Calcutta Cup 2020: Jones rolls selection dice as ‘war’ awaits

Calcutta Cup
EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - FEBRUARY 24: The Calcutta cup on show at BT Murrayfield before the start of the 6 Nations clash between Scotland and England on February 24, 2018 in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by MB Media/Getty Images)

Eddie Jones, the England coach has made five changes from the disappointing defeat to France last Saturday. Despite huge criticism that followed England’s limp display in Paris, for this weekend’s Calcutta Cup fixture, Jones has refused to pick from outside the original group.

That means no Alex Dombrandt with Lewis Ludlam coming into the backrow. Ben Youngs is dropped and George Kruis reunites with Courtney Lawes in the second row. George Furbank despite a torrid afternoon against France keeps his place at full-back. Charlie Inglefield provides five pointers for England to get back to winning ways in what is a massive match for both sides on Saturday.

Suggestion: Stop winding up the opposition

For starters, there is only one full day to go before kick-off yet, Jones still has time to throw a few grenades out there. Therefore, for the sake of concentrating on the massive task at hand, it would be great if Jones would stop giving any more motivational speeches to the opposition.

Everyone knows how hated England are – including the England players. So don’t make it worse for them.

It’s hard enough going into a Six Nations clash as an English player, without their own coach doing some extra bear-baiting. Jones’ comments at the beginning of last week in the lead-up to the French game, were ridiculous.

Concentrate on the 80 minutes coming up and talk that up; if you come out the other side in the win column.

Senior players need to step up for Calcutta Cup

Courtney Lawes rightly called it earlier this week about England’s senior players needing to ‘take more responsibility’. There are more than enough caps spread across this England side and there are no excuses come Saturday evening. It is led by Owen Farrell who had one of his poorest games in an England jersey in Paris.

English rugby fans want to see Farrell, chest out, barking out orders and encouragement to his men. In the forwards, Jamie George needs a big game as Cowan-Dickie is snapping at his heels to start. George has so much to offer in the loose and we have not seen enough of that at, at the international level.

Yes, there will be times on Saturday evening where Scotland will dominate – backed up by ferocious Murrayfield support. Which England players will stand up and calm the waters? That is the true litmus test for this group.

Ford/Farrell axis has to deliver

Many would have preferred to have seen Owen Farrell take the fly-half role for such a big game. We know how much talent George Ford has. But questions again arose against the French; like in the 2019 Rugby World Cup Final, on Ford being able to deliver when England are not always going forward.

The Scottish backrow will come flying out against Ford to try and hit him behind the gain line. If Ford can ride this pressure it could create opportunities out wide for England’s back-three. Such is his passing repertoire Ford has the ability to put his backs in holes or fire out a twenty-meter pass for one of his wingers.

It sounds obvious but Ford really needs a big one at Murrayfield on Saturday evening. Marcus Smith and Jacob Umaga are now knocking on the door of the senior squad.

Ellis Genge provided real thrust in the second half against France. His time is coming soon and giving Genge at least a thirty-minute shift against Scotland could swing the game in England’s favour. It would allow Mako Vunipola fifty minutes to empty his tank such is his incredible work-rate.

Jones needs his forwards to be relentless against Scotland, wear them down and don’t let up when Genge and Ben Earl come on. Earl has earnt his spot on the bench and he is clearly an exciting player for the future. Like Genge, he is high octane and will relish getting in the faces of Scotland.

England must-do list: improve discipline and breakdown

England has gradually improved their discipline over the last 18 months but they are still prone to needless penalties. Playing away from home in the Six Nations with the crowd on your back isn’t any easier to deal with when you are camped in your own 22.

England has to get their intensity near perfect against Scotland in the first twenty minutes. Concentrate on the basics, silence the crowd and then build from there. A key area of the game is the breakdown. England got picked off by a brilliant French back row performance last weekend. England needs Sam Underhill and Tom Curry to get back up to their world-class best. Lewis Ludlam will add to England’s turnover capability and they will have to be good as Hamish Watson is one of the best.

This Saturday in Edinburgh, England needs to forget about all this nonsense about world domination.

If they lose against Scotland, this year’s Six Nations will all be over and yet more questions will come down on Jones and England. Nothing else should matter than downing Scotland; especially after the cruelty of the 38-38 drawn result of 2019.

It is going to be windy by all accounts and therefore, an attritional battle will likely dominate proceedings. England has the players especially up front to win the forwards’ contest. Do that, then England will win the Calcutta Cup and can start to look forward to the arrival of Wales and Ireland.

At the moment, that seems a long way off.

My head goes to Scotland for this one because many pundits still think England have not got the selection right at scrum-half or number eight to deserve favouritism. Scotland by five.

 

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