Eddie Jones has been criticised for not blooding new talent in the Six Nations championship and his stance looks even more confusing after the England head coach revealed that only “70 per cent” of the current squad can expect to make the squad for the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.
Players such as Ollie Lawrence, Harry Randall – now injured – and Paolo Odogwu have been largely ignored as England have stuttered through the Championship, losing to Scotland and Wales and major changes are not expected for the game with France on Saturday. However, the squad will now go into the match knowing that many of them could be dumped shortly.
Jones said: “It is always hard to know. We are definitely going through a transition period now and had a fairly settled team from 2019 to now and like most teams when you have had a settled period there needs to be a little bit of a revision of your members and to freshen it up and we are going through that at the moment.
“I would say anywhere up to 70 per cent of this squad will go through to the World Cup but it will be dependent on their desire, form, fitness and so we take all those things into consideration and make the final decision.”
The England second row has been the subject of debate since giving away 5 penalties against Wales. https://t.co/gttRsh0K5H
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) March 7, 2021
Jones has addressed the continuing problem of giving away too many penalties which was seen in the los to Wales including Maro Itoje’s repeated errors. England have given away an average of 13.6 penalties per game with the collapse at the Principality Stadium saw Itoje alone conceded five. In the 40-24 defeat. He said: “No one goes out there and tries to give away penalties. Everyone is working hard but sometimes players just over-exert in certain areas. Those players we’ll have a quiet chat to and they’ve been reflecting on it. I’ve had at least three or four players ring me during the week to talk about how they need to tend to their errors. That’s the great honesty of this team. We’ll keep working on that.
Jones said he may look again at Sam Underhill who is now fit but is not going to be in the squad of 28 for the French game and does not know how the opposition will react to a long break after the game with Scotland was postponed due to positive Covid tests. He added: “We have seen team play really well after a break and also not so well. We are more concerned about ourselves rather than what France are going to bring. We know they will be well organised and physical in the forwards. The good attributes they will bring won’t change and we have to find the best of ourselves. Whatever team turns up at Twickenham will be tough.”
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