The five biggest snubs from Eddie Jones' 31-man England World Cup squad
Opting to go early with the announcement rather than waiting until the end of the warm-up games, Jones has brought forward all critiques of the squad to mid-August rather than risking them having a detrimental effect in September.
A lot of the places in the squad were semi-known before Monday’s announcement, although a strong showing from many of England’s second and third string players against Wales on Sunday, such as Lewis Ludlam and Charlie Ewels, certainly raised some fresh questions regarding selection.
Regardless, Jones is a coach who knows his own mind and, wherever he has been, he has built squads to his specifications, something which can leave form players or players whose faces don’t quite fit sitting on the outside.
With that in mind, we take a look at five of the biggest snubs from Jones’ 31-man World Cup squad, explaining why it hasn’t quite happened for those players this time around.
Eddie Jones has named his 31-man England squad for the Rugby World Cuphttps://t.co/K41hq4OZmT
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) August 12, 2019
The England scrum-half journey over the past four seasons has been an interesting to put it mildly. With Ben Youngs and Danny Care combining well and complementing one another for the first three seasons, it felt almost set in stone as a pairing for the England RWC squad.
However, Care fell out of favour this past season and the trio of Richard Wigglesworth, Dan Robson and Spencer were all drafted in at various times, although Youngs still took the lion’s share of minutes on the pitch. Heading into the World Cup warm-ups, it seemed Spencer had won that three-way duel for the job as Youngs’ deputy.
It was not to be, however, as Gloucester’s Willi Heinz came from the blindside and reinforced his claim with a decent debut against Wales on Sunday. Spencer’s form had been excellent with Saracens and he seemed to provide both Youngs’ control of a game with the boot, as well as Care’s urgency at the ruck and around the fringes.
One thing going for Heinz, though, was his attacking style of play, which often sees him take two or three steps with the ball from the ruck before delaying, drawing defenders and then executing an incisive flat pass or blitz-beating cutback pass. In style, it is extremely reminiscent of the way Youngs himself plays.
Jones has now preferred Heinz as a like-for-like replacement for Youngs than the contrasting style of Spencer.
Even before the return of Joe Marler to international rugby, there was always going to be one prop sacrificed. Mako Vunipola and Kyle Sinckler were the certainties, Ellis Genge looked relatively safe and Dan Cole’s experience was a valuable factor in his favour, leaving it as a shootout between Williams and Ben Moon for the final spot.
With Marler back in the mix, that put pay to Moon’s hopes of being on the plane and it left Jones with a simple decision as to whether to take three looseheads or three tightheads. Thanks to the combination of Marler’s experience and Genge’s considerable impact in the loose, the Australian has opted to go with just the two tightheads, Sinckler and Cole.
Williams didn’t really do anything wrong in the last cycle, playing well for Exeter Chiefs and offering himself from the bench to help England see out games. He just ended up as the deputy to both Cole and Sinckler over that period. Whether it was Cole’s set-piece ability at first or the leap that Sinckler made around the British and Irish Lions tour, Williams just couldn’t quite get ahead of either prop.
At 27 years of age, don’t rule him out from featuring prominently in the next cycle as Cole is a potential post-RWC retirement. The Leicester man is set to turn 33 towards the end of next season.
BEN TE’O and MIKE BROWN
Getting into an altercation with a team-mate is never advisable, but it is even more costly when that altercation happens immediately prior to a World Cup as there is no time left to seek redemption. With that row having reportedly occurred between these two players during a team bonding session recently, their omissions are not too surprising.
Was the row over piggy backs? https://t.co/Tn6CX8pDZI
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) August 10, 2019
Both could have added a lot to the England squad. However, with team chemistry and atmosphere of the utmost importance out in Japan, it seems Jones is taking no chances with his group of players.
The performances of Anthony Watson and Piers Francis against Wales didn’t help the omitted pair, with Watson excelling in the air and with his defensive duties, making him a solid candidate to fill in at full-back if required. Francis’ physical defence at 12 was another of the big takeaways from the game, with the Welsh midfield enjoying little success when running down his channel.
It would be remiss not to mention Cipriani, given that no player has seemed to capture the hearts and minds of England fans quite like the Gloucester fly-half.
However, the tour of South Africa last summer aside, there has been very little to suggest Cipriani would be part of the England RWC squad. As soon as Owen Farrell moved into his favoured fly-half spot and George Ford became his deputy rather than the starting 10, the writing was on the wall for Cipriani.
Factor in the ability of Henry Slade and Francis to cover the position in training if required and it always seemed a longshot that Jones would opt to take three fly-halves to Japan.
Cipriani’s Premiership form has been very good and because of his spot outside the squad, he has been a lightning rod for praise and highlights of his more impressive moments have abounded. Equally, Ford, as an incumbent in the squad, has been a lightning rod for criticism and his mistakes are pored over in a way that Cipriani’s, at least at club level, are not.
There was very little between the two players and Jones opted to go with Ford, the player he knows, trusts and has experience operating in England’s system. That decision is as unsurprising as fans’ entirely understandable lauding of Cipriani. The grass always looks greener on the other side.
WATCH: Jonathan Joseph tells RugbyPass about his Sunday at Twickenham and his World Cup selection hopes
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