SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: Jones must not be afraid to drop the big names
SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: Eddie Jones must not be afraid to drop the big names… England’s player resources are massive and Saturday’s Six Nations clash against Italy is an opportunity to blood new players
- Eddie Jones has missed a trick by not grasping a chance to blood new players
- We have seen little beyond Youngs, Farrell and Ford at half-back in last five years
- Jonny Wilkinson emerged from the fallout of the ‘Tour from Hell’ in 1996
- Jones should see the Italy clash as a chance to rest stars such as Elliot Daly
Eddie Jones, it would appear, has no intention of leaving out Owen Farrell and succumbing to what he describes as a media ‘bandwagon’, which is very disingenuous to the media.
It is a coach’s prerogative to back whoever he wishes — but I really do think Jones has missed a trick here.
There is no need to circle the wagons, this is not a confrontational situation, this is all about getting the best out of one of England’s star performers.
England coach Eddie Jones has missed a trick by not grasping a chance to blood new players
There is no bigger fan of Farrell than me. An in-form Owen Farrell captains the team and starts at 10. But for various reasons — the situation at Saracens with virtually zero rugby during Covid and England’s confusion over their attacking game — we haven’t seen that player for a good while. Not since the 2019 World Cup semi-final.
And that applies to a number of others as well, not least Elliot Daly.
Watching Farrell I feel he is forcing the game which happens when a player or the team is not at their best. We have seen it before and George Ford has stepped in at No 10 to take the pressure off Farrell.
So be it, these things happen. I am absolutely convinced at some stage Farrell will return to his very best and Daly as well. In the meantime this is an opportunity, not a crisis.
England’s player resources are massive. The likes of the Simmonds brothers, Marcus Smith and Alex Dombrandt can’t even make the squad, so why not give some of those who are next in line an opportunity?
Over the last five years we have seen little beyond Youngs, Farrell (pic) and Ford at half-back
Let’s see them in a competitive Six Nations match when there are logical reasons to leave some star players out.
Sometimes a player is dropped because of poor form — an old fashioned kick up the backside — sometimes the next player in the pecking order simply earns a chance.
The more complex situation is when a player’s poor form comes from the team as a whole not performing, a game plan that does not suit that team or from being tactically ill- prepared. I would argue that it’s a bit of both with Farrell and Daly.
Sometimes opportunities present themselves. Take France in the autumn. I can guarantee you that when the French clubs and the federation were having their usual row about player availability, Fabian Galthie would have initially groaned about the fact he could only start players in three of six scheduled games.
But this quickly became an amazing opportunity to blood others.
Elliot Daly has been one player who has not been at his best for England in recent matches
He was able to pick a shadow XV against Italy and a week later, the core of that team nearly beat a full-strength England side at Twickenham.
I remember inheriting the Tour from Hell schedule in 1998 and choosing to rest virtually all my ‘Gun XV’ at the time.
The result was a viciously hard and unsuccessful tour in terms of results but we also discovered that Josh Lewsey, Matt Dawson, Phil Vickery, Jonny Wilkinson and Lewis Moody were potential world-beaters.
Three years later we toured North America without our 20 or so Lions and on that occasion Ben Kay, Martin Corry, Joe Worsley and Mark Regan stepped up the pecking order.
A young Steve Thompson toured without playing but a year later, when I again chose to rest some frontline players, Steve was at the heart of another ‘under-strength’ pack who took on the powerful Pumas in Buenos Aires and won.
Legendary fly-half Jonny Wilkinson emerged from the fallout of the ‘Tour from Hell’ in 1998
Another potential world-beater unearthed. Over the last five years we have seen little beyond Ben Youngs, Farrell and Ford at half-back.
Certainly Farrell is the first name on the teamsheet when on form, but what options do we have when we might need a change?
So don’t be frightened of dropping the big names. Do not see it as a personal affront that such a move is suggested. There is no need to defend these stars blindly. They are great players, they know the score and they don’t need to be treated with kid gloves.
The big prize is Paris 2023, not Twickenham 2021.
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