SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: the amazing selections of Eddie Jones can have a spectacular counterproductive effect
The good news is that I felt an intensity increase with England in Murrayfield – but the bad news is that some of Eddie Jones’s selections make me very nervous!
I have often said that there is no bad selection if your team wins. At the Six Nations it’s all about winning – complete stop.
The ways to achieve this are many and varied. But if individuals are asked to play out of position and their team costs the game, then massive questions will be asked about the selection.
Big questions will be asked from Eddie Jones when England loses to Ireland in Twickenham
So here we go again. Courtney Lawes is not Test No. 6, and although I understand the temptation to choose a line-out man in the back row to fight Peter O’Mahony, who wins many balls for Ireland, it shows too much respect for opposition and not focusing enough on how England intends to go further.
In the meantime we still have one of the best flankers in the world in Tom Curry at number 8 and now we have Jonathan Joseph, a specialist outside the center, on the wing when Ollie Thorley is fit and available. Manu Tuilagi is 13 years old and I would prefer to play him for 12 years with Skipper Owen Farrell at 10 years old. It’s all very confusing.
I must emphasize once again that selection is the best skill of an international coach and I just hope that all of these players can adapt to the new position or system.
If Henry Slade is fit enough for the bench – he may have to play for 79 minutes if someone gets injured early – England had the potential to select the Farrell-Tuilagi-Slade midfield that a year ago led the game so brilliantly when they won so handsome in Dublin, their best Six Nations performance under Jones and there with one of the best performances in England.
Courtney Lawes is a great player, but he is not the best option in England as Test No. 6
For Sunday’s match I would have started with Alex Dombrandt at No. 8, moved Curry back to flanker and started with Ellis Genge.
England may get away with it because they are at home, which is a big advantage in Six Nations games, but selecting players from position and packing the bank with six forward and only two backs is a risky strategy that has brought the benefit back to Ireland and it could unravel.
Looking at that day of play 23, England has five specialized locks – I have trouble remembering to have seen that once and cannot provide a logical reason for applying such an approach.
The World Cup final was different when South Africa had used their “bomb squad” from the bank to use the entire tournament properly, and it was a clear tactic that England could not match, but very few matches had the Boks’ strength in-depth in the forwards.
Alex Dombrandt would have been a logical recording at the age of 8 to enable Tom Curry to play flanker
I see no logic for England to do this and if we see Willi Heinz or Ben Youngs end up on the wing – or Ben Earl in a long shift in the back as Eddie seemed to indicate on Friday – then it will be spectacular failed .
Although concerned about these issues, England has certainly fooled a corner in that ugly old win in Edinburgh. The beer will have tasted good that night and there will have been a spring in their step in training.
With one victory behind them, they are still very live contenders for the championship and now they have to complete their recovery from the hangover after the World Cup Final with a quality performance for their own fans.
As far as Ireland is concerned, the new coach Andy Farrell has started well and this game is really a free shot for him and his side. The consequences of a defeat in Ireland are negligible as long as they show up and perform at a reasonable level. This relaxed, confident state of mind was reflected in the early announcement of their unchanged team 48 hours before they had to.
When we see Willi Heinz end up on the wing, Jones’s plan will have failed spectacularly
I have no problem leaving team selections up to a few hours before the kick-off – the choice must be yours – but Farrell, who confirms his selection so early, shows what a pragmatist he is. His plans were in place, he knew his best team and they are all in their best positions. He had to make a late transfer on Friday with Devin Toner who replaced Iain Henderson, but saw no point in playing cat and mouse and generally wandering around in the run-up. Let England do that.
Instead, Farrell focused entirely on Sunday’s game, just like the Irish media, without distracting discussions about the pros and cons of different selections.
You have the feeling that a number of important players are entering the new regime. Both CJ Stander and Tadhg Furlong had doubts about them at the start of the campaign, but both are back in action. Farrell did not go for wholesale changes, but there have been tweaks. Evolution not a revolution.
It is almost too close to call and in those cases I usually return to home advantage. My heart always says England, because I never see them lose at Twickenham, but my head says Ireland with a point, based on all their starting XV game in positions that make them feel comfortable.
SIR CLIVE ON WALES VS FRANCE
FabiEn Galthie has done little wrong in his short time as a coach of France, but what a personal goal to see him use the term “finishers” for his eight-man bench against Wales tonight.
They almost cost France a well-deserved win first against England and, if I were Fabien, I would be much more worried about getting a full 80 minutes from each of its excellent starters, including all eight forward.
Don’t let them think they’re going off after 55 minutes. Instead, start building players that can play for 80 minutes. It is such a negative term for the entire team, especially if you just copy another country. Be unique – never copy another coach.
After the mental turn against Italy, France is raised today, but they have to be smart. Defense coach Shaun Edwards, who returns to the scene of his greatest triumphs alongside Warren Gatland, will demand the same discipline and intensity as in the first half against England.
My concern with Wales is that if France initially contains them, they may not have firepower and have no ideas.
The Welsh scrum has sometimes had a difficult time.
I think France is going to win what the game of the tournament could be with six points, possibly more.
SIR CLIVE ON ITALY FRESH SCOTLAND
How does Scotland get a smile on their faces in the must-win game of Saturday afternoon?
Scotland wins with their best free win with 15 points or more, but what Gregor Townsend (below) must keep in mind is that his team cannot try that rugby brand until they have arranged the basics.
The way Scotland wins this game with something to spare is to control the lineout, dominate the scrums and win all the clashes.
It may take an hour or more before Scotland finally flees Italy and discovers the gaps, but when that happens, the Italians tend to allow attempts in pairings of two or three.
For Italy a quick start is everything. If they can get their nose for it and get the crowd going, they can be dangerous.
My gut feeling, however, is another victory, a victory of Scotland with eight or nine points.