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England aren't starting nine forwards versus Georgia, but Eddie Jones has still 'invented' a new position for one player in his XV

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Dan Mullan/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

Eddie Jones began the latest England Test week by teasing how he might start nine forwards against Georgia and he has now invented new terminology around the position Jonathan Joseph will play at Twickenham on Saturday. 


Jones’ ‘start-nine-forwards’ ruse didn’t come to pass when he eventually announced his starting XV on Thursday to begin the four-game Autumn Nations Cup campaign. However, his out-of-the-box thinking instead switched to his commentary surrounding Joseph, the right-winger who is more recognised as a Test level centre with England. 

Joseph started at outside centre in the Six Nations title-clinching win over Italy on October 31 but he now moves one position wider to accommodate the inclusion of Ollie Lawrence for his first Test start after debuting off the bench in Rome. 

Video Spacer

Eddie Jones explains the England XV he has chosen to face Georgia

Video Spacer

Eddie Jones explains the England XV he has chosen to face Georgia

Lawrence will form a midfield partnership with Henry Slade but rather than get hung up on the specific outside and inside positioning, Jones reflected how such descriptions are now obsolete in the modern game and went on to deliver a new hybrid-style description of the role winger Joseph will play in tandem with Lawrence and Slade. 

“That old notion of a 12 and 13 is almost a thing of the past,” declared England boss Jones. “You have two centres that are able to play either/or at set-piece which is one-fifth of possession you get when they play 12 and 13. But the rest of the game they are finding their position – from kick return there is no set position. 

“In fact, the 13 generally goes to the wing on kick return. So all of those things are a work in progress and it’s the players’ communication and awareness on the field that gets tested. We are delighted to play JJ on the wing. We saw him get his most run metres on the wing against Ireland where he was absolutely electric – and he will play almost as a floating centre for us. He will be able to go anywhere on the field.”

Jones added how impressed he has been with newcomer Lawrence, adding that the rapport he has already built with Joseph is an encouraging sign for this Saturday and beyond with England. “He [Lawrence] is a different sort of boy, a lot quieter around the group. Very diligent in terms of his analysis, very diligent in terms of wanting feedback on his performance, has established good relationships with his wingers.


“And JJ has been fantastic for him. He has shared a lot of information with him. On Wednesday at training JJ was giving him tips on what he needs to do. That is one of the most impressive things in the camp so far – I have really been delighted about the attitude of the players.

“We have got guys who we know have got 100 caps now and 50 caps and their ability to share information with the younger guys, make sure they are bringing those younger players on, and the younger players understand their responsibility of pushing those older players.

“There is a nice bit of co-operative competition between the squad which has really pleased me. I have loved the attitude of the players at the moment. They are so keen to keep progressing forward and the Georgia game is a good game for us. 

“It’s a tough game because all the expectation is for us to win easily. The narrative about the game is it’s supposed to be an entertaining, but we know we are playing against a team that is going to be hell bent on making the game difficult, hell bent on making it a physical wrestle and if you have a physical wrestle it’s hard to move the ball.  It’s a tough game for us and I have really been pleased with the way the players have approached the game.”


Jones has made a big deal lately of wanting his England players to expand the traditional horizons of their specific positions. Last weekend he suggested Bern Earl could play in the backline, with Ollie Thorley going in the opposite direction. It’s a desire for flexibility heightened by how Bledisloe IV panned out between Australia and New Zealand.

“It’s experimentation for us,” he said about the hybrid player idea. “We’re looking at how we can best cope to handle difficult situations. In the last two rounds of Test matches, I have seen teams reduced to 13 men which we were against Wales. You saw New Zealand and Australia down to 13 men at various stages, so (you need) the ability to have players who can fill in and execute a particular role that you need at that time.

“There is going to be a continuation with the high tackle law. It’s a very necessary law but it does lead to players being red-carded and yellow-carded because of the way the game is played. Rugby players traditionally drop their body height late.

“Any young rugby player is being taught to do that and at times it is almost impossible for the tackler to adjust their height because of that. That period of time when you have got 14 on 13 is a real possibility and we are trying to create players who can give us what we need in those situations.” 


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