Having named his 36-man squad for England’s November internationals, Eddie Jones told RugbyPass that the current injury crisis has not made things easy for him.
Jones told RugbyPass, “It’s definitely a difficult situation but like every selection there are good players out there. We’ve tried to find the best players who can replace some of the established guys and I think we’ve done that.”
When asked about the trickiest areas of selection, Jones commented, “Loosehead was always going to be difficult when we lost Mako and we lost Genge the previous year. Obviously Joe Marler’s retirement has left a significant hole in that area but we’ve got two good replacements in Ben Moon and Alex Hepburn. Number eight, with Billy (Vunipola) and Nathan (Hughes) unavailable, again left a hole, fortunately Ben Morgan has come back to some good form for Gloucester and Zach Mercer we’ve been monitoring and mentoring for a couple of years now.”
Gloucester man Morgan last featured for England in 2015, so with news only coming out on Monday of Billy Vunipola’s injury, Jones had likely been tipped to keep an eye on Morgan in the Champions Cup on Sunday, saying “certainly he impressed against Castres.”
In the backs, while Danny Cipriani’s continued omission has made plenty of headlines, the inclusion of Ben Te’o and Manu Tuilagi, alongside the likes of Henry Slade and Alex Lozowski, suggests that England could look to play with a more traditional midfield pairing with Farrell starting at 10 instead of at 12.
Jones said, “Both options are viable for us. I’m happy to have either style, I think you need to have adaptable styles. I don’t think you say ‘this is your style and this is how you play’, you need to have different version of that. George and Owen at 10 and 12 or Owen at 10 gives us those different varieties.”
The fitness and form of Leicester’s Manu Tuilagi has warmed the hearts of even the hardest rugby fans with England’s head coach pleased to see a key man returning. Jones said, “I’ve been impressed at how he’s come along this season. He looks fitter, he’s getting some more leg drive, getting a bit of footwork back, his work off the ball is improving.
It’ll be nice to have him in camp.”
Following five consecutive defeats for England in 2018, Jones has previously suggested that his team’s progress may require some going backwards to go forwards. So how do England go forwards again in November?
Jones responded, “I don’t think we’ve been going backwards. I think we made substantial steps forward in South Africa and we’ll keep doing that in November. We just want to keep getting better at playing our game which is being adaptable, which is being tough, which is being brutal up front and then being able to find a way to score points.”
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