Injury-hit England recall ‘Samson’ Wood
Tom Wood was recalled for England’s end-of-year internationals yesterday as coach Eddie Jones tried to plug the gaps in an injury-hit squad. The Northampton loose forward has not played for England since Australian coach Jones took over following the team’s firstround exit at last year’s World Cup.
But a back-row injury crisis that has seen James Haskell, Jack Clifford, Sam Jones and Mike Williams all sidelined from the upcoming four home Tests against South Africa, Fiji, Argentina and Australia has led to Wood’s recall.
The 29-year-old won the last of his 42 caps against Uruguay in England’s World Cup finale. It appeared his Test career was at an end after Wood said in January that Jones had told him he was “distinctly average”. But he now finds himself back in a much-changed England squad that will look to preserve Jones’s unbeaten run as Red Rose boss made up of nine straight wins. “He might be like Samson-gets stronger with the long hair and the beard,” said Jones in a reference to the biblical strongman.
“I’ve been really impressed with his work-rate. I’ve been in contact with him to do certain things and he’s done that,” added Jones after he unveiled his squad for the Old Mutual Wealth Series. “He’ll certainly be in contention.”
Jones has also selected Wood’s fellow Northampton back-row Teimana Harrison despite bringing him off early in Sydney in June during the third Test of England’s 3-0 series win in Australia.
Northampton suffered a 41-7 European Champions Cup thrashing by French side Castres last weekend, but Jones said: “I was very impressed with Teimana Harrison. In a Northampton side that didn’t do so well, that was the best performance I’ve seen from a No 7 (openside flanker) in a Premiership team.”
WORLD CUP DEPTH
There are six uncapped players in the 33-man squad in centre Ben Te’o, fly-half Alex Lozowski, wing Mike Haley, backrow, Nathan Hughes, second row Charlie Ewels, and prop Kyle Sinckler.
Jones said building squad depth was vital if England, knocked out in the first round of last year’s edition on home soil, were to triumph at the 2019 World Cup in Japan. “History shows that when you’re preparing for a World Cup you need depth down to four and five positions,” the former Australia and Japan coach Jones explained.
He cited the example of New Zealand fly-half Stephen Donald, who kicked the winning points in the All Blacks to a 2011 final win over France following a late callup into the squad.
“Stephen Donald was out whitebaiting (fishing) and kicked the winning goal in a World Cup final wearing a jersey that was too small. “That’s the sort of depth you need.” Meanwhile Bath lock Dave Attwood has also been recalled following injuries to first-choice second rows George Kruis and Maro Itoje. Harlequins prop Joe Marler also returns from a self-imposed break that saw him miss the Australia series, while wing Jonny May is back in the squad after an injury-plagued year after Anthony Watson and Jack Nowell were sidelined.
England head to Portugal for a weeklong training camp on Sunday before facing South Africa at Twickenham on November 12, with Fiji, Argentina and Australia arriving at ‘headquarters’ on successive weekends. Twickenham.
Mike Brown (Harlequins), Danny Care (Harlequins), Elliot Daly (Wasps), Owen Farrell (Saracens), George Ford (Bath),Alex Goode (Saracens), Mike Haley (Sale), Jonathan Joseph (Bath), Alex Lozowski (Saracens), Jonny May (Gloucester), Semesa Rokoduguni (Bath), Henry Slade (Exeter), Ben Te’o (Worcester), Marland Yarde (Harlequins), Ben Youngs (Leicester)
Dave Attwood (Bath), Dan Cole (Leicester), Charlie Ewels (Bath), Ellis Genge (Leicester), Jamie George (Saracens), Teimana Harrison (Northampton), Dylan Hartley (Northampton), Nathan Hughes (Wasps), Joe Launchbury (Wasps),Courtney Lawes (Northampton), Joe Marler (Harlequins), Ben Morgan (Gloucester), Chris Robshaw (Harlequins), Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins), Tommy Taylor (Wasps), Billy Vunipola (Saracens) ,Mako Vunipola (Saracens), Tom Wood (Northampton). —AFP