Former World Cup-winning England halfback Matt Dawson has questioned Eddie Jones’ selection of some players in the scrum-half position ahead of his nation’s World Cup warm-up clash with Wales at Twickenham this weekend.
Jones named a 33-man squad for the fixture earlier this week in preparation for next month’s showpiece tournament, with veteran halfback Ben Youngs and the uncapped Kiwi-born Willi Heinz both included.
Dawson, who played 84 test matches for England and the British and Irish Lions between 1995 and 2006 and played a key role in England’s World Cup success in 2003, said on BBC Radio Live 5 that he was a fan of the 87-test Youngs, but wasn’t impressed at the squad’s back-up options.
“If Ben Youngs goes down before [England’s World Cup pool match against] France, that number nine has got to run the show,” he said.
“Potentially you have someone with two or three caps going into that scenario. I need someone to explain it to me.”
The experienced Danny Care is one of Heinz’s rivals for the back-up position in Jones’ squad, but the 32-year-old hasn’t featured internationally since last November.
Others who care in the running for a place at the World Cup include rookies Jack Maunder, Ben Spencer and Dan Robson, who have five test caps between them, but all are playing second-fiddle to Heinz this week.
Born and raised in Christchurch, the ex-Crusaders scrum-half has been playing for Premiership outfit Gloucester since 2015, and qualifies for England through his Southampton-born grandmother, Aylieff.
The 32-year-old’s selection in Jones’ squad has garnered some criticism in the English media, but it’s something he has brushed aside as he prepares for a potential test debut for his adopted nation.
“Honestly, I just ignore it,” Heinz told The Guardian.
“I’m not on any sort of social media apart from Facebook to keep in touch with friends and family. If I worried about what 99 percent of the public were saying about me I’d get bogged down pretty quickly.”
He went on to say that his grandmother helped shape his love for rugby, and that he had an affinity for both New Zealand and England.
“She was a very proud English woman and I was always sport mad. Not just rugby, all sports, and she was always really encouraging of me to come over, live in England and experience life over here.
“I know she would be really proud of me, playing professionally and bringing up a young family in a country she was so proud of.”
Haskell – “I’m excited to see us going on and winning it”:
Sign up to our mailing list here and we’ll keep you up to the minute with weekly updates from the world of rugby.