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The England spot where Jones most wants new talent, and his message to Simmonds

By Liam Heagney

Trending on RugbyPass

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Four years ago when England last toured at the same time as the Lions, Eddie Jones included a raft of uncapped players for the 2017 trip to Argentina and 29 months later, new caps Tom Curry and Sam Underhill were starting the 2019 World Cup final versus South Africa in Yokohama. 

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England’s latest tour dynamics are now very different. Facing the Pumas away was a very different challenge than what is on the cards this July, home matches at Twickenham versus the USA and Canada while the Lions are away in South Africa.

All the same, it will provide opportunity and England boss Jones has outlined the area of his team where he is hoping to unearth some alternatives to the options he has previously used. “I have been travelling the country looking for them,” he said when asked about the likelihood of some unheralded players making the cut when he announces his summer series squad next weekend.

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“We think we have found a few good players who maybe aren’t in the media spotlight as much as you guys would like because I know you are the guys who like to unearth the talent so maybe we have found a few, I’m not sure. 

“In every position, we need strengthening. We are looking for the best talent, the right talent to come into the squad. Obviously centre has been a position where we need to bring some new talent through. It’s nice to see Manu (Tuilagi) back playing but we will need to assess his development and we want to see what we can unearth in the centres. The wingers is another position where there is an opportunity for some young guys to come through.”

One of rugby’s most intriguing stories in 2021 has been the continued stance by Jones to ignore the England selection credentials of Sam Simmonds, the try-scoring Exeter No8 whose record-breaking exploits have seen him secure Lions tour selection despite not being capped at Test level by his country since March 2018. Would Jones have picked him for England’s summer series if Warren Gatland had chosen him for the Lions?

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“All I can say is that I am pleased he has made the Lions, really pleased for him and I hope he has a great tour and I hope he comes back as a better player. Then we are in a good position. I don’t deal with hypotheses… every time a player plays at a high level you are assessing them. We have been pleased with his development as a player and if he continues on the Lions he is going to put himself in a good position (for England).”

Asked what his approach will be to selecting an England squad for a schedule that includes an A fixture versus Scotland A on the same late June weekend as the final of the Gallagher Premiership, Jones said: “The only thing we are concerned about is picking the best England squad and part of that is making sure we looking after players in the best way we can. Players have gone through a very difficult period, let’s not understate that.

“Our English boys have played back to back seasons, they have missed a whole pre-season so for those players who have missed out on the Lions and we feel for their careers and their future with the England rugby team, if they are better off having a pre-season then we will give them a pre-season.

“We would encourage them to have a pre-season. For those guys we think would benefit from playing a small bit of international rugby we will play them. We won’t be driven by the Lions agenda, we will be driven by our agenda.

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“I had a meal and a beer with Warren well before the Lions selection, but that is his job, he has got to get on with it and we don’t really expect communication,” Jones continued. “We have just got to be respondent to what they need. They are the next tier from us now.

“They dictate what we do so we have got to be those good boys who sit at the front of the class and make sure when we are asked to put up our hand we put up our hand and obey and answer nicely and we will.”

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The England spot where Jones most wants new talent, and his message to Simmonds

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