Eddie Jones: Who I'd pick in my England starting XV

Calling the shots

There are plenty of reasons why England could use a good Six Nations Championship, but we can legitimately focus on just three of them: the heavy defeat at the hands of the Wallabies at Twickenham last November, followed by the record hiding from the Springboks, followed by the damaging reverse against the All Blacks. If Martin Johnson's team are really one of the world's powerhouse Test sides, they did a remarkable job of disguising it during the autumn. It can't go on like this. England need results, quickly.

How do they go about getting them? They can start by hitting the right notes in selection for the opening game against Italy a week today. They must settle on the variety of rugby they think will give them the best chance of winning the tournament and then pick players who bring the correct balance to the starting line-up. If that sounds too obvious for words, just think back to those fixtures before Christmas. Was there really much evidence of a clear, coordinated strategy? If there was, I missed it.

Let's start with the half-backs. In November, the first-choice pairing was Danny Care and Danny Cipriani. It didn't work. Care may well be the best England-qualified No 9 around, but he's a running half-back who, at international level, will always be most effective behind a dominant pack, with a highly organised, disciplined No 10 outside him. If Cipriani is to play, he'd be better off with a partner like Harry Ellis, for whom moving the ball is the first option.

I'd play a no-nonsense centre next to Cipriani – Mike Tindall fits the bill – and put someone with a little gas and fizz at outside centre. Delon Armitage? There are worse candidates. Armitage is different, what you need in the No 13 role if you're looking to make the most of your attacking opportunities in the wide channels.

Talking of which, I'll be interested to see what England do with their back three. I like to field contrasting wings: a hard runner, good in the heavy traffic, along with a real speedster. Mark Cueto can perform the first role, and if Paul Sackey is going to play for England as he did for Wasps against Leinster just recently, I'd definitely keep him in the team. And full-back? A lot of people are backing Olly Morgan of Gloucester, but the best back-three combinations have two strong kickers, and Morgan's kicking game is too short for Test rugby. I'd opt for Mathew Tait, who can fire the ball 50 metres as well as run rings round people.

Up front, I'd go for my best scrummaging front row – especially against the Italians, who probably have the best set piece in Europe. That means Andrew Sheridan, assuming he's in any sort of form, and Julian White at prop, with Lee Mears hooking.

Steve Borthwick, rightly retained as captain, is a hard-working line-out leader who makes 15 tackles a game. But who joins him at lock? Nick Kennedy of London Irish is a top-class jumper, but he offers precious little around the field. I'd take a punt on moving the athletic Tom Croft up from the back row. OK, he's probably on the light side, but he can bulk up over time. Which leaves us with the most difficult area of selection: the back row. Lewis Moody's latest injury hurts England – whatever Lewis does, he does it going forward – and I don't see a ready-made replacement on the open side. Michael Lipman will do a job, provided the coaches make it clear that he can't afford to play for England as he does for Bath, where he spends too much time off the ball.

Nick Easter would be my No 8, on the condition that he never kicks the ball again. (In fact, I'd tell him that if he even looks like he's considering a toe-poke, I'd ban him from rugby for a decade). With a big man like Easter forcing the opposition to tackle hard, James Haskell could have a free role on the blind side. He hasn't been in prime form, but he has a lot going for him when he finds a way into a game. England need to remove the shackles and let him go.

Eddie Jones is director of rugby at Saracens and you can see his side in Guinness Premiership action against Sale at Vicarage Road on Sunday 1 March, kick-off 3pm.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Starting the day with a three-egg omelette could make people more charitable, according to new research
science
News
Top Gun actor Val Kilmer lost his small claims court battle in Van Nuys with the landlord of his Malibu mansion to get back his deposit after wallpapering over the kitchen cabinets
people
News
Comedian Ted Robbins collapsed on stage during a performance of Phoenix Nights Live at Manchester Arena (Rex)
people
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
newsPatrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
News
Robert Fraser, aka Groovy Bob
peopleA new show honours Robert Fraser, one of the era's forgotten players
Life and Style
Torsten Sherwood's Noook is a simple construction toy for creating mini-architecture
tech
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links