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Ex-England scrum-half hits out at Eddie Jones' 'publicity stunt, nonsense' treatment of Ben Spencer

By Chris Jones
(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Former England scrum-half Kyran Bracken has slammed Eddie Jones’s treatment of Ben Spencer as a “publicity stunt” after the Bath No9 was left out of the latest national team training squad preparing for the autumn internationals.


Bracken likened Jones to Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho and his treatment of Dele Alli, claiming the louder the support for a Spencer call-up the more the England head coach will take the opposite view.

Jones opted to include 99-cap Ben Youngs (Leicester), fellow thirty-something Willi Heinz (Gloucester) and Alex Mitchell, the uncapped Northampton scrum-half, for this week’s three-day camp in London despite Spencer’s outstanding form for Bath following his move from Saracens. 

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Exeter coach Rob Baxter sets the scene ahead of Saturday’s Champions Cup final

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Exeter coach Rob Baxter sets the scene ahead of Saturday’s Champions Cup final

Spencer won the last of his four replacements caps in England’s World Cup final loss to South Africa last November, having been flown that week to Japan to take over from the injured Heinz.

With Wasps’ in-form Dan Robson available to Jones after the Gallagher Premiership final with Exeter on October 24, Spencer could find himself inexplicably No5 in the England scrum-half rankings despite a series of eye-catching displays for Bath. 

Patently, he has failed to catch the eye of Jones and Bracken, who won 51 England, branded the decision to ignore the 28-year-old as “nonsense”. Bracken knows what it takes to claim the England half-back position. He was up against Dewi Morris, Austin Healey, Andy Gomarsall and Matt Dawson during his decade in the Test squad and cannot understand Jones’ current thinking.

He told RugbyPass: “Jones loves to go against public opinion and we have seen that in the past with Alex Goode, Danny Cipriani, Mike Brown and Chris Robshaw. Jones and Mourinho are in the same mould and they do things to surprise people and it is their trademark to do something controversial. 


“The more people say a player is doing well the more Jones digs his heels. It is not a rugby reason and it’s more to do with Jones’ relationship with the media and the public. He is making a statement as if he is a rugby genius – that is my opinion. It’s part of his ‘I know better’ attitude. It’s a publicity stunt and absolute nonsense.

“My question is where is Willi Heinz in all of this debate? Has he been scoring lots of tries for Gloucester? Why is he ahead of Ben Spencer? My top three scrum-halves for England at the moment would be Ben Spencer, Dan Robson and probably Ben Youngs because of his experience – although he has hardly been impressing in a struggling Leicester team this season.”

Dismissing the idea that Spencer was ignored because he is not vocal enough on the pitch, Bracken paid tribute to the man-management of World Cup-winning head coach Clive Woodward. “The reason Bath got to the Premiership semi-finals is Ben Spencer and he was on fire just like Dan Robson. Just think what those two could add to England.

“Clive Woodward was fair and if you were playing well he would pick you. It was all about form for your club and if you weren’t performing you would be out on your ear. When England play Italy at the end of this month I don’t see Ben Spencer being involved and I believe Jones will pick Youngs for his 100th cap.”



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