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Welsh rugby enveloped in its latest existential crisis

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England explain gamble with Malins and what they admire most about this France side

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

Eddie Jones has explained the rationale behind his decision to give Max Malins the first Test start of his short England career this Saturday in a Guinness Six Nations contest against a title-chasing France who have tactically got the full attention of the English coach. 


Champions in 2020, England go into round four of their title defence with their hopes of retaining the trophy in tatters following February losses to Scotland and Wales. The most recent defeat, the 24-40 setback in Cardiff to the Welsh, has resulted in Jones making three changes to his starting XV for Twickenham.

Malins, the 24-year-old who is currently on loan to Bristol from relegated Saracens, has been used as a replacement in all six of his previous England appearances but he has now got the jump in selection on Elliot Daly, his Saracens colleague who last began a match from the bench in his 53-cap Test career way back in 2016 in Australia.

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Finn Russell guests on RugbyPass Offload with Simon Zebo and Ryan Wilson
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Finn Russell guests on RugbyPass Offload with Simon Zebo and Ryan Wilson

The 28-year-old Daly had started the last seven England matches at full-back but he has now given away to the rookie Malins, whom Jones expects to be very busy in his first Test start. “He has really impressed us since he has been in the squad,” explained the England coach. 

“He has got a good kick-return game, he has got a good feeling for the game, brings pace onto the ball and particularly playing against a team like France, which have the highest and longest kicking game in the world, the full-back’s pretty busy so he is going to have a big role for us.”

Malins’ inclusion was the only alteration to Jones’ starting backline from the loss to Wales, but there are two changes in the pack with Luke Cowan-Dickie and Charlie Ewels promoted at the expense of benched duo Jamie George and Jonny Hill. 


Ollie Lawrence, who hadn’t been involved since starting in round one against Scotland, comes onto a bench where the split will be five forwards/three backs unlike at the Principality where the split was six forwards/two backs, a balance not fully utilised as the now excluded George Martin was left uncapped on the bench.  

Switching to the threat posed by France, who are unbeaten after two matches, Jones suggested England will have a job keeping tabs on the danger posed by scrum-half Antoine Dupont. “Defence around the ruck has got to be good. It’s got to be tight,” he said. “We’d like him [Dupont] to have a tidy game, do all the simple things well but not do any of the special things. If we can keep him in a little box then it will be a good result for us. 

“Tactical discipline,” he added when asked what in particular had impressed him about the French in recent times. “They play that long kicking game, they don’t play anything in their half. They kick long and then create opportunities for them to attack off their lineout in your 50, and they have got some special talents in Dupont. They are able to score points and defensively they are pretty good.”      



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RUGBYPASS+ Welsh rugby enveloped in its latest existential crisis Welsh rugby enveloped in its latest existential crisis