Eddie Jones says he’s an innovative and forward-thinking coach but, despite there being nothing but pride on the line in Dublin, we still aren’t seeing much change.
England were fantastic against France last week but I’m not sure when we’re going to see fresh faces if it isn’t at the end of a Six Nations campaign in which the title chances went up in smoke weeks ago.
The one change to the team this week is enforced with Elliot Daly coming in at outside centre to replace Henry Slade and it’ll give him an opportunity to showcase his versatility ahead of the British & Irish Lions tour this summer.
The Saracens man clearly hasn’t been in Lions worthy form or he wouldn’t have been dropped last week but Eddie is giving his trusted lieutenants as many opportunities as possible to play their way into form and show Warren Gatland what they can do.
Daly’s selection in the number 13 is a strange one when you consider that his only previous international start there was his very first start for England back in November 2016 and Ollie Lawrence, Joe Marchant and Paolo Odogwu have all shone in that position this season.
Lawrence started for England against Scotland in Round 1 but hasn’t been seen since apart from for eight minutes off the bench last week and Paolo Odogwu will return to Wasps next week richer financially but surely questioning why he hasn’t been given a shot.
He was absolutely flying for Wasps but he hasn’t played a game of rugby since 8 January when he scored two tries against Bath and dominated his personal duel with experienced England centre Jonathan Joseph.
People have questioned Daly’s defensive capabilities at full back and outside centre is the hardest position on the field to defend in. There’ll be big pressure on him but Elliot’s the sort of character who can certainly rise to that.
It’s absolutely Jones’ prerogative to pick who he wants and he’s remained loyal to a key group of players but he hasn’t taken any opportunities to be innovative since England’s chances of winning the tournament were ended by Wales last month.
? Ireland vs England predictions
?Are the media anti-Eddie Jones and England?
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) March 19, 2021
In stark contrast, Andy Farrell has made six changes. Admittedly, a handful of those have been forced on him by injuries but Jacob Stockdale is back on the wing and Conor Murray has been recalled to the starting XV, which is probably an indication of the type of game Ireland are expecting.
England have won the last four meetings between the teams and done so by imposing their power game and controlling territory. Murray is about as tactically astute as they come in terms of the kicking game so that’s why he’s been included.
It’s very hard to imagine the game will be anything like the one we witnessed at Twickenham last week and England fans understand that, they just want to see progress.
Jones took aim at the media this week by saying that “rat poison gets into players’ heads” from the press and, while that smacks of a diversionary tactic to place the focus on him and not the players again, there is a serious point to be made around it.
People in the media are paid to give their opinions and Eddie Jones and the England players are paid to perform on the pitch so it’s part of their job not to let it affect them, whether the media attention is good or bad.
On the pitch, I think we’ll see England reverting to type but that’s proven effective against Ireland in recent years since the men in green won the Grand Slam at Twickenham in 2018 and I think England will have too much power again and I’m going for an eight-point win in Dublin.
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