The 3 uncapped players who could help Eddie Jones rediscover his Midas touch

Dan Robson

The optimisms of a trio of consecutive England Six Nations titles were swiftly squashed this year, parallel to the bubble of Eddie Jones’ invincibility bursting. The World Cup hopes stumbled to their worst tournament finish for 35 years, Jones lost his Midas touch, and England fans were left scratching their heads as to what exactly went wrong.

It’s obvious that changes need to be made to slingshot England back towards the top of the food chain, but what areas need fine-tuning?

There is a pool of uncapped talent, and a cluster of players who possess the skillsets and form to positively influence the current England side. The following individuals should be given an opportunity during the summer tour to South Africa.

Dan Robson

Dan Robson

Since his emergence as the regular Wasps scrum-half, Robson’s name has been repeatedly mentioned, but he is yet to feature internationally. Ben Youngs’ premature Six Nations departure had opened a seemingly perfect sized door for Robson, but Richard Wigglesworth was hauled out of the international wilderness.

Danny Care failed to seize his opportunity and will likely be reverted to the finishing role he has fulfilled so successfully, and although Youngs has returned to Tigers duty, he would still benefit from a summer off.

Robson has attended a couple of EPS training squads, but Jones has been reluctant to hand him his debut. With Youngs and Care not at their best, South Africa would be the perfect setting to unleash Robson.

He has been orchestrating one of the most potent backlines in Europe over the past two seasons and his form has been crying out for a cap. He has an impressive strike rate, tracks well and has a world class box kicking game.

Brad Shields

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Shields’ imminent arrival has been shrouded in debate, but there is no doubting the man’s quality. He played a pivotal part in the Hurricanes’ recent success, including their Super Rugby title in 2016. Although born and bred in New Zealand, he wasn’t deemed an All Black and his English parents make him eligible for contention.

The Six Nations proved that the English back-row needs a shakeup. The Eddie Jones experiment of trialling locks on the blind-side was a failure and the usually, ever-dependable Chris Robshaw was found wanting on several occasions.

A handful of Premiership flankers are putting their hands up for inclusion, but Shields has a robustness and a proven winning record. With a mental toughness, Shields is regularly seen winning turnovers, is an asset in the lineout, strong in defence and a genuine ball carrier.

Although it remains to be seen whether he will be released from his Hurricanes duty for the South Africa tour, Shields must be incorporated into the squad as soon as possible.

Jason Woodward

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The reign of Mike Brown as England full-back is over. The man of the match showing against Wales reminded us of what he can do, but there are genuinely better options currently plying their trade in the Premiership, and with Anthony Watson injured, there are none better than Jason Woodward.

Many have called for Elliot Daly to be set free at 15, but he has had his own injury concerns and is not playing in the position for Wasps. Woodward has been in scintillating form ever since he came to England and has been particularly imperious for Gloucester this year.

Woodward is another product of the endless New Zealand talent engine but qualifies for England through his London born and raised grandmother. He has already expressed his desire to pull on the England shirt and undoubtedly deserves a shot on merit.

He has been at the heart of all things good about the rejuvenated Gloucester this year. Woodward has been shredding defences throughout and has accumulated a healthy stack of tries along the way. As a bona fide game-changer, Woodward needs to be in Jones’ plans.

Are there any other uncapped players you would like to see included on the South Africa tour?

By Josh Cousens

17 thoughts on “The 3 uncapped players who could help Eddie Jones rediscover his Midas touch

  1. This obsession with picking Kiwis who are not good enough to get into their own team has to stop. There are English born options in both positions and we should be developing our own players not pinching other people’s. Also not convinced by Robson who was outclassed by de Klerk against Sale. Harrison was terrific for Leicester while Young s was injured and imv is worth a look at higher level. Jack Willis also has to go, and for a real outsider how about Joe Simmonds who looks to have loads of time with ball in hand. Ben Morgan is also worth another look.

    1. Not sure there is an obsession, other than these two players which other Kiwis have been touted to play for England?
      I am torn on Shields; on one hand there are England flankers coming through the ranks like Willis, but will he be ready to play in the World Cup with just a few international caps to his name (assuming he tours SA)? Shields also lacks international experience but has played far more games for the Canes.
      Harrison did play very well with Youngs out, and Joe Simmonds has had a great season but maybe its too soon to tell if this was a one-off.

      1. Jake, perhaps a “cynical preparedness to take short cuts” might have been a better phrase. In the past two years alone we have had Teamana Harrison and Piers Francis, neither of whom was good enough, plus Armand who possibly is. Part of the reason we don´t produce top class players is because there are so many Southern Hemisphere players in the premiership and so few Brits plying their trade and gaining experience in NZ, Australia and South Africa. I know it is an old fashioned view, but I like to see an England team full of English players rather than overseas recruits who go back home at the end of their careers.

        1. To be fair, Piers Francis is totally English. He DID move out NZ to ply his trade and gain some experience, but he isn’t quite up there.

        2. Piers Francis, born and raised in Maidstone apparently isn’t English now. Blimey.

          I personally couldn’t care less where players are born. Shields has two English parents, he is perfectly entitled to feel English.

          We have to pick the best players from the pool we have. Shields is one of those.

    2. Andy, I completely agree that Willis needs to be on the tour. He has been the breakthrough of the season in my eyes and has a bright international career ahead of him, but in light of what Jake said, Shields has proven success in Southern Hemisphere rugby which gives him an edge. Would like to see Ben Morgan back in the mix, he looked like he was starting to play some decent rugby again towards the end of the season.

    3. Andy
      I would say, “You’d be stupid to look a gift horse in the face” to that one.
      I won’ t repeat my mantra about the ABs rape of the PI’s (not my phrase but that of bona fide journo’s) but our usage of any and indeed any other foreign-raised player is in England at least kept to a minimum with rules and regs already in place. There were and are no regs in nZ to reduce the influx! They want as many as they can get!
      In the case of Shields, he’s as British as you or I – British parents….just speaks with a different accent as far as i see it!
      THE difference with NZ is its a state policy (to use modern terminology – an OPEN DOOR policy!

      1. Disagree Alex, though I take your point about Pacific Islanders and New Zealand. Shields is a Kiwi mercenary who is joining Wasps because he thinks he has a good chance of playing International rugby and will no doubt go back home as soon as his career is over. I don’t blame him as a professional but if I was an English born back rower who had served my time in the Premiership and thought I was close to selection I would be royally pissed off if some Johnny come lately pushed me down the pecking order.

        1. I’m sorry but how on earth can you know that? His parents are English. For all you know he was brought up to feel English, and just happens to be living in NZ. He may well feel very dual national.

          Any comments on mercenary are based on no facts at all so I can’t see why Jones would consider it relevant when deciding who to select.

        2. Not sure i agree.
          1. He is British (or should be if he isn’t already through his parents) and will certainly qualify for a dual passport. i think we can all agree that ‘the parents line’ to nationality is one of the best/bona fide ones that exist. I’m no ‘ OPEN DOORS’ advocate to either sports players or indeed wider immigration as people will have realised on here long ago. Some ‘sensible’ control is required. But as far as i can see the ‘sensible’ Brits have got it about right on the sporting front and with the wider country are ‘SLOWLY’ getting there!’
          Brad Shields is a brit. By your line of argument Haskell could be told to bog off as he played rugger down under for a season or two and dared to come back.

  2. Joe Simmonds of Exeter should be taken on the tour along with Marcus Smith to see if either of them can provide backup to Ford/Farrell. Both of which should be left at home.

  3. Robson yes, Shields and Woodward, no. As Andy said, I would much rather promote some of the young English born guys who have been playing so well in the Premiership all season.
    Nothing against Shields or Woodward, they are both good players, but after all the build up and hype around Teimana Harrison I was left bitterly disappointed.

    As for scrum halves I would be thinking about taking two uncapped ones. Robson and Spencer for me would give great back up to each other. Similar players with great vision, pace, support play and kicking ability.
    When you have two good young scrum halves who are playing for two of the top 3 teams in the Premiership they should be getting selected. If Youngs is fit I would still pick him but, Care for me has had his day.

    1. Most of what you say makes sense Dazza but I think you are completely wrong about Care. He was second in the Premiership for assists this year and played well for most of the season in a a struggling side. I would certainly have him in preference to Youngs or Robson. His starts for England coincided with the England pack winning dreadfully slow ball and never really gave him a chance to show how much he has improved.

    1. I think Vellacott has a lot of potential, but he only appears sporadically for Gloucester, even with Heinz injured. Robson and Spencer are definitely ahead in the pecking order in my eyes.

  4. Woodward deserves to go on merit.
    Giving Shields a few minutes off the bench locks him in.
    Take Marcus Smith for the experience, by all means, but he ain’t the finished article, yet.

    An openside is desperately needed. Give GG a chance?


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