Eddie Jones banking on new faces in key roles as England coach faces a familiar South Africa side

·3-min read
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Eddie Jones is better placed than most to discuss how games against South Africa are decided.

He worked with the Springboks on their 2007 World Cup triumph. He was the opposition coach for one of their most infamous defeats, by Japan in Brighton in 2015. And he was the opposition coach for one of their most famous wins, over England in Yokohama in 2019.

“I have a pretty reasonable understanding of what they try to do,” he said, as England turned their attention to Saturday’s meeting with the Springboks after their victory over a poor Wallabies side.

Jones’s blueprint went as follows: “You have to be able to take away their scrum, be able to take away their maul and successfully catch their high balls, to not give them attacking opportunities.” Do that, he believes, and you can “expose” the Boks elsewhere.

England’s key players, therefore, would appear to be the front-rowers, to manage the set-piece, and the back three, especially the full-back, the chief bomb defuser. It would seem likely that in this transitional England squad, they will have a very green tinge in those vital areas, even if there is experience elsewhere.

An update was expected on Monday on the condition of hooker Jamie George, one of two senior Saracens to leave the field injured — the other being Owen Farrell (ankle). George was replaced at half-time after what Jones called “a fair whack on his knee”.

The coach would not rule out him coming through but noted that “he’s a tough guy, so for him to go off” shows the injury is not to be taken lightly.

George was only in the squad because Luke Cowan-Dickie is out of the Autumn Nations Series. He was replaced on the field by Jamie Blamire, the 23-year-old Newcastle hooker. He had an eventful half, making more metres than anyone and sprinting home for a sixth try in four caps.

England’s set-piece wobbled without George’s steady hand, however. Were George ruled out, Blamire would start, with Leicester’s Nic Dolly, 22, in line for a debut from the bench. The line-out would be in for a huge test.

While Kyle Sinckler is a banker at tight-head prop, England are similarly stretched at loose-head. Mako Vunipola is out of favour, and that appears unlikely to change soon. Joe Marler and Ellis Genge missed Saturday with Covid, handing Bevan Rodd a debut.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Rodd, 21, performed admirably, having been called up late. He will receive an altogether sterner test from the Boks. Marler is out of isolation on Thursday.

At full-back, England also have a new face. Freddie Steward is enjoying a super start, scoring against Australia and taking high balls with authority. In England’s fluid backline, he often appeared at right wing, with Henry Slade at full-back.

Against the Boks, Jones might be tempted to revert to a more traditional wing and shift Manu Tuilagi back to centre. If he does, another youngster — Adam Radwan or Max Malins — would come in.

Jones says he is “unabashed” about “looking at developing a squad that will win the World Cup in 2023”. Saturday shapes as a big test for England’s newest players, in the most important positions.

Read More

Eddie Jones hails Freddie Steward’s try against Australia as ‘one of best’ England have scored

England player ratings vs Australia: Freddie Steward the shining light but Tom Curry impressive as ever

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting