Eng­land buck win­ning trend of old heads

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Rugby World Cup 2019 - By Daniel Schofield in Sap­poro

Ever since Ed­die Jones was ap­pointed Eng­land head coach, he has been fix­ated on ar­riv­ing at the World Cup with a first XV con­tain­ing a cer­tain num­ber of caps and age pro­file.

“If we get our full squad, our best play­ers to­gether, we will have a very, very strong team that is ca­pa­ble of win­ning the World Cup,” Jones said last Au­gust. “We would have 750-800 caps with an av­er­age age of 27, a proven World Cup-win­ning pro­file.”

There is a good rea­son Jones put a premium on such fig­ures. Re­search un­der­taken for The

Daily Tele­graph by Es­portif ’s In­tel­li­gence Divi­sion shows that the start­ing XVS of the World Cup win­ners since rugby turned pro­fes­sional in 1995 have con­tained an av­er­age of 663 caps with an av­er­age age of 27.84.

The sta­tis­tics also show a steady trend to more ex­pe­ri­enced teams claim­ing the Wil­liam Webb El­lis Cup. The New Zealand sides that won the 2011 and 2015 tour­na­ments did so with 694 and 906 caps and an av­er­age age of 27.9 and 28.7.

Yet in the past 12 months, Jones has waved good­bye to nearly 400 caps, with Dy­lan Hart­ley, James Haskell, Chris Rob­shaw, Danny Care and Mike Brown all drop­ping out of his plans. “I thought we would carry quite an ex­pe­ri­enced team to the World Cup,” Jones said. “Then I found out I needed to make changes so I had to start again.”

The pro­mo­tion of Tom Curry (21), Sam Un­der­hill (23) and Joe Cokanasiga (21) has low­ered the age pro­file. The XV who started Eng­land’s penul­ti­mate warm-up match against Ire­land con­tained 601 caps and had an av­er­age age of 26.1. Tak­ing that team – with Mako Vunipola re­plac­ing Joe Mar­ler – as Jones’ strong­est XV, Eng­land would be aim­ing to be­come the first side in the pro­fes­sional era to win the World Cup with­out a player over the age of 30 in their team. Ben Youngs, who turned 30 at the start of the month, is their el­dest states­man. Both the 2015 New Zealand team and the 2003 Eng­land side had five play­ers aged 31 or older. Of the main con­tenders, Eng­land have the sec­ond-least ex­pe­ri­enced team be­hind South Africa, whose side to face the All Blacks in their open­ing World Cup match has 542 caps. Aus­tralia have a sim­i­lar to­tal to Eng­land’s with 611, then there is a big jump to Wales (790), Ire­land (832) and New Zealand (878). Jones was asked why he be­lieved Eng­land could win the tour­na­ment with­out the req­ui­site ex­pe­ri­ence. “The game’s chang­ing a lot be­cause it’s be­come such a power game. Ex­pe­ri­ence is al­ways im­por­tant but maybe we can get around it.”

Young gun: Tom Curry, 21, is one of sev­eral fresh faces Ed­die Jones is us­ing

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