After England’s comprehensive victory over the highly-regarded Irish in the first round of this year’s Six Nations tournament, one would think selecting the English squad would be a breeze. Despite this, England coach, Eddie Jones, faces several selection dilemmas ahead of this weekend’s match against France.
Firstly, he has to pinpoint the most suitable replacement for Maro Itoje. Itoje suffered a knee injury in the emphatic win over Ireland and could possibly miss the rest of the tournament. Nick Isiekwe has been called into the squad, so it’s looking like he’ll be the replacement. From this, it would be easy to just select the remaining 14 players from the match against Ireland. Surely? However, it may not be this simple.
In essence, what complicates matters is the plethora of talent at England’s disposal. Forwards coach Steve Borthwick has a tough job ahead with so many potential replacements for Itoje. This list includes Courtney Lawes and Joe Launchbury – Chris Robshaw, a former captain of England, is no guarantee of returning to the original squad. He has only recently recovered from injury.
Likewise, Dylan Hartley will be facing pressure to win back the starting hooker position, particularly following Jamie George’s incredible performance. And that’s just the forwards.
The selection dilemmas in the backline are equally convoluted and tricky. Incredibly talented centres like Henry Trinder, Joe Marchant and Ryan Mills would evoke serious interest from rival international sides. They are not even in the squad. Not to mention the fact that Jones won’t want to stifle the momentum of in-form players, like Jonny May. The Wallabies are pining for such depth in the backline. Mike Brown was even omitted from the squad of 23 against Ireland.
Last year, Jones chose to not change the team too severely throughout the entire Six Nations tournament. They finished an underwhelming fifth. He will definitely be thinking ahead to the World Cup in Japan this year, especially given England and France are in the same pool. Will Jones show his hand or try to keep a few things up his sleeve? Only time will tell.