'There was no hesitation about the fact that he wanted to play for England'
Eddie Jones has expressed his delight that Wales-qualified Harry Randall has instead declared for England, the Bristol scrum-half becoming one of three uncapped Test players included on Friday in the 28-strong squad that will assemble next Wednesday ahead of the February 6 championship opener at home to Scotland.
The flow of uncapped players who have dual allegiance has gone against England in recent times. Callum Sheedy and Jonny Williams, who had played for England against the Barbarians in 2019, were capped by Wales in 2020, as was England age-grade pick Nick Tompkins.
It also emerged on Wednesday that Cameron Redpath, an England age-grade player who trained with Jones’ senior squad during last spring’s 2020 Six Nations, had declared for Scotland.
However, the selection of Wales-qualified Randall, 23, along with Italian-qualified Paolo Odogwu, also 23, in the England squad for the upcoming Six Nations gave Jones plenty reason to smile at his post-squad announcement media briefing.
Speaking over Zoom while in self-isolation following the recent positive test for Covid of forwards coach Matt Proudfoot, Jones said about Randall: “Look, he wants to play for England. We want guys who want to play for England.
EXCLUSIVE: The Welsh system told Harry Randall he was too small and his pass too slow, so his Llandovery College coach, Iestyn Thomas, went about proving them wrong in an ingenious manner.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) January 22, 2021
“There are a lot of players out there that have options to play for a number of countries. We want players that want to play for England. There was no hesitation about the fact that he wanted to play for England. He is a good young player. He will put pressure on Ben Youngs and Dan Robson, which is a good thing. But it is not so much the youth that is a factor, it’s the quality of his play that is the key thing for us.
“We have been watching Harry for a long time now, at least two seasons. He continues to develop his game, and his running and initiative in attack is the thing that has really caught the eye. I’m really pleased with his development.”
Switching to Odogwu, who came to prominence in recent months as both a midfielder and winger at Wasps, Jones added: “Paolo is a guy we saw at the end of last season, he has got power, has got a bit of an X-factor and we are looking for another centre that has got that, another winger that has that. He has been consistently dynamic in that and able to break lines.
“His ball-carrying ability, he has got the ability to beat people. He has got a good sense for the line and just an enthusiastic player, a very enthusiastic player.”
Jones chose 33 players when he picked his squad for their last outing, the Nations Cup final win over France in December. That number has now been cut by five. In going from 15 down to 12 backs, Odogwu and Randell came in for Joe Cokanasiga, Joe Marchant, Alex Mitchell, Ollie Thorley and Jacob Umaga.
The injured Vunipola will join with the squad to undertake rehab during the tournament, while the likes of Marchant, Mitchell, Umaga, Ewels and Willis are part of a twelve-strong shadow squad who will undertake the same testing procedures that are being used by England so that they can immediately come into camp if needed.
“The reason we have named the shadow squad is they will be under the same testing procedure as our 28 players and if we do have a difficulty with the squad we will be able to bring in players from the shadow squad because they will be on the same testing regime as our squad. “It is an easy fit for us, but otherwise they are with their clubs and they will continue to play and train with their clubs.”
Regarding Sinckler, his usual first-choice tighthead who has been excluded due to round one suspension, Jones said: “We’ll judge his selection when he becomes available. That is the judgement we will make when he becomes available.”
It's been quite the cull. https://t.co/OflR88N0MT
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) January 22, 2021
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now