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England explain 'pace on the game' reason for backing No9 Randall

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

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A desire to put pace on the game early is the prime reason given by Eddie Jones for retaining the youthful Harry Randall at scrum-half in place of the vastly more experienced Ben Youngs, who has to settle for making his record-breaking 115th England appearance from the Twickenham bench this Saturday. Having been an unused sub in the Six Nations round one loss to Scotland, the 24-year-old Randall was promoted to start last time out away to Italy. 

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The expectation for the upcoming round three game versus the Welsh was that the No9 jersey would revert back to Youngs, who pulled level with Jason Leonard’s all-time appearance record of 114 caps when coming on as a replacement at the Stadio Olimpico.

However, rather than recall Youngs to a starting line-up that shows four changes from the XV that ran out against the Italians, England boss Jones has opted to keep the record-setting 32-year-old in reserve in the hope that the quick-hands partnership of Randall in tandem with out-half Marcus Smith can cause multiple early problems for the Wales defence. 

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“We want to put some pace on the game early,” explained Jones on Thursday after he named an England XV that included Manu Tuilagi, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Kyle Sinckler and Courtney Lawes at the respective expense of the axed Joe Marchant and the benched Jamie George, Will Stuart and Nick Isiekwe.  

“We feel like there will be some opportunities against Wales early in the game and Harry each week has increasingly been in better form. He is sharp around the ruck, gives us a bit of that instinctiveness with his ability to take quick taps and run quickly.

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“And then the converse of that is we have got Ben Youngs to finish the game and these games always tend to go to the wire. It’s almost like a narrative that is built into a Wales-England contest, it is going to go down to the wire and it is going to be (decided in) the last 20. Imagine having a half-back of 115 caps in the best form of his career coming on to manage that last 20 minutes.

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“It’s a great testament to his resilience, his durability and his ability to keep improving. To play 115 caps you have to have a desire to want to keep improving. I was lucky enough to coach George Gregan, who played well over 100 caps (for Australia). They are both similar in their mindset, different sort of players but both good team men, play hard for the team, want to keep improving and know their strengths and know their weaknesses.” 

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