As Eddie Jones aims to recover from last season’s poor Six Nations campaign in which England finished second from bottom with only two wins in three games, punters are keen to know whether they should back his team, or should they put their cash on Wales, the reigning champions, or France and Ireland, both of whom are highly competitive and go into the tournament following excellent wins against the mighty All Blacks.
Scotland will be a decent side, but are unlikely winners, and Italy can be dismissed, sadly. So England must be considered seriously, not least because the Gallagher Premiership is such a tough league and one which helps to develop England’s internationals.
Several players, mentioned on these pages regularly, have been picked by Jones: forwards Alfie Barbeary of Wasps, Alex Dombrandt from Harlequins, Maro Itoje from Saracens and Courtney Lawes of Northampton Saints.
And in the backs, good form in the Premiership has earned selection for Quins fly half, Marcus Smith, Max Malins from Saracens, Freddie Steward (Leicester Tigers) and Exeter’s Henry Slade.
England skipper, Owen Farrell, who’s recovered from an ankle operation and hasn’t played since November, has been picked, but whether he appears against Scotland in England’s first match on Saturday February 5th at Murrayfield is questionable. Much depends on how Farrell performs in his first competitive game since his injury this Sunday against London Irish in the European Challenge Cup.
Jones picks six uncapped players
England’s coach, keen to see how talented younger players cope with the demands of Test rugby, has selected six players who’ve still to play an international.
Forwards Ollie Chessum and Alfie Barbeary have both stood out in the Premiership for Leicester and Wasps and are rightly rewarded and clearly have the potential to be successful Test stars, and backs Orlando Bailey (Bath), Ollie Hassell-Collins (London Irish) Tommy Freeman (Northampton) and Luke Northmore (Quins) have also been recognised for their contributions in the league.
But Jones leaves out Leicester’s match-winner George Ford
Ford, who has played such a major role in taking Leicester Tigers to the top of the Premiership, has not been picked which undoubtedly is a controversial decision.
Capped in 77 internationals since his debut in 2014, Ford, one of the most experienced and skilful of England’s players, is currently the leading points’ scorer in the Premiership on 148, and considering that Farrell may not be match fit, to leave him out is debatable at least and a decision that punters may well find lacks common sense.
Should Jones be backed?
Eddie’s record last season was weak, but since the Australian was appointed in November 2015, he has a 78 per cent success rate.
You can’t knock that and as he prepares for Scotland, Jones’ teams beat world champions South Africa and Australia before Christmas.
Under Jones, England have won the Six Nations in 2016, including the Grand Slam, and then in 2017 and 2020. He took England to the final of the World Cup in 2019 and under the terms of his contract, Jones remains in charge until the end of the next World Cup in France in 2023.
Aged 61, Jones is not everyone’s cup of tea, some players have disliked his methods as have some members of staff and his mind games in the build-up to internationals is not to some tastes, but the RFU are sticking with him and Jones’ overall rating will be judged on his success or otherwise in the next World Cup.
England’s 36 players for the Six Nations
Alfie Barbeary, Jamie Blamire, Ollie Chessum, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Tom Curry, Alex Dombrandt, Charlie Ewells, Ellis Genge, Jamie George, Joe Heyes, Jonny Hill, Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes, Lewis Ludlam, Joe Marler, Bevan Rodd, Sam Simmons, Kyle Sinkler, Will Stuart.
Mark Atkinson, Orlando Bailey, Owen Farrell, Tommy Freeman, George Furbank, Ollie Hassell-Collins, Max Malins, Joe Marchant, Jonny May, Luke Northmore, Jack Nowell, Raffi Quirke, Harry Randall, Henry Slade, Marcus Smith, Freddie Steward, Ben Youngs.