SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: This autumn is the perfect opportunity for Eddie Jones to experiment with his England squad before the new Six Nations starts in February
- England have five Test internationals and a Barbarians match this autumn
- There will be plenty of rugby for all concerned during this post-COVID period
- Eddie Jones should take this opportunity to use players who deserve to play
- Danny Cipriani and Jack Willis are two players who have put their hat in the ring
So Eddie Jones can, should he wish, pick his Gun XV for England in all five Tests this autumn and the game against the Barbarians.
Of course, that must always be the prerogative of the national coach, but I believe clubs can rest easy this autumn.
I don’t see any need to overplay anybody. There will be plenty of rugby for all concerned during a long haul. For England’s top players, that will end with the South Africa Lions tour next year.
England boss Eddie Jones has the opportunity to experiment in his side’s autumn matches
This autumn is the ideal opportunity for Eddie to experiment in a set of matches that will not linger in the memory.
The Six Nations next February will be the first big test and the pressure is off until then — that’s a rare luxury for an England coach. Take it.
England are entering a rebuilding phase after the World Cup. But other than a half-baked Six Nations, the pandemic has not enabled Eddie to do that, which must be frustrating.
The pressure is off for England and Jones (right) in their rebuild following the World Cup
Now he can focus on a few key aspects that can serve as preparation for 2021 when we hope to go ‘all in’ again. Turn these next few months into a coaching opportunity.
Equally importantly, play players who deserve the chance. And that still includes Danny Cipriani.
He showed again on Saturday that he has to be part of the equation. England need to play at a quicker tempo and develop players who are comfortable with that, players who understand the new breakdown interpretations and excel in that area.
Danny Cipriani deserves a chance to play for England after impressing on the weekend
And they need hardcore scrummaging props to match similar opponents when necessary.
Wasps’ Jack Willis has thrown his hat into the ring alongside England’s other world-class flankers and jackals and there is an opportunity also for somebody to make a name for himself at scrum-half where the long-term replacement for Ben Youngs has yet to be identified.
Is Billy Vunipola — by his own admission not at his best at the World Cup — still the go-to option at No 8 or do England consider faster, more dynamic players such as Sam Simmonds? Or, with all these great young flankers around, does Eddie continue to try and convert Tom Curry into a No 8?
What does Jones do with the likes of Billy Vunipola (left) and Tom Curry (right) this year?
Positions are up for grabs across the team, it’s a new start and hopefully we will see a few glimpses into the future this autumn.
Meanwhile, I want to applaud two of England’s best club coaches for saying what needed to be said recently.
Well done Steve Diamond — an old hooker who knows the score in the front row — for highlighting the ridiculous time-wasting at scrum time that was evident on rugby’s return. It must stop.
Well done Steve Diamond (above) for highlighting the ridiculous time-wasting at scrum time
Ahead of the return last week I hoped we might see a new approach with everybody appreciating the need to improve the spectacle for TV. Alas, I was wrong.
And well done Rob Baxter who also gladdened my heart after Exeter’s win over Tigers by saying how much his squad were looking forward to an old-school three matches in nine days.
He said his squad are in the shape of their lives, had played no rugby in five months and wanted to test themselves with a schedule that seems extraordinary but was common in the amateur era. Bring it on was Exeter’s attitude, which is so refreshing!