets and so unsurprisingly are providing less players. Gloucester have 3 players who have been in the England squad recently and we will just have to see if they can fight their way back in.

Themes

So the overall theme of the squad is that Jones is his own man and unafraid to make changes. Whilst there is talk of having to win, as there is at least one future/very young player in nearly every position, this is a squad for the future rather than today. I also have a feeling that this is step 1 and there are still players in there that Jones isn’t sure about.

Online Discussion

Check out my discussion with Debbie Knight from 365 Sporting Days about the EPS selection. We recorded this on Blab so people could type comments and questions whilst we were live streaming.

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