England boss Eddie Jones has explained why he has opted to bench George Ford, switch skipper Owen Farrell to out-half and revive the twice-used November starting midfield partnership of Henry Slade and Ollie Lawrence but with one crucial difference – Lawrence on this occasion will wear the No12 shirt for the first time with Slade operating in the wider channel.
Ford had been a regular first-choice England pick in recent times, starting at out-half in 14 of England’s last 19 matches, a run stretching back to the August 2019 Twickenham World Cup warm-up versus Wales.
He was benched for the World Cup quarter-final against Australia and missed some recent games with injury but he was otherwise the regular wearer of the 10 shirt with Farrell outside him at 12. That combination will now be held back this Saturday, however, the benching of Ford being one of four changes made by Jones to the XV from the Nations Cup final win over France in December.
“We feel that is the best 23 for the game,” said Jones after unveiling a team where Lawrence for Ford, Will Stuart for the suspended Kyle Sinckler, Jonny Hill for the injured Joe Launchbury and Mark Wilson for the unavailable Sam Underhill were the changes from their last outing.
“We look at the game as a 23 as opposed to what you guys [the media] do and we feel that is the best order of our players for this game,” said Jones when asked about the benching of Ford. “We feel that is the right balance. It’s a good combination of Owen’s tactical acumen, Sladey’s running skills plus his left foot kicking and then Ollie’s power. We feel that is right against Scotland.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) February 4, 2021
“He [Lawrence] is a good young player, he is really developing well. We blooded him in the Autumn Nations Cup and he gets another opportunity to start on Saturday. He runs good lines, he is a good defensive player and he will add a bit of punch to the backline.”
England will start with five players from relegated Saracens who, unlike their England teammates, have not had Premiership games to play over the winter. This lack of action for Elliot Daly, Farrell, Jamie George, Maro Itoje and Billy Vunipola doesn’t worry Jones, though.
“For those players who have played a lot of high-quality rugby over the last four or five years, it [the break] has been a godsend for them. They have come in, they are refreshed, they have got a spring in their step and yesterday’s training [Wednesday] in particular, all those guys were pretty outstanding.”
Episode 15 – Ice Baths, Six Nations, New York with Foden and a late night in Queenstown ?
Christina, Dylan & Zeebs welcome former England international and current Rugby United New York fullback, Ben Foden ??
The man has SO many stories ?
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) February 3, 2021
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