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The one issue Clive Woodard has with England's selection for Tonga

By Ian Cameron
(Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

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Former World Cup-winning England head coach Clive Woodard has said that Eddie Jones’ selection for Tonga is faultless – with one exception.

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England are heavy favourites to beat Tonga in Twickenham this Saturday, having beaten the Pacific island nation 35 – 5 last time they met, at the Rugby World Cup pool stages in Japan two years ago.

Despite this, Jones has picked what looks like close to his choice fifteen for the game and it’s a selection that Woodward is enthusiastic about – but there’s an issue: the backrow.

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“This, taking injuries and niggles into account, is England’s Gun XV and with one exception in the back row I can’t find fault with it,” Woodward writes in his Daily Mail column.

Jones has once again gone for Tom Curry at No.8 – a selection the Australian has committed to over the last two seasons, believing the Sale Sharks forward will become a better seven for having played at No.8.

Woodward doesn’t agree.

“And the back row? Well, we have been here before. England have two exceptional youngish No 8s in Alex Dombrandt and Sam Simmonds and I can’t really see any reason not to give one of them an extended run, with the other on the bench.

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“They would be interchangeable in that respect.

“It’s not that I think Tom Curry can’t make a very decent fist of it at No 8 but the transition was far from seamless when he played there in the 2020 Six Nations.

“He will have to learn his trade there while we have two in-form specialists twiddling their thumbs.

“But why even do it? Is the extra lineout option of Courtney Lawes playing blindside flanker and the slightly heavier scrummaging power he offers so vital?

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“For starters, I would argue that Curry provides a third lineout option but do you really change the composition of a potentially devastatingly quick and ball-playing back row for that perceived marginal gain in the tight?

“Tonga won’t provide any definitive answers. We will have to wait for the Australia and Boks games for that.”

ENGLAND VS TONGA: 15. Freddie Steward, 14. Adam Radwan, 13. Henry Slade, 12. Manu Tuilagi, 11. Jonny May, 10. Owen Farrell, 9. Ben Youngs, 1. Ellis Genge, 2. Jamie George, 3. Kyle Sinckler, 4. Maro Itoje, 5. Jonny Hill, 6. Courtney Lawes, 7. Sam Underhill, 8. Tom Curry. REPLACEMENTS: 16. Jamie Blamire, 17. Joe Marler, 18. Will Stuart, 19. Charlie Ewels, 20. Alex Dombrandt, 21. Alex Mitchell, 22. Marcus Smith, 23. George Furbank.

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