This is Eddie Jones’ most important England squad in years
With this England squad coming up and thinking who you want to see called up, I asked a few different people to rate their opinions. And the first name that came up every time was Marcus Smith.
But what it’s really about on this team is who Eddie Jones decides to drop and move on, versus who he actually chooses. Because this team will set the tone for how England are going to play.
In the past, Eddie ignored popular opinion and experts with his selections, as is his right, and chose whoever he wanted. Except with the recent training camp squad, he walked away from it, not selecting former favorites like Billy Vunipola and George Ford and opting for people who were playing well, who were young. It was a team, even if it was only for a three day camp, that was filled with opportunities.
So with this latest England squad, how many of the old crew will return and how many of these new players will be involved? Is it the team of players two years from the next Rugby World Cup that will see England qualify for this tournament in France?
I expect there to be very little change from Jones’s last full England side we saw at Six Nations. Much of the âold schoolâ will still be there, and I use that term with respect because there is a lot of quality in it.
Smith, however, is absolutely the first name. And if you choose, you need to seriously think about what style of rugby you’re going to play and who will pair it up in the scrum half.
Smith needs the ball on a plate all the time, so are you going with Ben Youngs? Or Dan Robson? Or Raffi Quirke? I would go for the one with the better engine, who can hit the ruck faster than the rest of the scrum-halfs. All of them have a decent pass – it’s about how quickly you position yourself and play the game.
This sharpness gives Smith the time he needs to wave his wand, whereas if he waits an extra half a second, it reduces the amount of magic Smith can create. Smith has it all – the kicking game, the ability to mix things up. People might question his defensive skills, but if you put him next to Manu Tuilagi it could be a really good partnership.
Then I would like to see Alex Dombrandt in there. Considering the way the Harlequins play, it’s hard not to want to put a lot of them in the squad. Dombrandt is a lot like Dean Richards, and people will say he doesn’t play like Richards at all. But the one thing Dombrandt and Richards have in common is that they always seem to be in the right place at the right time. This in itself is a very good skill.
I think Dombrandt is playing better this season than last season too. We are only a few games away, but he seems to have improved, his physical form is good, he is still in the right position. Just a very good rugby player.
While it can be tempting to put Danny Care in there as well for a Harlequins 8-9-10, England have to look to the future as a scrum-half and I think Quirke should be on the bench . He looks like someone who can shake things up as an impact player, but his all-around game is strong as well. He’s young too – he and Smith could form a promising partnership.
Elsewhere, I really like David Ribbans at Northampton, the 6-foot-7 lock from South Africa that qualifies for England. Provided he doesn’t give too many penalties – and every second row does – adding Ribbans to the second row could put Maro Itoje in a six-man game. Ribbans moves well on the pitch, his alignment skills are good. I think he should start.
George Martin is another option in Leicester. He was selected against Wales last year but has played particularly well for Leicester in recent weeks while Jasper Wiese was away with South Africa. His work rate is always high and he can rumble well in heavy traffic. In a way, he reminds a lot of Martin Johnson but with a little more rhythm.
Finally, England must choose a wing for the future, someone to develop. Jonny May and Anthony Watson are both great players, but who’s next?
Could it be Newcastle’s Adam Radwan, who has just been named Premiership player of the month and has a breakneck pace, but is he too small? Is it Louis Lynagh in Quins or is he too inexperienced? I haven’t seen him make a lot of mistakes. Is this the end for Jack Nowell? Who starts on the wing, or who comes off the bench there, will be very interesting.