Rugby Union

Five big selection dilemmas for Eddie Jones

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Eddie Jones is undoubtedly intent on doing things his way.

Brought in as a prickly, shrewd, confrontational Australian, Jones has more than lived up to his reputation so far. Appointing Dylan Hartley has divided opinion due to the hooker's disciplinary record; however, it clearly demonstrated that Jones is not overly bothered by other people's suggestions.

Appointing his captain is just the start of the head coach's dilemmas, though - here are five big selection decisions ahead of the Calcutta Cup next Saturday.


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1. Full-back: Mike Brown or Alex Goode

An extremely close call. Brown's consistency in an England shirt since 2013 saw him win this personal battle at the World Cup; however, that counts for little under the new regime.

As the superior footballer, Goode may appeal to the attack-minded Jones, whilst the full-back's club form for Saracens has been consistently outstanding. Brown has been solid if not spectacular for Harlequins, making this almost a 50-50 call.

Verdict - Brown.

England will have to pick playmakers in the midfield and, therefore, won't be dependent on Goode's creativity. Brown's superior defence and ability under the high ball will be invaluable during a nervy affair and winning at Murrayfield requires affrontive characters.

2. Fly-half: George Ford or Owen Farrell

A debate that will in all likelihood endure for the best part of a decade.

Due to his outstanding club form, Farrell has to start somewhere; however, in all likelihood for the Scotland game, it will be at 12. Though naturally a fly-half, on paper Farrell has many of the attributes required at inside-centre and will surely play alongside Ford in an exciting England midfield.

Jones seems keen on young Ollie Devoto, but the Australian has openly admitted that Murrayfield is not the place to blood debutants, implying Ford and Farrell will resume their partnership from the England junior sides.

Verdict - both.

3. Scrum-half: Ben Youngs or Danny Care

A long-running rivalry that to date, Youngs has edged - the Leicester back was chosen ahead of Care for the 2013 Lions tour, as well as the recent World Cup.

Care's form in an exciting Harlequins team has re-opened the debate and this will be a very close call. Youngs is the better box-kicker of the two, whereas Care is arguably the more exciting player.

Verdict - Youngs.

Care will in all likelihood start at some point during the Six Nations, but Youngs' superior box-kicking makes him a better option for the opener.

Calcutta Cups are often attritional affairs when played at Murrayfield and Jones will want as much control over proceedings as possible.

4. Openside flanker: James Haskell or Jack Clifford.

With the world and his wife seemingly in agreement that Chris Robshaw is not an international seven and Matt Kvesic surprisingly released this weekend, this is the shoot-out.

Jones has strongly intimated that Haskell will get the nod but this seems a somewhat confusing decision. Jones openly criticised Robshaw during the World Cup as a "six-and-a-half at best", but Haskell is no different.

As valuable as George Smith - the 30-year-old's Wasps teammate - will have been, he will not have transformed Haskell's game in under four months.

Verdict: Clifford.

The 22-year-old is not a natural 'fetcher' either; however, he is more likely to turn over ball than Haskell. Though Murrayfield requires experience, Clifford appears a wise head on young shoulders and is a step in the right direction in England adapting to a more attacking style.

Kvesic's omission is surprising, considering he has featured before and is an out-and-out seven.

5. Second-row - Two of Joe Launchbury, George Kruis and Courtney Lawes.

An area where England are blessed. Maro Itoje's time will undoubtedly come, whilst the three mentioned are far from old. Kruis was the man in form prior to his concussion two weeks ago, whilst Launchbury was widely mentioned as a potential England captain.

Lawes, meanwhile, represents the most imposing of the three and if Jones is determined to add edge to the England pack, then the Northampton forward is the man.

Verdict: Kruis and Launchbury.

A fairly clear decision. Kruis was in outstanding form and has reportedly recovered from his blow. The 25-year-old is mobile, strong, a good line-out operator and importantly has an intimidating edge.

Launchbury doesn't seem to have such an edge but should be a mainstay of Jones's team. The Wasps' lock already has 28 test caps at just 24, whilst his performance against Australia confirmed his world-class potential. Launchbury's skills are superb for a second-row and his presence both in the England set-up and over the opposition will grow.

At 26, Lawes is yet to build on his potential, whilst the recent penalty he conceded against Leicester will not have gone unnoticed by Jones. England do require a more physical approach up front, but they also require composed heads and Lawes' indiscipline under pressure is a major cause for concern.

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