Eddie Jones’ new England Rugby EPS Squad has a decidedly youthful feel to it, indeed its average age is just 24 and the 33-man squad contains only two individuals that have had their 30th birthday’s; Mike Brown and James Haskell.
The expectation going into Wednesday’s squad announcement was that there would be a bit of a shake up. Eddie was very clear from the moment he took the role that it it marked a clean slate for every single English player performing in the Aviva Premiership. History and previous records would be largely irrelevant and instead he would be solely focused on what is to come and not interested in what has been before. Indeed on Wednesday when I asked if he would be taking a look back at the Rugby World Cup with the players when they arrive in camp he simply said with a wry smile on his face ‘What World Cup!?’.
Although the squad’s average age is young it does contain the experience required in order to hit the ground running in the RBS 6 Nations. Chris Robshaw will undoubtedly play at 6 with his 43 caps, James Haskell is the front runner to take the openside jersey and he has 62 England caps and then there are others whose ability belies the number of England appearances they have made; George Ford, Joe Launchbury, Jonathan Joseph and the Vunipola brothers. Tom Youngs is certainly a surprise omission, you cannot argue with the inclusion of Jamie George who continues to progress at a rate of knots, however not many expected Luke Cowan-Dickie to be classified above the Leicester hooker.
Naturally one of the most exciting parts of this EPS squad are the 7 uncapped individuals that have been named. Of course two, Ollie Devoto and Sam Hill are injury replacements for Manu Tuliagi and Henry Slade and therefore will drop out of the 33 when Manu and Henry arrive back. However the others; Jack Clifford, Elliot Daly, Josh Beaumont, Maro Itoje and Paul Hill are all permanent inclusions and a real statement of intent from England’s management.
All of the permanent uncapped players in superb form for their respective Premiership clubs and it is this, alongside their ‘potential’ that has pushed them into this squad. Now the task for the management will be to cover that potential into practice as quickly as possible. Clearly not all will start against Scotland, as Murrayfield on a mirky Saturday night in February isn’t the most welcoming place to make your England debut, however some may. Personally I wouldn’t be surprised if Jack Clifford, Elliot Daly and Maro Itoje were all involved in that first match day 23.
Up until this point we have been making best guesses as to how Eddie’s England will play their rugby. What will their style be? What will their point of difference be? The answers from our charismatic Australian have always been that the details will come out once he has selected the personnel. Well now we have the personnel and it is fairly clear as to how England will look to play their rugby; pacy, physical and with a lot of personality. By personality I mean that out the back this squad is filled with playmakers and ball players and Eddie will give them all the license in the world to play rugby. Steve Borthwick will throw his vast experience into polishing the lineout, Paul Gustard will have the defence firing and then Ian Peel must ensure the scrummage is back to full working order. If this happens England will have the complete game that we know that they are capable of and one that gives them the platform to play ball.
That said the management team have a very limited time with their squad before they head to face a settled and battle hardened Scotland team, just 7 training sessions. However given the blend of individuals in their power and the potent desire that these players will have to either right the wrongs of the World Cup or make the jersey their own I expect England to fire at Murrayfield.
Eddie Jone’s England will be youthful, enthusiastic and focused. He doesn’t have all of the pieces in place yet, for example he shared on Wednesday that his openside during the RBS 6 Nations isn’t likely to be the long term option, however he is happy with what he has at his disposal. Eddie will appoint an England captain for the tournament and not beyond, that isn’t likely to be before the squad meet in camp on 24th January and all he has said is that this individual must be the first name on the team sheet and the person that sets the standards in matches and training.
England’s new head coach has over 20 years of coaching experience behind him and some of the best young talent that Europe has to offer therefore we all have every reason to feel optimistic about this England Rugby squad and what they can achieve both in the short and long term.
England Rugby Senior Squad for RBS 6 Nations
Forwards: Josh Beaumont (Sale Sharks) Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers) Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs) Jack Clifford (Harlequins) Jamie George (Saracens) Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints) James Haskell (Wasps) Paul Hill (Northampton Saints) Maro Itoje (Saracens) George Kruis (Saracens) Matt Kvesic (Gloucester Rugby) *injury replacement for Dave Ewers (Exeter Chiefs) Joe Launchbury (Wasps) Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints) Joe Marler (Harlequins) Matt Mullan (Wasps) Chris Robshaw (Harlequins) Henry Thomas (Bath Rugby) *injury replacement for Kieran Brookes (Northampton Saints) Billy Vunipola (Saracens) Mako Vunipola (Saracens)
Backs: Ashton (Saracens) Mike Brown (Harlequins) Danny Care (Harlequins) Elliot Daly (Wasps) Ollie Devoto (Bath Rugby) *injury replacement for Manu Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers) Owen Farrell (Saracens) George Ford (Bath Rugby) Alex Goode (Saracens) Sam Hill (Exeter Chiefs) *injury replacement for Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs) Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby) Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs) Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby) Marland Yarde (Harlequins) Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers)
By Emma Thurston
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