Wednesday 18 September 2019

Cian Tracey: 'Te'o axed as Jones puts his Japan cards on the table early '

Eddie Jones decided to leave Ben Te’o out of England’s World Cup squad. Photo: AFP/Getty
Eddie Jones decided to leave Ben Te’o out of England’s World Cup squad. Photo: AFP/Getty
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

If Joe Schmidt had his way, he wouldn't name his World Cup squad until the last possible second, but Eddie Jones has taken a different approach in revealing his hand almost six weeks before England begin their campaign against Tonga.

In doing so, Jones has nailed his colours to the mast as he looks to build the confidence levels of the lucky ones who made the cut.

Of course, the idea that all 31 players will actually be fit enough to board the plane to Japan remains unlikely, particularly with injury doubts hanging over Jack Nowell and Tom Curry.

Then, when you consider the fact that like Ireland who England will meet in Twickenham on August 24, Jones' men have three warm-up games left to play, it means there is plenty of road to run before they can properly assess where they lie.

There were plenty of talking points from Jones' selection as the winners and losers reflect on what lies ahead.

Te'o pays the price

The Australian-born Ben Te'o has already been included in a (rugby league) World Cup squad with Samoa back in 2008, but his hopes of representing England on the biggest stage were dashed last week after he got into an altercation with Mike Brown.

The end result was that neither player made the cut, but the writing was on the wall as soon as Jones left Te'o and Brown out of the squad to face Wales last week.

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Te'o, who spent two years with Leinster, has been a key player for England but the resurgence of Manu Tuilagi means that Jones did not hesitate in wielding the axe.

Inexperienced four get the nod

Considering Jones has had four years to prepare for the World Cup, it is somewhat surprising that he has included an uncapped player as well as another three who only made their international debuts last Sunday.

Ruaridh McConnochie is an interesting selection, as up to last year he was playing sevens. The Bath back-three player, who won a silver medal at the Rio Olympics, is still awaiting his first cap at this level.

Lewis Ludlam (flanker), Jack Singleton (hooker) and Willi Heinz (scrum-half) force their way in, despite only making their debuts against Wales and with other viable options available.

Saracens provide the bulk

Unsurprisingly, the European champions are the bulk suppliers with eight Saracens players included.

England will be spearheaded by Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje and Billy Vunipola, although Ben Spencer and Alex Goode can count themselves unlucky that Saracens' tally isn't 10.

If Sarries' big players can replicate the same kind of form in Japan, Jones' men will be tough to stop.

Farrell a smart choice as captain

England supporters will be glad that the Dylan Hartley captaincy debate has been put to bed as Owen Farrell is now the obvious choice.

The heartbeat of this England team, everything goes through Farrell, who will have to keep his temper in check when dealing with referees.

No room for Cipriani or Goode

Neither the enigmatic Danny Cipriani (out-half) nor Alex Goode (full-back) were ever likely to make the plane to Japan, but their exclusions have nevertheless caused plenty of debate across the Irish Sea.

At times last season, Cipriani looked like the kind of brilliant player that he always promised to be, but Jones has never really trusted him.

The curious case of Alex Goode however, is even more perplexing. Last season's European Player of the Year didn't even get a sniff of a chance to impress as he continues to be left out in the cold.

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