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The 'one-off selection' that England felt compelled to gamble on

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Eddie Jones believes England fans will see a very different George Furbank in Paris this Saturday than the rookie who struggled on his Test debut in the same city 25 months ago. With Elliot Daly, the World Cup final No15, unavailable at that time, the Northampton player was just 23 when chosen at full-back for the 2020 Guinness Six Nations opener against France in England’s first match following their Yokohama final defeat to the Springboks. 


It didn’t start well, England trailing by 24 points early in the second half before rallying to only lose by seven – a comeback that ultimately proved decisive in them pipping the French to the title on points difference.  

Furbank went on to also start at full-back against Scotland and Italy in that campaign but he has since had a truncated Test career, only getting selected twice in the last 18 England games and both of those appearances – a run off the bench versus Canada and a start against Tonga – were in the alternative position of out-half.

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Now, though, he has been parachuted in to start at full-back this Saturday night against the Grand Slam-chasing France with Freddie Steward, the starting England No15 in the last nine matches, shunted out onto the right wing following the axing of Max Malins in the wake of the 32-15 loss to Ireland. 

The plan is to counteract the French kicking game and while Jones has described his approach as a one-off selection, he has insisted he has made the right call concerning Furbank as he claims he is now a different player at the age of 25 than what was nervously seen on debut at Stade de France just over two years ago.  


“It has been what he has done in his preparation,” said Jones when asked to outline what has impressed him so much about Furbank that he had to pick him as the England No15 for this closing game of the 2022 championship. “We see George as a very good player going forward. In the modern game in terms of full-back, he has got all the repertoire to be very successful. He can also fill in at ten which we saw against Tonga in the autumn and he has been doing that for his club. 


“So the way that France play we feel that he is the best full-back and Freddie is the best winger for this game only, it’s a one-off selection and it’s funny how the cycle changes in two years. George went from being a debutant (against France) to now making the biggest game of his career up to this stage (back in Paris).”

It has been an ordeal for Furbank to reclaim the No15 jersey 17 months after he last wore it versus Italy in Rome in the fixture that clinched the 2020 Six Nations title. “Most young players go through a fair bit of ups and downs and the ability to learn from the downs is just so important and the ability to use the resources around him is so important,” continued Jones. 

“He is a young player that probably had a difficult debut and he has used his club game and has used his opportunities to come into England to keep improving himself, he has used the resources around him to be better prepared for Test rugby and what you will see on Saturday is a much better-prepared player than what you saw two years ago.”


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