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An ex-England No9 isn't sure about Randall as a Test scrum-half

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Alex Davidson/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

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Harry Randall is set to appear in the biggest match of his rugby career this Saturday, the 24-year-old getting chosen as the starting England No9 in their must-win Guinness Six Nations encounter versus Wales at Twickenham. The Test rookie’s previous starts have come against the USA, Canada and Italy, teams of a very different calibre compared to what he will now face in round three of the championship this Saturday.

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Randall’s inclusion was a surprise. There were no indications from England and little if any media speculation that he would be the chosen No9 as the expectation was that the seasoned Ben Youngs would be reinstated as the scrum-half starter. Instead, the 32-year-old will have to settle for making his 115th record-breaking England appearance when he inevitably comes off the bench at some stage in London. 

England boss Eddie Jones has explained how he wants his team to play with greater pace, that opposition teams are more vulnerable in the opening 20 minutes of matches as defences are only settling in at that stage regarding how the referee is going to officiate the game. He added, by way of doubling down on his theory, that 78 per cent of teams who score the first try in a Test match go on and win

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That statistic is currently running at 66.6 per cent heading into Six Nations round three as Italy, in round one at France, and Scotland, in round two at Wales, were game-opening try-scorers who didn’t go on to win those matches. But back to Randall and the reasons why Austin Healey, a former England scrum-half in the Clive Woodward era, reckons that the Bristol half-back isn’t the player best equipped to fire up Jones’ attack. 

Healey has been having a running battle with Jones over how the Australian has been coaching England and there was a fractious over-and-back exchange via the media surrounding the round two game versus Italy. Now Healey has turned his attention to the inclusion of Randall and has written in his latest UK Telegraph column that Jones has got this particular England selection wrong.   

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“With Harry Randall starting against Wales many expect England to play at pace, but let’s be clear, playing fast club rugby is still two yards off a fast international game,” began Healey. “He normally plays in a team at Bristol who love playing in a broken-up game, picking up and going by himself. 

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“With England, his first job is to get the ball in Marcus Smith’s hands as fast as possible, or whichever runner is available for the next phase. I would have been tempted to stick with Ben Youngs, or even Danny Care. Why? Randall is rapid and loves a loose match, but I am equally not sure about him as a Test scrum-half. 

“Having started previously against the USA, Canada and Italy, Wales on Saturday is going to be Randall’s biggest game for England by some margin. Let’s see how he gets on. As for Youngs, congratulations to him on breaking the all-time men’s England cap’s record. It’s a phenomenal achievement, and you have to ask whether it will be surpassed, and who might do it.”

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