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The three fixable factors behind Eddie Jones' England stagnation

Eddie Jones' England weren't far away from making the grade.

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Best loosehead in the world should be England captain - Andy Goode

By Andy Goode
(Photo by Dan Mullan/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

Injuries might just have presented Eddie Jones with an open goal in terms of the England captaincy and he shouldn’t hesitate in giving it to Ellis Genge. We are a week away from the start of the Autumn Nations Series campaign against Argentina and both Courtney Lawes and Owen Farrell remain doubtful, having not taken part in this week’s training camp in Jersey as they recover from concussion.

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Lawes has done a good job leading his country in the last six Tests and may well come back into the reckoning but Genge would certainly bring different qualities to the role and might just be the long-term answer.

Even if he does recover in time, I really don’t think there is any way England should be going back to Owen Farrell as captain. We know his competitive streak means he doesn’t always have the best relationship with referees and he should be allowed to concentrate on his own game.

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He is always going to be a huge leader anyway given his stature and position in the team but it would be a mistake to give him all the extra responsibilities of the captaincy again. Genge has a similar hotheaded streak to Farrell but the captaincy seemed to mellow him at Leicester and he led them to the Premiership title in his first full season as skipper.

Jones doesn’t have to come out and declare that Genge is the man who is going to lead England into the World Cup next year but giving him the opportunity for the whole of this Autumn Nations Series would be a wise move.

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He is 27 years of age, which is six years younger than the current incumbent Lawes, and if things go well over the coming month, England may just have found a leader they can stick with for a good few years to come. If we are honest, there aren’t too many other candidates. Tom Curry did the job at the start of this year’s Six Nations and is one of only a handful of nailed-on starters but he doesn’t bring the same energy as Genge.

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Of course, there is more than one way to skin a cat and captains come in different forms but the Bristol man deserves the chance to show that his blend of passion, west country charm, and now added maturity could be the answer.

His place in the starting XV isn’t up for debate, even if Mako Vunipola is back on the scene and playing well again, and I would go as far as to say he is the best loosehead in the world at the moment. He has proven that he can build a rapport with referees and there is no doubt he has the respect of his teammates, who wouldn’t think twice about following him into battle.

If you look at all the World Cup-winning teams in the professional era – and that is what England are aspiring to be – the captain has always been a forward and they have always been a clear choice. John Eales, Martin Johnson, John Smit, Richie McCaw and Siya Kolisi all had that in common.

Genge clearly isn’t keeping that kind of company as a captain yet but you have to start somewhere and if he is given the captaincy now, I can see there is no debate about who the best man for the job is when the 2023 World Cup comes around. There always seems to be a debate around how important the captaincy is in various sports nowadays but it is vital from a player’s perspective to know who your skipper is and who’s leading the troops.

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Within a dressing room, dynamics develop and leaders emerge over time but sometimes fate can play a hand too. That might be the case for England with their injuries and they may just find their long-term captain in Genge if he is given the nod this autumn.

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