With England firm favourites to defend their Six Nations title in 2017, all eyes were on head coach Eddie Jones, as he unveiled his squad yesterday. And as expected – their were plenty of talking points.
Here are the main matters which have had the Ladbrokes News team in passionate discussion…
Will Eddie’s faith in new boys pay off?
Jones’ squad may have broadly looked like what many expected – and hoped for – following a year of chopping and changing, as he looked to find the ideal XV for his system.
But three uncapped players have made it into England’s tournament squad – Back-rower Mike Williams, Bath Rugby prop Nathan Catt and promising youngster Ellis Genge.
While bringing in fresh faces for such a big tournament is something of a risk, there’s a strong argument for each inclusion. The imposing Williams adds a huge physical presence to a skilful squad, while Catt has been a reliable presence for Bath and the pacy, talented Genge racked up the points last season for Bristol.
In-form Wasps well represented
Though he has gone with tried and trusted players in some cases, there’s no doubt Jones has taken on board the sensational form we’ve seen from Wasps so far this season. They’re top of the Aviva Premiership – and can duly boast six players in England’s Six Nations squad.
Experienced campaigners like Joe Launchbury and 70-cap flanker James Haskell have retained their spots from last year’s tournament amidst much competition, while hooker Tommy Taylor – amongst others – has broken through following a run of highly impressive displays for his club side.
Wasps fans must indeed be buzzing right now.
Wood you believe it?
One player whose absence has caused debate amongst fans everywhere has been the prolific and versatile Bristol star Jason Woodward, with Jones resisting the temptation to fast-track the New Zealand-born ace into the side.
Many had expected the 26-year-old to get a call-up sooner rather than later, but he told the Guardian: “If we don’t go for [Hartlequins’ star Mike] Brown I’m looking for someone with genuine gas, which means Anthony Watson or Elliot Daly”.
England fans will be hoping the coach has made the right call once again.
First up for England in the Six Nations is a meeting with France, and our traders have priced Jones’ men at 2/11 for a sixth successive win over Les Bleus at Twickenham.
Meanwhile, England are 5/6 to retain their Six Nations title. If they can do that, Jones’ selections will have proven to be a masterstroke.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing