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.

Arts & Entertainment
Ricky Gervais at a screening of 'Muppets Most Wanted' in London last month
tvAs the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian on why he'll never bow to critics who habitually circle his work
Arts & Entertainment
Don (John Hamm) and Megan (Jessica Paré) Draper are going their separate ways in the final series of ‘Mad Men’
tvReview: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
News
news
Life & Style
Going down: Google's ambition to build an elevator into space isn't likely to be fulfilled any time soon
techTechnology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
David Cameron sings a hymn during the enthronement service of The Most Rev Justin Welby as Archbishop of Canterbury, at Canterbury Cathedral last year
news
Life & Style
From long to Jong: Guy Pewsey outside Mo Nabbach’s M&M Hair Academy in west London before the haircut
fashionThe Independent heads to an Ealing hairdressers to try out the North Korean dictator's trademark do
Sport
Vito Mannone fails to keep out Samir Nasri's late strike
sportMan City 2 Sunderland 2: Keeper flaps at Nasri's late leveller, but Black Cat striker's two goals in 10 minutes had already done damage
Extras
indybest10 best smartphones
News
peopleRyan Gosling says yes, science says no. Take the A-list facial hair challenge
Arts & Entertainment
tvCreator Vince Gilligan sheds light on alternate endings
Life & Style
Google Doodle celebrates the 63rd anniversary of the Peak District National Park
tech
News
Paul Weller, aka the Modfather, performing at last year’s Isle of Wight Festival in Newport
people
Life & Style
Michael Acton Smith founded Firebox straight out of university before creating Moshi Monsters
techHe started out selling silliness with online retailer Firebox, before launching virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
News
Ethical matters: pupils during a philosophy lesson
educationTaunton School's policy of putting philosophy at heart of its curriculum is one of secrets of its success
Arts & Entertainment
Play It Forward: the DC Record Fair in Washington, US
musicIndependent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads on Record Store Day
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics

Is sexual harassment a fact of gay life?

Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics
Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith: The man behind a British success story

Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith

Acton Smith launched a world of virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
Kim Jong-un's haircut: The Independent heads to Ealing to try out the dictator's do

Our journalist tries out Kim Jong-un's haircut

The North Korean embassy in London complained when M&M Hair Academy used Kim Jong-un's image in the window. Curious, Guy Pewsey heads to the hair salon and surrenders to the clippers
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part
Vespa rides on with launch of Primavera: Iconic Italian scooter still revving up millions of sales

Vespa rides on with launch of the Primavera

The Vespa has been a style icon since the 1950s and the release this month of its latest model confirms it has lost little of its lustre
Record Store Day: Independent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads

Record Store Day celebrates independent music shops

This Saturday sees a host of events around the country to champion the sellers of well-grooved wax
Taunton's policy of putting philosophy at heart of its curriculum is one of secrets of its success

Education: Secret of Taunton's success

Taunton School, in Somerset, is one of the country's leading independent schools, says Richard Garner
10 best smartphones

10 best smartphones

With a number of new smartphones on the market, we round up the best around, including some more established models
Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

The former Australia coach on why England must keep to Plan A, about his shock at their collapse Down Under, why he sent players home from India and the agonies of losing his job
Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
The pain of IVF

The pain of IVF

As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal