Eddie Jones has named his England Six Nations Squad for the first game of the 2019 Six Nations. The 35-man squad will take on the formidable Ireland side in Dublin on the 2nd February. Although much of this side was predictable, in true Jones fashion he has sprung a few surprises.
Therefore, here at Last Word on Rugby we will be looking at the 10 winners and losers from the squad announcement. There are rather more winners than losers in this squad due to injury and unavailability. However, Jones’ selections are very intriguing in a number of areas.
Ollie Thorley – A Star in the Making
Young Thorley was a relative unknown this time last year. However anyone who watched the 2016 U20s World Cup could tell he had a bright future. This season he has burst onto the Premiership scene and has been almost unplayable.
💬 "It's incredibly exciting for me, and I was so shocked when Johan told me"
— Gloucester Rugby (@gloucesterrugby) January 17, 2019
He has scored a number of stunning tries and looked strong in defence and under the high ball. Those who bemoan Jones for not picking on form have to look at the selection as proof to the contrary. This Six Nations is to be more of a learning experience for Thorley. He is unlikely to get much game time given the strength in depth England have in the back three. However this selection is well deserved and the young man clearly has a bright future ahead of him.
Dan Cole – A Redeemed Man
When Cole was dropped for the Autumn Internationals many, including this writer, thought this spelled the end of his England career. However Cole has proven us all wrong with some exceptional performances in a struggling Leicester side.
Congratulations to all six Tigers named in England's 35-man squad for their 2019 Six Nations opener! pic.twitter.com/0o9TQEk9Q0
— Leicester Tigers (@LeicesterTigers) January 17, 2019
Cole will provide great experience and stability to a very competitive tight-head position. Whether he will make the match-day 23 for the Six Nations is unclear at this stage. However his recall is certainly deserved based on his form over the last couple of months.
Mike Brown – A Man Possessed
Similar to Cole, Brown’s exclusion from the Autumn Internationals looked to bring his time for England to a close. Since then Brown has been somewhat reborn for Harlequins. In fact, he has been sensational of late. Losing the England shirt clearly meant a lot to Brown.
There is a strong chance that Brown could come straight back into the starting 15. Elliot Daly did not impress as many thought he would in the Autumn. This has lead to calls for the stability that Brown gives England in the backfield. It will be very interesting to see how Jones selects his back three but Brown has to be in with a good chance of a starting place.
— Harlequins 🃏 (@Harlequins) January 17, 2019
Jack Clifford – Back From Injury
Clifford’s selection may have surprised some but in fact it should have been a bit more predictable. Whenever Clifford has been fit during Jones’ tenure he has generally been in the England squad. To give Clifford his credit he has always been impressive for England. However injury has hampered the last 18 months of his career and it remains to be seen how he will fit back into Jones’s squad.
Ben Earl – A Bright Future Ahead
Jones clearly sees something in Ben Earl. He still has much to prove on the domestic stage let alone for England. However he is clearly a talented player as his performance for Saracens have shown. Jones also does have an excellent track record of spotting young talent. It is fair to say Earl is there for experience and is unlikely to make the match-day squad. However he may count himself lucky for the opportunity and will be looking to make the most of it.
Ollie Devoto – The Answer at 12?
On the face of it this looks like a somewhat surprising selection. Devoto has been good without being outstanding for Exeter this season. However could he be the answer to England’s issues at 12? Devoto’s selection is also another not so subtle hint that Jones will not revert back to the Ford/Farrell combination.
This therefore means England need more depth at inside-centre. Te’o is the current incumbent but if Jones wants to fit Tuilagi into his starting 15 he probably needs more subtlety at 12. Devoto could be this man. A very intriguing selection by Jones and it will be very exciting to see how Devoto fits in to his plans.
Dan Robson – Finally Gets His Chance
Robson has been knocking on the England door for years now. He finally looks to have got his chance to shine. He is likely to be understudy to Youngs for the Six Nations but he will get some time off the bench to show what he is really about. All in all, a well-deserved selection and hopefully he can take his chance with both hands.
Alex Dombrandt – One for the Future
Alex Dombrandt has been a revelation this season. Paul Gustard has really unearthed a gem there for Harlequins. Many called for his international call-up but this time he missed out. On balance this is a completely understandable selection.
Dombrandt has been brilliant but has only played a handful of games. It really is too soon for his inclusion; especially given we are one year out from a World Cup. It is hardly surprising Jones is unwilling to take a risk on an almost complete unknown.
Danny Care – His Time has Passed?
Care will probably feel somewhat hard done by having not made the England squad. However as previously mentioned Robson has been excellent for club and deserves his chance. Care’s World Cup hopes probably are not over just yet but this is a big setback for the Harlequins scrum-half. However the Six Nations is a long tournament and there may be chances along the way for him.
Zach Mercer – Just on the Fringes
After Mercer’s cameo against South Africa in the Autumn many called for him to be a permanent fixture in the England back-row. However that has not happened and Mercer has found himself left out again. He will likely feel hard done by having been an apprentice player for so long under Jones.
However the return of Jack Clifford and a clean bill of health elsewhere in the back-row always made things tough for Mercer. Again this is probably not the end for Mercer’s Six Nations hopes but that have dealt a serious blow.
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