Exciting England squad strengthens Eddie Jones before Six Nations
Jamie Clark, Sports Editor | January 14, 2016
The rugby world watched aquiver with anticipation as new England head coach Eddie Jones cut swathes through the previous roster and injected precocious youth into contention for launching his era ahead of the Six Nations.
With the notable exceptions of full back Mike Brown and flanker/number eight James Haskell, anyone aged 30 or over has been left out. Jones, nicknamed the Tasmanian devil, clearly sets little store by employing elder statesmen in an increasingly athletic sport.
Off the back of his first Red Rose roster announcement, Coral have clipped England’s odds of winning the Six Nations into 13/8 (from 15/8).
Who are the new faces?
Jones has selected seven uncapped players, all aged 23 or under. See the theme? If Josh Beaumont is a chip off the old block – his father is RFU chairman Bill, who skippered the Red Rose to the 1980 Six Nations Grand Slam – then we might be looking at a potential England captain in the Sale Sharks number eight.
There may be competition for future use of the armband, though, with Harlequins flanker Jack Clifford and Saracens lock Maro Itoje both having led their country at youth level.
As Leicester Tigers Manu Tuilagi will miss at least the opening couple of Six Nations clashes, there is an even younger feel to Jones’ options at centre through uncapped trio Elliot Daly (Wasps), Ollie Devoto (Bath) and Sam Hill (Exeter).
Forward changes, Ashton and Hartley return
The bulk of England recalls handed out are among the forwards. Northampton Saints prop Paul Hill is called up for the first time, but clearly Jones feels predecessor Stuart Lancaster selected the wrong players.
Returns for wing duo Chris Ashton and Marland Yarde are notable alongside bad boy hooker Dylan Hartley, who has been touted as the next Red Rose captain.
Jonny May and Henry Slade are notable injury absentees at the back, with Jones leaving Danny Cipriani out altogether. Just 19 men from Stuart Lancaster’s 33-man roster for the recent Rugby World Cup where England flopped so spectacularly as host nation remain, including former skipper Chris Robshaw.
“Better than good and hard-working”
Head coach Jones is hoping his shake-up will bring about a change of mindset from some of the players in his squad. “In this squad of 33 there are four or five players who, if they change their attitude, can become world-class players,” he said.
“If we do the same as we have done since 2003 (when England won their only Rugby World Cup) then we will get the same results. To be the dominant team in the world you’ve got to be better than good and hard-working.
“It’s going to take more than they have ever done in their lives. You will find players that complain about it, but I will be happy because I’ll know we are getting change. We have to make the players a little bit uncomfortable.”