The one thing that Eddie Jones admits could make him 'an idiot'
Eddie Jones stuck to his guns on Tuesday, opting not to recall the out-of-favour George Ford or the Vinupola brothers to the England squad despite their respective good club form this winter with Leicester and Saracens. This trio – all starters for Jones in the 2019 World Cup final in Japan – were the headline names omitted when the squad was announced in October for the Autumn Nations series.
Jamie George, another Saracens player, was a fourth big name to be omitted but he was quickly reprieved, a series-ending injury to Luke Cowan-Dickie paving the way for his recall at hooker, and he went on to start against Tonga and Australia before injury in that second game ruled him out of contention for the series finale versus South Africa.
George has regained his fitness in time to play for Saracens this month and ensure he was selected by Jones in the 36-strong squad named on Tuesday for the upcoming 2022 Guinness Six Nations championship which begins with a February 5 assignment in Scotland.
However, while George will count him relieved that his face still fits with England after his initial jolting omission last October, the club performances of Ford at Leicester and by the Saracens brothers, Mako and Billy, haven’t been enough in the eyes of Jones to merit a recall.
That said, Jones admitted the Test selection door wasn’t fully closed to the trio. “They have all been under consideration and all have aspects of their game to look at or fitness areas to improve and they have all been spoken to individually,” he explained, adding that chances of a recall weren’t over. “100 per cent (they can get back in). They have all got areas they need to work on… they have got to play at a level where it makes me an idiot if I don’t pick them.”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) January 18, 2022
Jones named six uncapped players in his latest squad – Orlando Bailey, Alfie Barbeary, Ollie Chessum, Tommy Freeman, Ollie Hassell-Collins and Luke Northmore – and other headline-making decisions involved his renewed faith in Owen Farrell as England skipper, the omission of Sam Underhill and the latest injury setback for Manu Tuilagi.
England have arrived into 2022 on the back of a five-match winning streak with a greatly rejuvenated squad featuring numerous players only recently new to the Test level scene. They will now seek to improve on last year’s Six Nations misfortune, the fifth-place finish that ignited debate over coach Jones’ suitability to continue on as the national team coach.
“That Six Nations is finished,” he insisted ten months on from a campaign that ended with a derisory defeat to Ireland in Dublin. “It’s a new England side. We have moved on from that Six Nations, we will be well prepared, we will play with good spirit and we will play with good tactical appreciation.
“It’s an important opportunity for us to keep building the team, keep building out tactical adaption and we are looking forward to integrating some new players into the squad.”
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