England Go For Youth In World Cup Assault

Eddie Jones disregards wealth of experience for Rugby World Cup in Japan
15:20, 12 Aug 2019

England have named a 31-man squad for the tournament in September and a number of big names have missed out. Centre Ben Te’o and flanker Brad Shields are among the shock omissions, along with ex-captains Dylan Hartley and Chris Robshaw, Mike Brown, Danny Care, Nathan Hughes and Danny Cipriani.

The biggest surprises came in the selection of uncapped Ruaridh McConnochie, 23-year-old flanker Lewis Ludlam, scrum-half Willie Heinz and outside back Piers Francis. Ludlam only debuted for England on Sunday, starring in the 33-19 win over Wales, and was involved in his first camp in June.

Former sevens star McConnochie has never played for England and only took up the 15-man code in 2019. Like Ludlam and Heinz debuted for England yesterday and will serve as back-up to Ben Youngs.

Four of England’s backs have five caps or fewer in Joe Cokanaisga, Francis, Heinz and McConnocie, while the country’s pack also has a youthful look. Twenty-three-old Sam Underhill, 21-year-old Tom Curry, 24-year-old Ellis Genge, Ludlam and 23-year-old Jack Singleton all have 11 caps or less.

In getting rid of a load of veterans, coach Jones has ensured his team is not scarred by the disaster that was the 2015 World Cup. There is also still a load of experience in 86-cap prop Dan Cole and scrum-half Ben Youngs, lock Courtney Lawes with 72 games and captain Owen Farrell with 70 appearances.

Te’o was unlucky to miss out, with an off-field altercation with Brown costing him his spot. Full-back Brown will also be staying at home.

Injury has restricted Shields’ chances, while the decision to pick just five props means Harry Williams was not selected. This is side filled with speed, youth and exuberance, one with a nod towards mobility and versatility. England are one of the first sides to announce their World Cup squad with warm-up matches against Wales, Ireland and Italy still to come.

“Today is another step in the progress towards the Rugby World Cup,” Jones said. “We have taken the decision to go early because of what we learned from previous campaigns. We want the squad to know early and now we can get on and be the best prepared England side there has ever been, ready to win the World Cup.

“A lot of good players have missed out, we feel for them, I feel for them personally. But as we know the World Cup is an incredible tournament where opportunities can present themselves and all those players who have missed out have been told they have to be ready.”

The decision to leave the likes of skillful but unpredictable playmaker Cipriani has been criticized, as has Jones’ choice to take just two specialist 9s.

England’s 14-point victory against Wales at Twickenham, and the impressive displays of several on the field, helped sway Jones’ mind. Curry, Ludlam and Anthony Watson also starred for the white rose and are off to Japan.