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The 'ruthless' Muhammad Ali vision England have for bench in Rome

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Ashley Western/MB Media/Getty Images)

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England boss Eddie Jones wants his experienced, caps-heavy replacements bench to strike a Muhammad Ali versus Sonny Liston type pose and be ruthless when they get their turn to attack Italy on Sunday in the second round of the Guinness Six Nations. 

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The decision to promote six replacements from last Saturday’s Murrayfield bench into the starting line-up and drop five of the starters in Scotland to the subs (with Lewis Ludlam missing out altogether through injury) has given the matchday 23 a very different complexion. 

Whereas England started in Edinburgh with an XV containing 452 caps and a bench with 303 caps, they will start their round two match in Rome with an XV featuring 347 caps and a bench that has 409 caps split among seven players with the uncapped Ollie Chessum taking up the remaining spot. 

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It’s a selection approach that suggests England will look to go after Italy in the latter stages of the Stadio Olimpico match by throwing on a much-seasoned bench that now contains the likes of Kyle Sinckler, Ben Youngs and Elliot Daly. 

In doing so, Jones wants them to go out with the vision of world boxing champion Ali standing over his fallen opponent Liston and being ruthless. The England coach was referring to an iconic picture taken in Maine in 1965 where Ali initially stood over the fallen Liston, gesturing and yelling at him to “get up and fight, sucker!” 

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“We want to be ruthless,” said Jones as England look to reignite their Six Nations title bid after it got off to a wounding start in defeat to Scotland – they are now coming up against an Italian team with 235 caps starting and just 96 on their bench. “We have got a chance on Sunday to atone for what we did last Saturday and we can only do that from being really ruthless and having that vision of Muhammad Ali standing over Sonny Liston, that sort of image in your head where you want to really go at them.

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“With the players we have got on the bench, if you look at our squad we are probably missing seven frontline players very conservatively. Then you look at the quality of your bench, it is a testament to the strength of the squad. We have got what we would deem to be a very inexperienced and young team starting. 

“It is around the 350-cap (mark), which is half the number of caps you need to win a World Cup. So we have got this nice blend for this game, a quite young and vibrant starting XV and then a more worldly and experienced finishing eight and there is a possibility that this finishing eight could have the opportunity to be Muhammad Ali standing over Sonny Liston.”    

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