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The key factor England reckon will be decisive in 2022 Six Nations

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Dan Mullan/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

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England boss Eddie Jones reckons the upcoming 2022 Guinness Six Nations will be won by the team that proves to be the most adaptable in the current climate where selected players can be ruled out overnight and cause an eleventh-hour reshuffling of the best-laid plans. It was November when Jones’ team has this exact experience and they reacted with composure to win their matches. 

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Skipper Owen Farrell was ruled out from starting the Autumn Nations Series opener versus Tonga due to a virus test that was later revealed to be a false positive. That emergency in full-back George Furbank getting thrown in to play at out-half.

A similarly late reshuffle materialised the following week when Ellis Genge tested positive. That left Bevan Rodd, who hadn’t even been in the England squad earlier in the week, suddenly promoted to start at loosehead versus Australia with fellow rookie Trevor Davison coming onto the replacements as Joe Marler had already been ruled out due to his positive test.  

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Eddie Jones announces a new generation England squad for the 2022 Six Nations
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Eddie Jones announces a new generation England squad for the 2022 Six Nations

It is this ability to react to a sudden issue, allied to players having the flexibility to also play a number of different positions, that England boss Jones now reckons will prove crucial in determining which team wins the upcoming Six Nations championship which starts on February 5. 

England demonstrated this positional adaptability in the autumn by giving regular midfielder Manu Tuilagi only his second ever start as a winger versus Australia. The following week, Tuilagi was restored to No12 but only lasted seven minutes due to an injury and this necessitated winger Joe Marchant switching into the centre in a rare Test level appearance. 

“We have four campaigns to the World Cup, every campaign is important, every campaign we want to make sure we are moving in the right direction so we use each campaign and use every day of that campaign to keep improving, keep building the cohesion of the team, keep building the adaptability of the team, keep building the strength in being able to move players in and out,” explained Jones, who named a 36-strong England Six Nations squad last Tuesday

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“Particularly in this era where overnight you could lose four or five players you need to have a team that is adaptable, that can play a number of multiple positions and can cope with the circumstances because this year’s Six Nations is going to be won by the team that is most adaptable given the current circumstances.

“We are trying to build a team that is capable of doing that. I have got no doubt that out of this 36, and maybe some of the players who can come back into the squad when they are fit and ready to go, are capable of winning this year’s Six Nations.

“Rugby is a game where it is dependent on the referee, it’s dependent on the weather conditions, it’s dependent on what the opposition does and we want to continually build a team that is adaptable, that can play a set-piece tight, structured game but also when a game breaks to be able to attack very aggressively and very quickly. 

“The game is moving towards that even more so with 70 per cent of tries scored in the first four phases, so we were pleased with the way we moved in that direction in autumn but we have still got a lot of scope to improve in that area particularly.”

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