Despite the RFU not being able to arrange a visa (for a man who has already worked in England) in time for his official start date Eddie Jones has plenty to look forward after his appointment as England’s new Head Coach (there’s a ton of crap for him to wade <no pun intended> through too but let’s conveniently gloss over that for the moment). Before Jones can tackle any of the fun stuff like actually selecting and coaching a team he’ll have to reacquaint himself with English rugby, he has had 2 spells with Saracens but the second of those spells ended in 2009 and he spent the next 6 years in Japan so only 5,936 miles (and 9 time zones) away then.
Early reports suggest that the new man will return to his old English club to form his coaching staff with the man he installed as a captain at Sarries Steve Borthwick favourite to take over as forward’s coach, a role he fulfilled with Jones for the Japanese national side. Jones also made Andy Farrell a co-captain alongside Borthwick during his tenure in North London and Farrell could remain as England’s defence coach as Jones transition’s himself into his new role, alternatively Saracens current “Wolfpack” defence coach Paul Gustard may be catching Eddie’s eye since Saracens have conceded just 4 tries in 6 Premiership games and only 59 points overall in those 6 matches. Eddie Jones also has links to another Saracens coach, the always impressive Alex Sanderson was recruited by Jones when Jones left Saracens for Queensland Reds and while that season ended with an ignominious 92-3 pasting at the hands of the Blue Bulls (some would call that sort of thing character building you know) Jones is well aware of Sanderson’s qualities and feel that such a good communicator would be an asset to his coaching team. Whether some, or any of those people are recruited by the RFU on behalf of Jones remains to be seen but Saracens have said that they would not stand in the way of either Sanderson or Gustard if they are approached by the RFU and wish to leave (one would imagine there’d be a hefty compensation package changing hands though).
Player-wise Jones would do worse than look in the direction of North London for the spine of his team too. But just in case there’s a suspicion that this was merely a few paragraphs of thinly veiled sycophancy aimed roughly in the direction of Barnet there are Saracens players involved under the previous England management team who shouldn’t feature in a regenerated squad, namely Brad Barritt (if the English rugby press were looking for a Centre to carry the can for the lacklustre RWC performance they should have picked the 22 cap man) and if Dylan Hartley is to return to the fold then it’s difficult to see how the man who he head butted to get himself banned from the RWC, Jamie George will.
Sam Hill should be Engand’s 12 for a long time to come, he along with Exeter Chiefs teammates Luke Cowan-Dickie, Jack Nowell and Henry Slade Hill (and Bath’s Anthony Watson) was involved in England’s 2013 Under 20 World Cup final win yet Hill is the only one yet to feature in the senior squad. He has the physicality need to be a strong defensive presence at the International level and the awareness and distribution skills that Barritt rarely showed during Lancaster’s tenure. Elsewhere in the back line Wasps Christian Wade must finally be given a chance to shine in the Test arena (having notched 53 tries in 89 club appearances so far in his career) if he’s fit for the 6 Nations otherwise Jack Nowell has been making a solid case for one win berth recently. Saracens Chris Ashton who finished as the top try scoring back in the Premiership last season surely deserves a second chance under the new leadership.
It’s difficult to know what sort of style Jones wants his new England to play but whatever vision he has Owen Farrell should be the player to guide the backline (Henry Slade would definitely be a challenger to his position but with his unfortunate injury at the weekend he may not be fit to play in the 6 Nations). Farrell’s strength in defence and high percentage goal kicking are what every International team need from a 10 and with a ball playing 12 and a more attacking minded set of back’s outside him they’d be sure to provide more of a threat to their opponent’s try line.