Call to omit im­ports from Eng­land squad

Rugby

The Press - - Sport -

No room for Kiwi Brad Shields in an Eng­land Six Na­tions pack that needs to be ‘‘the full English — bangers and mash­ers, with the op­po­si­tion on toast’’.

That’s the view of con­tro­ver­sial rugby critic Stephen Jones who has urged coach Ed­die Jones to be bold in a fresh squad to be se­lected on Fri­day (NZT).

He didn’t men­tion Shields by name but the in­fer­ence was there as he ques­tioned the ef­fi­ciency of the re­cent Eng­land teams ‘‘partly be­cause of in­jury, partly be­cause of the lack of for­ward power and lead­er­ship, and partly be­cause of what are seen as Ed­die-isms.

‘‘These in­clude the se­lec­tion of red-raw ty­ros; of those who have come, say, 12,000 miles to be with us so we’d bet­ter choose them.’’

That can only be seen as a taunt at the se­lec­tion of Shields, who coach Jones rushed into the English set-up with­out even play­ing a game in the English Premier­ship last year. Shields was plucked from Su­per Rugby with the Hur­ri­canes to make his Eng­land de­but against the Spring­boks in South Africa last June and has gone on to play five tests to press his claims for World Cup du­ties later this year.

But there is a call for a fresh re­think as the World Cup looms and Eng­land des­per­ate for some Six Na­tions suc­cess af­ter last year’s hor­ror tour­na­ment where they slipped to fifth in the de­fence of their ti­tle.

‘‘With time fly­ing, Jones should for­get that small reg­i­ment he has la­belled ‘ap­pren­tices’, those he has eased into the top squad, where they have gen­er­ally been found want­ing,’’ wrote Stephen Jones be­liev­ing the English Premier­ship had of­fered wor­thy al­ter­na­tives.

‘‘This Eng­land squad needs to be more bru­tal in the scrums and con­tact ar­eas and driv­ing mauls, and in the mind. The Eng­land pack needs to be the full English — bangers and mash­ers, with the op­po­si­tion on toast.’’

Stephen Jones opted for a loose for­ward makeup of: Maro Itoje (Sara­cens), Alex Dom­brandt (Har­lequins), Mark Wil­son (New­cas­tle), Don Ar­mand (Ex­eter), Billy Vu­nipola (Sara­cens), and Ben Mor­gan (Glouces­ter).

‘‘It will be dis­ap­point­ing if Jones sticks with the same old names, the same shapes, and the strate­gies that have come up short — and shorter still as time has gone by. This is a chance to be big and bold. If he misses that chance, Eng­land will be scrab­bling in un­gainly fash­ion all the way to Tokyo.’’

Brad Shields

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