Six Nations countdown: six England squad dilemmas for Eddie Jones | Six Nations

England identify their squad for the Six Nations championship on Tuesday. With the 2023 Rugby World Cup simply over the horizon, listed here are six key questions for Eddie Jones to resolve.

1) Ought to Owen Farrell be rushed again?

Sporting life might be terribly harsh. A contact of Covid, the rise of Marcus Smith and, most not too long ago, ankle surgical procedure have mixed to make Farrell’s future a matter of some debate. Even when Eddie Jones’s captain, now 30, is immediately again on it when he returns for Saracens this month, the administration will take heed to what occurred this time final yr. Exhibit A can be Jones’s ill-fated determination to maintain religion with some rusty Saracens that helped Scotland win at Twickenham for the primary time since 1983. As soon as bitten, twice shy? With Courtney Lawes having impressed as a stand-in skipper, Farrell’s captaincy can be much less important than it was. Given Smith’s autumn promise, it might be a retrograde step to not begin the Harlequin at 10. That leaves three choices for Farrell: shift him to centre, stick him on the bench or save him up for later within the event. If Manu Tuilagi is match then he and Henry Slade are presently the most effective English centre mixture. However who wouldn’t need Farrell’s warrior instance, iron will and match-turning goal-kicking? On a darkish, chilly night time in Murrayfield, there might be a case for the bench possibility.

2) Who begins at No 8?

Let’s state the manifestly apparent. One of the best No8 on this season’s Premiership has been Alex Dombrandt of Harlequins. Those that nonetheless think about him a flighty danger clearly didn’t watch the Huge Recreation at Twickenham simply after Christmas. It isn’t simply the best way the 24-year-old pops up in all the correct locations, it’s the depth of rugby intelligence when he does so. His attacking angles are fantastically chosen, he holds his depth to verify he can surge on to the ball and his understanding with Smith seems telepathic. But Jones, of late, has picked Tom Curry at eight with Dombrandt on the bench, preferring the defensive excellence of Sam Underhill alongside Lawes within the again row. Towards Scotland although, England will want extra ball-carrying oomph and Dombrandt’s breakdown expertise will even be helpful – which is hard on the dynamic Sam Simmonds, Billy Vunipola and, doubtlessly, Underhill. However now’s the time for Jones to look ahead, not again.

3) Does the scrum want rebooting?

In all the thrill surrounding England’s breathless 27-26 win over the world champion Springboks in November, it was attainable to gloss over the second-half travails of England’s scrum and maul. Admittedly their propping shares had been diminished by Covid and damage, propelling Sale’s Bevan Rodd into the highlight, however England haven’t been ruling the set items with the iron fist that Jones is in search of. It might even be stretching it to say Kyle Sinckler and Will Stuart have been ripping it up at membership degree, even when scrummaging isn’t a one-man operation. The 2 standout English-qualified Premiership props simply now are in all probability Joe Marler and Dan Cole however will Jones fancy recalling the latter 4 months shy of his thirty fifth birthday? Harlequins’ Will Collier would maintain an find yourself however is he going to win a World Cup? That is additionally a giant Six Nations for Matt Proudfoot, England’s scrum coach. Whereas Proudfoot helped South Africa to 2019 World Cup glory his CV isn’t with out its leaner patches. He gained 4 caps for Scotland by way of his Dumfries-born grandmother with out tasting victory and likewise endured a nasty bout of Covid simply previous to the 2021 Six Nations when England completed fifth. He can be eager for a extra upbeat begin to 2022.


Manu Tuilagi injured his hamstring whereas scoring in opposition to South Africa in November, however goals to show his health for Sale on 30 January. {Photograph}: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

4) What if Tuilagi isn’t prepared?

It invariably appears to be contact and go along with Tuilagi. All that onerous work to make the workforce within the autumn and he lasted simply eight minutes in opposition to South Africa earlier than his hamstring went. This time he’s aiming to show his health in opposition to his previous membership Leicester on 30 January, simply six days earlier than England are due at Murrayfield. Already it feels worryingly tight – the timescale, not the hamstring – until Jones is actually determined. This may, as beforehand talked about, re-open the door for Farrell or doubtlessly an alternate 12. The Gloucester centre Mark Atkinson has been round quite a few blocks, will fancy second-guessing his clubmate Chris Harris in Scotland’s midfield and has a deft kicking sport. Failing that, Jones might slide Slade to 12 and preserve religion with Joe Marchant, who was influential in opposition to South Africa, or quietly recall the criminally underrated Saracen Alex Lozowski. Jones has already picked 20 totally different centre pairings throughout his tenure and a twenty first could also be brewing.

5) Is there any uncapped X issue on the market?

Flip again to this time final yr and who had been the squad’s thrilling, fresh-faced newcomers? Step ahead Paolo Odogwu and Harry Randall who, for assorted causes, didn’t play a minute of Six Nations rugby between them. Consequently we nonetheless don’t actually know whether or not they have “it” or not. It was the same story with Louis Lynagh final autumn. This time count on Wasps’ bullocking Alfie Barbeary to be there or thereabouts when the squad record is unveiled. So prodigious is his ball-carrying energy that the 21-year-old has been inspired to modify from hooker to the back-row and he additionally loves a problem, as underlined in his membership’s last-ditch stand in opposition to Leicester final Sunday. The time has additionally come for England to determine their most well-liked decisions at scrum-half and on the wing after which stick to them. If Alex Mitchell and Adam Radwan are to be World Cup squad members, now’s the time to belief them extra.

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6) Will Scotland be too good regardless?

It’s value stressing that this yr’s championship can be as aggressive as a sack of hungry ferrets. England followers might also recall Storm Ciara, which made the corresponding 2020 fixture even trickier. And not using a expensive misjudgment from Stuart Hogg, which delivered the five-metre scrum platform from which Ellis Genge scored the sport’s solely strive, England may now be travelling north having not defeated their hosts within the Six Nations for 5 years. Scotland’s team-sheet can be effectively stocked with Lions and final yr they gained in each London and Paris. Prior to now England have been ambushed by one thing they didn’t see coming however these days have lengthy gone. And Jacob Rees-Mogg has already written the house facet’s pre-game workforce speak.

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