The rugby and social media have long been speculating on England’s ongoing problem with the number 7 shirt – pretty much since Neil Back retired. Tom Rees (Wasps and England) seemed to be the answer before he was forced to retire from injury back in 2012.
Eddie Jones was initially criticised for using James Haskell at 7 for the Australian tour in June- particularly as he was up against two genuine 7s – at least in the first match.
Presumably Haskell would also have been at open side for the autumn tours if he wasn’t injured.
From Eddie’s squad selections it looked like Sam Jones and Mike Williams were the likely candidates for November – but it seems that both will now be unavailable following injuries.
Jones stated that he was looking for a ‘destructive’ player at 7 and there have been suggestions that the impressively versatile Maro Itoje may get the nod.
In an interview with Stephen Jones at the weekend (Sunday Times) Eddie did not deny that this was a consideration. There are worse ideas I think and it’s not like we are short of strong partners for George Kruis in the engine room.
Eddie Jones is an innovative and forward thinker and he may have been considering his back row combinations based on the new laws that have been trialled in the Mitre 10 Cup in New Zealand –
Fresh breakdown laws are expected to speed up the Mitre 10 Cup, which should make Richie McCaw style turnovers a thing of the past.
Once a breakdown is formed, players can longer pick up the ball.
The defending team must stay on their feet, bind and blow over the ball to steal if for the halfback.
It’s toughest on the openside flankers, who have to suddenly drop the skill that’s paid their bills.
“The attacking side is definitely more at an advantage, so getting the ball back is harder,” said Canterbury coach Scott Robertson.
Keeping hands off the ball and players on their feet should speed up the game and hopefully reduce injuries and concussions.
The new laws have not been popular so far in NZ and it has apparently just been announced that the experiment has been scrapped by World Rugby and will not be used on a global scale.
I haven’t seen an official announcement and as far as I can tell it has so far only been reported on a NZ news site.
If true it is doubtful that it will affect any plans Eddie Jones has for his back row – as the Wallabies found out in June he seems to know what he is doing – and long may it last!