Olli Meek reflects on the FA Cup third round fixtures, with Arsenal crashing out to add to Arsene Wenger's woes.Written by Olli Meek on 13th January 2018
England Rugby Squad Review
Rugby correspondent Sam Harrison looks at Eddie Jones' preliminary England squad for the upcoming Six Nations
The preliminary 33-man squad for the Six Nations was announced recently, and among its ranks were a few talking points.
This has been the main talking point, as the Saracens full back’s exclusion from all England squads announced was very surprising. Ignoring for the moment the fact that he should have been given more of a chance to start ahead of Mike Brown, his exclusion is a shocking decision for a number of reasons. Chief among these is the fact that any coach wants to build a winning culture, and for English rugby at the moment, the best way to do that is to pick as many Saracens players as possible. This is another point to be made shortly, however.
On the other hand, it is possible to see why Eddie Jones has made this decision. In the autumn series, other players, such as Elliot Daly, player better than Goode, and as such are more likely to make the cut. In addition, the return to form of Jonny May, and to fitness of Anthony Watson leaves minimal spaces, with a potential back three of May, Watson, and Jack Nowell a terrifying prospect for opposing teams.
Another surprise decision, though this time it is for the inclusion of the Tuilagi. Is he a great player? Tentatively, the answer is yes, but it is hard to tell anymore, as he has barely played in the last three years, and being able to get on the pitch is a large part of a being a great player. In addition to his lack of fitness, and he has already been ruled out for the rest of the season due to injury, just days after the announcement, it is difficult to find a place for the Leicester centre in the current team. He would not play ahead of Jonathan Joseph or Elliot Daly at outside centre, and with the axis of George Ford and Owen Farrell working so well, it is unlikely that Jones would choose to break that up, so where does Tuilagi fit? The answer is that he doesn’t.
The main elements of this section are the lack of players from top club Saracens and the inclusion of players from Harlequins, Leicester and Northampton. Firstly, each of Saracens, Leicester and Northampton have four players in the squad, and that doesn’t add up. Saracens are second in the Premiership, and reigning double champions, Leicester and Northampton are both having average seasons. As a disclaimer, it should be said that there would be two further Saracens if the Vunipola brothers were fit. It seems that Jones is picking Tigers and Saints players based on the previous success of the clubs, and not on current form, which would have many more Saracens players.
As for the inclusion of six Harlequins players, there are no words. They are a middling club who have not challenged the top teams for years, and only two, maybe three of the players deserve to be in the England team. Mike Brown has not played at his best for club or country for a long time, Marland Yarde has done nothing since moving to Quins to prove his worth to England, and Danny Care is still prone to mistakes. In the forwards, Joe Marler is a very good back-up to Mako Vunipola, and Chris Robshaw gets in for his attitude and leadership. Kyle Sinckler is harder to analyse, but he has been known to lose his temper in the past.
Why does Jones keep returning to this, when it has nothing to offer but mediocrity? This tendency to select large numbers of players from clubs that are not playing well may hold the national side back from true greatness.