'Extraordinary ability': Eddie Jones on his six new England picks
Eddie Jones has outlined his reasons for including each of the six uncapped players in his England squad that will assemble in Brighton next Monday for training ahead of the 2022 Guinness Six Nations campaign which gets underway with a February 5 trip to Scotland.
It was October when the England coach named his original squad of 34 for the three-match Autumn Nations Series, a selection with a 19 forwards/15 backs split that assembled in Jersey for a week of training before playing Tonga, Australia and South Africa on successive November Saturdays at Twickenham.
Jones has now increased the resources at his disposal for next week’s England training camp by two players, picking a 36 that features 19 forwards and 17 backs. The exclusion of Sam Underhill, the revelation of a further injury setback for Manu Tuilagi and the appointment of Owen Farrell as squad skipper grabbed the headlines when the coach named his picks at 10.45am on Tuesday morning.
Fifteen minutes later, though, when he began his England squad announcement media briefing over a Zoom call, Jones dwelt on the reasons why he had included six uncapped players in a squad that will be looking to do much better than the fifth-place finish recorded in the 2021 Six Nations.
“They are in the squad because we feel they can make a contribution to the team,” ventured Jones after naming the uncapped Orlando Bailey, the 20-year-old Bath out-half, Alfie Barbeary, the 21-year-old back-rower from Wasps, Ollie Chessum, the 21-year-old lock/back row from Leicester, Tommy Freeman, the 20-year-old full-back from Northampton, Ollie Hassell-Collins, the recently-turned 23-year-old London Irish winger, and Luke Northmore, the 24-year-old Harlequins midfielder.
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“There is no reason why they can’t. They are all good young players who showed enough at club level to suggest they can be successful at Test level. I’m looking forward to seeing how quickly they adapt. They all deserve the opportunity. They showed enough. I can go through them each individually if you like.”
ALFIE BARBEARY: “Alfie has not been picked on the back of his last game (for Wasps versus Toulouse), he has been picked on what we have seen over the last two seasons. He has got an extraordinary ability to break tackles and to carry the ball forward in close contact. He came in as a hooker and he has ended up as a No8 and he feels his best position is in the back row and we agree with him, so looking forward to seeing how he can move forward in Test rugby.”
OLLIE CHESSUM: “He is a young back-rower cum lock. We see him in the same sort of mould as Courtney Lawes, so we are looking for someone with a similar sort of skill set as Courtney. He has got good lineout skills. He can carry, he can hit, he has got plenty of energy and vigour.”
OLLIE HASSELL-COLLINS: “He is a big, strong winger who breaks tackles, came through the sevens.”
TOMMY FREEMAN: “We believe he can play full-back or wing and possibly 13. He has got a natural feel for the game.”
ORLANDO BAILEY: “He has done very well in a (Bath) team that has been struggling. Can take the ball to the line, is a strong defender and can play ten, twelve or 15. We are particularly looking for those multi-skilled backs players who are going to be important, not only in this Covid era but going forward towards the World Cup.”
LUKE NORTHMORE: “He is another one out of Cardiff Metropolitan University. It seems to be a popular breeding ground for Test match rugby players. (Alex) Dombrandt set the bar there and now Northmore is similarly out of there. He runs strong lines, carries well through contact. Has got good footwork.”
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