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The bits of Kruis, Lawes and Read that Jones is looking for in his rookie England locks

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Alex Davidson/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

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With England working with a rookie squad in recent weeks for their summer series, how they manage the huge shortfall in experience in vital areas such as second row should make for an intriguing watch in the coming weeks as Eddie Jones and co negotiate a schedule that starts with Sunday’s A team match versus Scotland A before the July Test games at Twickenham versus the USA and Canada.

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A team containing eleven uncapped players has been chosen to start in the A fixture opener and the combination at second row pairs Charlie Ewels (21 caps) with Harry Wells (uncapped), with the repositioned back-rower Ted Hill (one cap) providing cover from the bench. 

It’s a far cry from the dominant duo of Maro Itoje and George Kruis firing England to the World Cup final in 2019, but the criteria Jones has for this area of his team is relentless. “The Test lock position is a pretty demanding position at the moment,” he said on Thursday.

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“You have got to be able to win the lineout like a George Kruis, defend like a Courtney Lawes as a back row and carry like a Kieran Read at No8 and that is what we are looking for. Now generally most locks don’t have all those sorts of things but they have got to have one of those areas where they are exceptional and we are looking for locks who have exceptional ability in one of those areas.”

Asked by RugbyPass on Friday about the three players England A are depending on this weekend at second row, John Mitchell said: “Charlie is a very good caller of lineouts. He comes with the experience of leading a lineout. Harry is a very hard-working, gritty, physical lock who enjoys the defensive parts of lineout as well as the attacking bit but he also gets around the field and does all the hard cleans and is dependable in defence.

“And then we have got Ted Hill who is a very athletic young lock. He has the ability to play six as well but he has really ripped into his work since his squad selection. He has demonstrated real physicality and real desire outside of his set-piece and his carry.”

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Sunday’s fixture will see assistant Mitchell take on the head coach responsibility, something he hasn’t done since his last Super Rugby match in charge of the Bulls against the Jaguares in Pretoria in 2018. This increased responsibility has kept him busy, especially as England have been working with a 36-strong squad contained 23 uncapped players. “It’s an initiative by Eddie,” explained Mitchell about his temporary promotion.

“Our coaching group is very collaborative anyway. There have been some additional duties in terms of the way that you communicate, it has probably been more multiples of communication in front of the group that I wouldn’t normally do as an assistant coach so that has been good fun because it is important to communicate effectively as we don’t have too many meetings and too many sessions to become cohesive.” 

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The bits of Kruis, Lawes and Read that Jones is looking for in his rookie England locks

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