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Eddie Jones expects 'a great competition' for England's no.8 shirt

By Paul Smith

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Eddie Jones has not included 2017 British & Irish Lion Billy Vunipola in his latest squad while Bristol’s Nathan Hughes and Montpellier’s former Bath favourite Zach Mercer are also seemingly names from the past.

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But despite this England’s boss still anticipates a keenly-fought, three-way contest for the no.8 shirt at his newly-named 34-strong squad’s pre-Autumn Series training camp in Jersey.

“Alex Dombrandt, Sam Simmonds and Callum Chick are different types of player and it’s great competition between those three,” he said.

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“Chick is a more traditional gain-line no.8 who is a strong defender round the ruck.

“Simmonds is more of a hybrid no.7 or no.8 who has developed his game nicely especially in the defensive area. He’s got great acceleration and good pace and power. His time with the Lions has put a few finishing touches on his game.

“Dombrandt is a hybrid no.8-come-back who’s got great running skills in the open. He’s worked really hard on his defensive game – I thought his defence against Sale a week ago was outstanding so he’s adding to his game.”

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With Maro Itoje and Courtney Lawes both able to cover lock and no.6, Sam Underhill and Tom Curry able to play across the back-row and a range of players comfortable at full back and wing Jones has covered plenty of bases.

“We’ve got to name a squad which gives us the flexibility to cover a number of positions,” he said.

“Moving towards the World Cup squad of 33 we are using every campaign as a dress rehearsal so players who can operate in multiple positions are very important.”

Jones has included four uncapped players plus a further eight who made their debuts during the summer and he believes a few will make their mark.

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“I’ve been impressed by what I’ve seen from Tommy Freeman over two seasons,” he said.

“He’s a big, strong strapping lad with good pace and a good feel for the game and he can play full back or wing.

“Nic Dolly has just come into the Premiership this year. He’s an industrious player who has been impressive for Leicester and we feel he can make the jump to test rugby.

“This is a training squad for Jersey from which the Tongan 23 is picked. Everyone is in the mix and has the chance to out their hands up in Jersey.”

Many believe fly half Marcus Smith could ignite England, but if Jones shares this view he is intent on ensuring Smith does not get ahead of himself.

“First of all he’s got to get in the side – he’s one of 34 players who’ve got to get into 23,” he said.

“If he does that then there’s an opportunity for him to add his own flavour to the team.

“The role of the no.10 is to be the bus driver and the conductor. He’s got to create a route for the team then be able to get the team to play to that beat. It’s a combination of being a team player and an individual and every no.10 I’ve coached is different.”

Jones also gave encouragement to a second young Harlequin, winger Lewis Lynagh, who narrowly missed out on the squad.

“Lewis Lynagh has done very well,” he said. “I spoke to him this morning and he knows what he needs to work on. He’s a young guy who has played 16 or 17 Premiership games and is at the start of his career.

“He’s done very well to make the wider squad and although he hasn’t made this squad he was very close and he just needs to keep improving. There are various areas of his game he needs to tidy up a little bit – he understands that – and I’m sure he’ll do it.”

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Eddie Jones expects 'a great competition' for England's no.8 shirt

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