It is England vs Wales on Sunday, and for Eddie Jones, a first chance to see where his RWC squad are at.
Jones has thrown a few surprises into the selection mix as well. A casualty list that has included Danny Cipriani, Chris Robshaw and Danny Care now have Mike Brown and Ben Spencer to add to the selection issues. Ben Spencer’s culling raises the strongest question given that Gloucester’s Willi Heinz is now the back-up to Ben Youngs.
On face value, Ben Spencer would be a perfect fit for Jones to have on the bench. He is a modern-day scrum-half. Powerful, efficient and an eye for the try line, Spencer is also part of a victorious Saracens outfit. Harlequins’ Alex Dombrandt has also been left out and Lewis Ludlam is now a bolter for England’s squad.
Eddie Jones has thrown his selection cards out there and Wales will be the first side to ‘test’ these changes upon. The traditional England vs Wales fixture holds more importance in 2019 – when you consider the ultimate prize in Japan.
Is Heinz an International class halfback
This is not to discredit Willi Heinz’s credentials as he has been influential for the Cherry and Whites. Since coming over from his native New Zealand and being part of a successful Crusaders team, Heinz is certainly well schooled in rugby terms. But, to throw Heinz in on rugby’s biggest stage is surely a huge call?
If one considers that Ben Youngs’ form has been hot and cold recently, then having a relatively experienced number two is vitally important. Ideally, Dan Robson was probably that man until a blood clot put paid to his World Cup plans.
Has Jones made a mistake on Danny Care
Danny Care’s omission along with Danny Cipriani greatly dents England’s attacking options. With the World Cup being played in the warm conditions of Japan, the impact of a side’s bench will be crucial. Care’s absence is harsh because of his ability to make an impact in the final quarter of games. On the running tracks in Japan, Care would have been a useful weapon to have not least because of his try-scoring ability.
So it is up to Heinz to show what he can do. Unquestionably he is solid but does he have the ability to boss the England team in a World Cup Final? It is likely that Heinz will start against Wales and all eyes will be on him to see what kind of impact he can make.
Ludlaw, the squad bolter
Northampton’s Lewis Ludlam is England’s bolter for the World Cup. An exciting prospect; like Harlequins’ Alex Dombrandt, Ludlam now looks like being the back-up to Billy Vunipola at number eight.
It looks like Lewis Ludlam has joined up with the England squad ahead of this weekend’s match against the BaaBaas.
Incredibly well deserved. He has been one of Northampton’s best players this season. pic.twitter.com/EWo5zDcPiJ
— RugbyInsideline (@RugbyInsideLine) May 30, 2019
Brad Shields will likely not play before the World Cup kicks off and with Dombrandt jettisoned Ludlam is suddenly catapulted into the limelight. Ludlam’s credentials are strong given that he has had James Haskell, Tom Wood, and Jamie Gibson to learn off. He is explosive and therefore powerful in the tackle, the breakdown and taking the ball forward.
It would be great to see Ludlam go up against the likes of Ross Moriarty over the next two weekends.
Can England erase Calcutta Cup ‘horrors’
The obvious question to ask is, whether England can erase the horrors of that second half against Scotland? Like it or not, England will know that the last 30 minutes they played, they conceded thirty points at their supposed fortress, Twickenham.
England vs Wales twice in six days, home and away. It is a mighty challenge for Jones’ men.
His side capitulated in such spectacular style against a Finn Russell inspired Scotland, to round off a disappointing Six Nations. Jones gave his charges a mighty rollicking around their mentality or lack of in the aftermath. Sunday will see what kind of work England have done over the summer to rectify their shortcomings.
On Sunday, it is up to Owen Farrell and the men on the field, to give fans the belief to ‘fly their flags’ in support of this group.
England vs Wales, the perfect RWC preparation
Wales is perhaps the best team in the world [currently] at grinding an opposition down. With four games to go before England get started in Japan, Wales will undoubtedly show the England Rugby management where this team is at.
England should have put Wales away by half time in this year’s Six Nations clash in Cardiff. By the end of the match, Wales were mentally and physically superior to England. Wales looked fitter than England in that last quarter too. Sunday’s contest at Twickenham will be the first view on England’s conditioning work done over the summer.
Games between these two are never ‘friendly’ and from an English viewpoint, Jones will be desperate to win. A loss at home and then a lonely trip to Cardiff a few days later would not show the world that England is World Cup contenders.
England vs Wales – Saturday August 10, Twickenham
“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images