Eddie Jones has got it right by calling on the specialists
Eddie Jones has got it right by calling on the specialists for All Blacks Test
- I’m loving Eddie Jones’s selection for Saturday’s big game against New Zealand
- He’s starting to make the big calls that need to be made with World Cup in mind
- Jones brought in ‘specialist’ players for last week’s narrow win over South Africa
- Chris Ashton, Sam Underhill and Ben Moon have called up to face the All Blacks
I’m loving Eddie Jones’s selection for Saturday’s big game against New Zealand with next year’s World Cup really beginning to concentrate his mind. He is starting to make the final big calls that need to be made.
The two words, for me, that sum up the three players he has brought in after last week’s narrow win over South Africa are ‘specialists’ and ‘perseverance’.
Specialists first. Chris Ashton is an out-and-out try-scoring wing — the very best in the business. Jack Nowell is an accomplished all-round player who can play across the back three and will never let England down but Ashton at his best is the man who can provide some X-factor and try-scoring genius.
Eddie Jones (R) has brought in ‘specialist’ players like Chris Ashton (L) for the All Blacks Test
Ashton has not been picked for his defence and ability under the high ball, even though that has improved markedly. He has been picked to buzz around, picking those brilliant lines of his and appearing on shoulders at the ideal try-scoring time.
Sam Underhill is a specialist No 7, a tackling machine and a disruptive scavenger. He is there to stop New Zealand’s big ball-carriers in their tracks and to contest everything at the breakdown. Anything else would be a bonus.
And Ben Moon is an out-and-out loosehead who knows his business and despite what must have seemed like a lifetime waiting in the wings for England, immediately looked at home when he came on against South Africa.
And then perseverance: Ashton has been in and out of England teams and squads for what seems like a decade. Some of that is down to him — he does have a knack of getting himself into needless scraps and troubles on the pitch.
Ben Moon immediately looked at home when he came on against South Africa last week
His move to Toulon last season suggested he might have read the tea leaves and thought his England days were over. But to my eyes he improved as a player and when it emerged that he might still be in England’s thinking he moved heaven and earth to get back here. The fires still burned, he has persevered.
Ditto Moon. This is a guy who started with Exeter in the Championship and has stuck with them, playing a big part in the rise of the Chiefs. He doesn’t always get the plaudits, in fact he doesn’t always get a start because Exeter are awash with quality props, but he has kept on improving.
And now he starts against the All Blacks in front of 82,000 at Twickenham. Fantastic.
Underhill, meanwhile, has been dogged with injury issues which have seriously frustrated his attempt to make the No 7 shirt his own. It’s still not his own: Tom Curry will again contest the issue when he returns from injury but Underhill can put a run of games together.
Sam Underhill (left) is a specialist No 7, a tackling machine and a disruptive scavenger
He is die-hard. Remember that incredible tackle he made for England against Wales in the Six Nations when he slipped, jumped back up and raced 40 yards to pull off a miraculous challenge to stop Scott Williams sliding in on the wet turf.
It’s moments like that which give you great insight into a player’s personality, their determination never to quit. England will need plenty of that attitude to match New Zealand.
Eddie’s team are in a good place. They beat a strong Boks side last week without playing well, they know they can and must play much better and they start as underdogs against the world’s best team. What’s more, they have picked the right side.
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