Rugby Union

Eddie Jones lays down the law with squad selection

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The first squad announcement since the Rugby World Cup took place yesterday and, of course, there is plenty to talk about. What the headlines from Eddie Jones' new look England Squad?

Notable Omissions

Danny Cipriani is the most highly touted name that is absent from the list, but in many ways is one of the less surprising. His current kicking percentage makes his form moot, and with the incumbent Ford thoroughly outshining Toulon's Quade Cooper just days before, and Owen Farrell's phenomenal consistency, what is the point of bringing in a player who is good but likely not to feature?

Probably more surprising is Joe Simpson, who has game-changing pace and would be a fascinating option off the bench to potentially earn a starting berth.


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Tom Youngs and Thomas Waldrom's club form has also got some people lamenting their absence. But it is easy to see how both players might not fit with Eddie Jones' vision.

Youngs' throwing has been in question for years and with younger, more consistent hookers on offer he misses out. Waldrom has been a try-scoring anomaly for the Chiefs, but unless he is employed in the exact fashion that Exeter use him, he is not as traditionally useful as a Vunipola or Beaumont.

Eddie Jones has all but named his starting inside centre with either Ollie Devoto or Sam Hill as the only specialists in that position, with Hill the more frequent starter for his club. Missing out are Kyle Eastmond and Luther Burrell, but neither has really put a marker down as looking to be the best player in their position in the world - as is Jones' vision. You have to feel that Henry Slade and/or a fit Manu Tuilagi limited options in this department.

Worth mentioning are the forgotten wingers Semesa Rokoduguni - who has arguably the best footwork of any Englishman in the Premiership - Alex Lewington - who has a consistent strike rate and great pace and power - and Matt Banahan, who has been effective at using his size and offloading ability for Bath.

Exciting Inclusions

Maro Itoje, Josh Beaumont, and Jack Clifford will get the headlines and rightly so. Youthful exuberance, combined with great rugby awareness makes that trio a likely England mainstay for years to come.

It is good to see young front rowers stepping forward as well with the likes of Paul Hill and Mako Vunipola showing great form in the Premiership.

Vunipola's scrummaging has certainly improved this season which may well put him ahead of Joe Marler in the pecking order, and Hill adds much-needed competition in the tighthead ranks.

Matt Kvesic is also listed and is the openside specialist in the squad. His inclusion comes as a result of Dave Ewers' injury but he will be competing directly with Clifford for the starting shirt.

The blindside looks to be the area with the deepest cover with Robshaw now rightly featuring on his more natural side of the scrum, James Haskell in the mix, and Itoje or Courtney Lawes also able to provide cover there.

The most interesting discussion moving forward may well be how best to utilise the bench. With Lawes, Itoje, Beaumont, and Clifford all covering multiple positions, how will Jones deploy his options?

In the backs, the main story is concerning who has not been picked, but the new faces of Sam Hill and Elliot Daly will be intriguing to watch. Daly, in particular, has been forcing his name into focus with pace comparable to Jonathan Joseph, underestimated strength, fantastic ball-playing skills and a simply phenomenal kicking boot.


Eddie Jones' squad announcement only contains a few particular surprises. Lots of names get thrown into conversation, but when realistically pictured in an England jersey they lose some of their appeal.

Simpson's exclusion is arguably the most surprising, while many other decisions were forced through injury or combinations. Marland Yarde is the most unlikely selection to have been chosen given the standard of many other wingers.

With Harlequins running hot right now and Lewington's Irish, for example, at the wrong end of the table, that exposure might have been enough to tip the scales.

The pleasing thing is that we are in a position where good, even excellent, players can be left out with such high quality remaining.

Brian Moore's recent comments about injuries certainly played a huge role in this announcement, and once you include the likes of Tuilagi and Slade, the back division looks significantly more formidable.

Not to be forgotten is that Nathan Hughes will also become England eligible in 2016. You could argue that he is the form Number 8 in World Rugby over recent months as Wasps have been a totally different prospect with him in the side.

This has been a good first step to show that Jones means business, but the real intrigue will come in the run up to the Calcutta Cup when his first squad is announced.

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