“There are two things that you need to win games of rugby, you need to have talent and you need cohesion. There’s plenty of talent in England so the thing that we have to work on is cohesion – that’s about identifying what is going to be the strengths of the team, making sure that we keep improving those and identifying those areas where we can have a competitive edge and going forwards that is going to be the plan.”
Those were just some of the words that England’s new head coach Eddie Jones stated as part of his opening address to the media on Friday morning. The ensuing European weekend will have done much to warm the heart of the charismatic Australian as English sides produced a clean sweep of victories in the Champions Cup for the first time in seven years. The Challenge Cup produced a further 4 out of 6 victories and in the top tier in particular we saw individuals excel.
It is a new era, on Friday Eddie was very clear to highlight that every single player is starting from zero – from the first name on the former team sheet to the men that missed out on being part of the Rugby World Cup. Those words present a huge opportunity for all of our Aviva Premiership players and the question is, which are the ones already filling up the pages of Jones’ Journal? Fifteen looks at 5 players that we think will have had their names added to England’s head coach’s notebook after this European weekend.
Nick Auterac was described by Mike Ford as a ‘bit of a steal from Saracens’ and this weekend he came into his own against Leinster’s formidable International front rowers. Now, gone are the days that props are scrummage machines only, instead the ‘modern day prop’ has to have it all including a great all around ability in the loose. Auterac is only twenty three and under the tutelage of one of the best in the business, Neal Hatley, is set to go from strength to strength in all areas this season.
Joe Simpson was hugely unlucky to have picked up an injury at the end of last year and he is an individual that consistently holds his hands up for International recognition season after season. Without question the Wasps’ 9 is the fastest scrum half in the Aviva Premiership however it is the fact that he combines this pace with a solid kicking game, great distribution and a strong rugby brain that should turn Jones’ head. Against Toulon and Leinster Simpson was everywhere and instrumental on the scoreboard in both fixtures. If England wish to play attacking, heads up rugby then the combination of George Ford and Joe Simpson is one that could give opposition all manner of things to think about…
Speaking of the man that excelled in England’s 10 jersey during the RBS 6 Nations, George Ford continues to remind us all of his copious talents. Against Leinster this weekend his game management and all around kicking game excelled and eclipsed Jonathan Sexton. Ford plays flatter to the line than any other Aviva Premiership 10 and this ability makes life so much easier for those working off him. Ford’s decision making remains world class and we expect Eddie Jones to be taking note.
When Elliot Daly was cut from England’s squad in the first Rugby World Cup Training Camp cull many across the country were extremely shocked. In defence, Wasps’ twenty three year old is a force to be reckoned with and he is a powerful ball carrier with pace galore going forwards. The icing on the cake for any side that contains Elliot Daly is his boot, as he regularly bangs over 50 metre plus penalties with ease causing opponents to have to be squeaky clean all over the park.
On Friday night Owen Farrell delivered an assured performance in difficult conditions against Ulster Rugby. Since he has returned from England duties Farrell has looked his focused and determined self in defence however has also started to show us more of his box of tricks going forwards. At the Kingspan Stadium his show and go was reminiscent of something that we expect from George Ford and clearly the Saracen is out to highlight to Eddie Jones the preconceived ideas about him not being an attacking threat aren’t correct.
By Emma Thurston
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