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Jones hints he could start 9 England forwards against Georgia

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Chris Ricco/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

England boss Eddie Jones has teased he could next weekend reprise a selection tactic he successfully used previously against Georgia with Japan in 2015 – picking an extra forward on the wing so that he could have nine forwards on the pitch to help outmuscle the traditionally physical Eastern Europeans.  


Jones’ England host the Georgians next Saturday at Twickenham in their Autumn Nations Cup opener and queries about the visitors’ noted physicality in their pack jogged memories in the coach of his five-year-old victory against them with Japan.   

Georgia had beaten the Japanese 35-24 in November 2014 in Tbilisi, but Jones pulled off an upset in the rematch ten months later, selecting Hendrik Tui – normally a No8 – on the wing to add some heft to his team’s level of physicality.

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That 13-10 warm-up win at Gloucester was followed 14 days later by one of the greatest shocks ever in World Cup history, the Japan Miracle of Brighton win over South Africa. 

Tui was restored to No8 for that triumph over the Springboks, but the successful repositioning experiment is something Jones suggested he could now use again as he wants England to develop hybrid players who can double up and play as both a forward and a back. 

“They’re the fathers of wrestling. They are all about manhood, they’re all about being physical, they have made their way into the top 15 in the world through having a dominant scrum, a tough forward pack, hard running backs and we anticipate the same from them,” said Jones, looking ahead to next weekend’s game against the Georgians after clinching Six Nations title success last weekend in Rome.  

“They [Georgia] didn’t scrum well against Scotland [they lost 48-7 on October 23] but I’m sure they will improve from that. I remember last time we played them for Japan before the World Cup in 2015 we played with nine forwards, such was the strength of their pack.


“Maybe I will consider doing the same again, which would give you [the media] plenty to write about. We had eight forwards in the pack and a ninth forward who could play as a forward. We played nine forwards and six backs.”

Asked could this tactic be adopted by England, Jones continued: “100 per cent, mate. We’ll just wait and see. Maybe Ollie Thorley, maybe Ben Earl – there are a number of guys we are trying to make into hybrid players.”

Jones’ recollection of his previous results wasn’t exactly correct, his scorelines both skewed from those Japan-Georgia encounters, while he also got his year wrong when recollecting Barcelona’s use of a false nine in a Champions League football final win over Manchester United. However, the premise was still clear: Jones is open to outside-the-box thinking to try and make England better. 

“We won 16-9 (sic),” he said incorrectly when asked if his use of nine Japan forwards was a success against Georgia. “The previous time we played them we got pumped 25-12 (sic). It worked brilliantly so it [the tactic] might be out again. We have just got to find a bigger sized No9 shirt. Next week we’ll have to find one if we decided to go down that course.


“We have got to look at how we can keep improving the game. Tradition says you have eight forwards and seven backs. That seems right and it probably is right, but there is no reason why we can’t look at that. When Barcelona beat Manchester United in the Champions League, was it 1999? (sic, 2009), they played the false nine. There is no reason why you can’t do that in rugby, play a false ten for instance, or play a false winger and create a different position. 

“We’re looking to do that because we know that to become the team we want to become we have got to keep improving and we have got to keep looking at the edge. So these ideas are things that we take seriously and we look at to see how we can improve the side – and maybe the Georgia game is an opportunity to do that, play a different way.”



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