Eddie Jones’ team selection shows the array of talent at his disposal… even with so many big names missing, England will have more than enough power, speed and class to demolish Italy
- Eddie Jones has tapped into club form and momentum in his England side
- Henry Slade has been outstanding for the Chiefs and fully deserves his recall
- Jones is trusting a hunch at full-back by picking George Furbank there again
- Tom Curry and Sam Underhill were superb in tandem during the last World Cup
This is an impressive England line-up which is certain to be far too strong for Italy. In the absence of so many key men, Eddie Jones has been able to demonstrate the vast depth of talent at his disposal.
There is considerable power up front, plenty of guile, creativity and finishing pedigree at the back – and a hefty dose of experience all over the field.
Furthermore, by selecting two of the three Exeter players in his squad, Jones has tapped into club form and momentum.
Eddie Jones can demonstrate the vast depth of talent at his disposal in his latest England side
Henry Slade has been outstanding for the Chiefs and fully deserves his midfield recall
Henry Slade has been outstanding for the Chiefs and fully deserves his midfield recall. With Manu Tuilagi unavailable after Achilles surgery, England will have to play differently and Slade will help them to do that.
Alongside Owen Farrell, he offers the distribution skills of a second playmaker, but also the clout of a man with increasing confidence in his running game. These days, he carries into contact with purpose, as well as using his pace and footwork to find gaps.
The option of deploying Slade in the No 12 shirt has rarely been used by England but it does make a lot of sense. He has all the attributes for that linking role, close to the decision-making hub of the back line – and will be able to slot in at first receiver instead of Farrell when the opportunity arises. Slade has joined forces with Jonathan Joseph before and they have the capacity to cause mayhem in the Stadio Olimpico.
Jones has pedigree in his side at half-back, in midfield and on the wings, but he is trusting a hunch at full-back, by picking George Furbank there again.
Slade offers the distribution skills of a second playmaker, but also the clout of a man with increasing confidence in his running game
Jones, however, is trusting a hunch at full-back, by picking George Furbank there again
The Northampton rookie has appeared to be in a prolonged rut since the season resumption – and even before lock-down – but the England coaches evidently believe that their encouragement and faith can reignite his game. It is a gamble, but with so many leading backs unavailable, there were limited alternative options.
In the pack, another Chief will be expected to pick up with England where he left off for Exeter. Jonny Hill has been one of the Devon club’s stand-out figures during their charge to domestic and European glory, so the lock has fully earned his Test debut alongside Maro Itoje. It is heartening to see Jones provide this fitting reward.
There are few surprises among the forwards, with familiar faces in the front and back rows. While there has been much fanfare about the emergence of so many Test-class flankers in the Premiership, Tom Curry and Sam Underhill were superb in tandem during the last World Cup and Billy Vunipola’s ball-carrying clout will be even more important with no Tuilagi in midfield.
Jonny Hill has been one of Exeter’s stand-out figures so the lock has fully earned his Test debut
Tom Curry (right) and Sam Underhill (left) were superb in tandem during the last World Cup
He has been some way off his best form, but Jones and his assistants will trust the mighty No 8 to rise to the grand occasion.
Those who have marvelled at Jack Willis’s astonishing deeds for Wasps will be frustrated that he has not been given a place in the match-day 23, but Ben Earl has been similarly outstanding for Bristol, on loan from Saracens.
Dan Robson has justified his inclusion among the reserve backs and the uncapped Ollie Lawrence and Ollie Thorley can announce themselves by running amok against a tiring Azzurri defence.
Billy Vunipola has been some way off his best form, but Jones will hope he can raise his game