We take a look at the seven key talking points from Eddie Jones’ England squad for the 2016 RBS Six Nations Championship…
1.There is no place for sentiment in the team
Despite having been key figures during Stuart Lancaster’s tenure, both Tom Wood and Tom Youngs have been dropped from the squad completely, whilst other notable omissions include the likes of Danny Cipriani and Luther Burrell. It’s clear from the outset that sentiment will play very little part in Jones’ selection decisions.
2.Experience is far from a necessity
There has been an influx of young talent into the mix, although this on its own doesn’t differentiate from Lancaster’s tenure. Where there is a notable point of difference however, is that some of the players called up aren’t even first choice for their current clubs. Paul Hill and Ollie Devoto are often bench players, but have both received the nod.
3.The issues at openside still haven’t been addressed
Other than Matt Kvesic, who is an injury replacement for Dave Ewers, there is no obvious openside flanker in the squad. James Haskell and Jack Clifford have both been mooted as options, but both are more sixes than sevens. This is particularly interesting given the form of players like Will Fraser in the Saracens seven shirt this season.
4.Concerns must also remain over the number 12 shirt
Whilst both Sam Hill and Ollie Devoto are in the squad, both are only in as injury replacements. Beyond this, the rest of the centres selected play the majority of their rugby at 13 rather than 12. Owen Farrell has been suggested as one potential option, but it looks like Jones may be looking at giving either Tuilagi or Slade time at 12 when fit.
5.Injuries could cause havoc in the half backs
With only two fly halves and two scrum halves, the squad looks a little short in key positions should injuries strike. Whilst players can obviously be called in as injury replacements, they won’t have had the time to get to know the new systems being put in place by an entirely new coaching set up, and could therefore struggle to adapt quickly enough for the Six Nations.
6.Ball playing forwards are being highly valued
Whether it be an ability to hook the ball at scrum time, or the skillset to offload and pass the ball effectively, Jones has clearly made ball playing forwards a priority. The selection of Josh Beaumont at number 8 is a step away from the more physical style of players like Ben Morgan and could be focussed on playing a more Southern Hemisphere orientated style.
7.There is still no clear first XV
Whilst there are a few positions where the stand out player is clear, the majority of the places in the starting XV are still very much up for grabs. This will hopefully begin to settle down over the next 18 months once Jones has had some time to establish his side, but right now there are the same conundrums England have faced for a number of years.