Jones puts his faith in England’s youth

Date published: January 13 2016

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The new England head coach has rearranged his squad with a flourish of youth in a bid to end his new employers’ barren run in the Six Nations.

Jones has repeatedly referenced England’s lack of success in the Six Nations since their last title since 2003, well aware that England’s poor return of one title and no Grand Slams in 12 years is unacceptable based on the resources and depth of talent available.

Now he gets to test out just how good that talent is.

England’s seven uncapped players all range in age between 20 and 23. The new septet – Paul Hill, Sam Hill, Maro Itoje, Jack Clifford, Elliot Daly, Ollie Devoto and Josh Beaumont – are top prospects presented with an almighty chance to impress the Australian through their “enthusiasm and a lot of hard work" – such is his way – after their names were unveiled by Jones on what he described as a very exciting day.

“We’ve picked some guys with potential who we believe can go on and become very good players,” Jones said as he held court at Twickenham.

“We’re all very excited and the coaching staff can’t wait to get their hands on the squad and start working with them to hopefully create a very good England side."

With Jones in charge there will certainly be no doubt about Chris Robshaw’s best position. Jones discussed in a column during the World Cup how Robshaw was not being played in the right position, but from now on he certainly will be – at blindside, where his form for Harlequins deserves to be rewarded with a spot in Jones’ first starting XV.

“We’re not going to have any six and a halves. We’ll have a six and a seven,” Jones happily clarified.

“Chris Robshaw has been playing exceptionally well at six, probably because he’s playing without half a number on his back. He’s been playing brilliant and will push very hard to get into the team at six."

No omission of course is more surprising than Tom Youngs, who only a few weeks ago was being labelled by his Leicester boss Richard Cockerill as the best hooker in the land and a possible England captain. It’s a surprise, and a big one which those within Welford Road and beyond will struggle to understand.

Youngs will have spoken to Jones on Tuesday and learned what he needs to do to win back his place.

For Youngs though to have tumbled down the pecking order below Jamie George and Luke Cowan-Dickie not only marks a major fall of grace, but proves Jones has enough faith to thrust the two younger operators into action.

By putting aside the likes of Youngs, Tom Wood, Brad Barritt, Geoff Parling, Ben Morgan and Richard Wigglesworth along with the rest Jones has subtracted close to 300 caps worth of Test experience from England squad. He’ll be ready for the criticism that comes from that move if results don’t go as planned.

Change after the World Cup however had to happen, and now Jones and his coaches can get to work. It's a promising start.

by Ben Coles

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