Eddie Jones’ England selection has made the Georgia clash intriguing rather than a dull formality… and the stand-out inclusions of Jack Willis and Ollie Lawrence are just reward for their fantastic club form
- England have handed Jack Willis and Ollie Lawrence starts against Georgia
- Their starts in the Autumn Nations Cup is down to their outstanding club form
- England host Georgia in their opening Autumn Nations Cup game on Saturday
- It is Eddie Jones’ side’s first match since they triumphed in the Six Nations
This England selection by Eddie Jones adds considerable interest to what could have been a bland occasion.
A home banker against Georgia is an ideal opportunity to assess Jack Willis and Ollie Lawrence as Test prospects.
Those are the stand-out inclusions; the Wasps flanker and Worcester centre who will start at Twickenham as due reward for outstanding club form.
Jack Willis is certainly worthy of his starting spot after a stunning campaign with Wasps
Ollie Lawrence will provide Eddie Jones’ side with a vital ability to blast over the gainline
Willis is especially worthy of this debut after a stunning domestic campaign which saw him claim RPA and Premiership Player of the Year awards. Instead of flying in the face of so much acclaim from public and pundits, Jones has decided that the jackal master has earned his shot on merit.
With the uncapped Willis lining up at openside and Lawrence – who came off the bench in Rome for his debut – in the wider midfield channel, there will be a keen sense of anticipation about how this revamped England team will function and knit together.
Lawrence should provide a vital ability to blast over the gainline, while Willis will be expected to showcase his breakdown prowess, his power in defence and his all-round energy and work-rate.
Jones insisted he does not experiment and after days of talk about the concept of ‘hybrid’ players, this England line-up is largely devoid of square pegs in round holes.
Jones’ side begin their Autumn Nations Cup campaign at home to Georgia on Saturday
Ollie Thorley will not be given the chance to demonstrate his pace and predatory instincts
Jonathan Joseph starts on the wing but the established centre has done that before. Maro Itoje is at blindside flanker, but the Saracen is another who has long since proved his versatility.
Those who follow the club game will be disappointed not to see Gloucester wing Ollie Thorley given a chance to demonstrate his pace and predatory instincts, but at least Max Malins is poised for a debut from the bench, as another electric back-three runner.
Likewise, Wasps scrum-half Dan Robson would have hoped for a start this weekend in recognition of his recent form, but the head coach has evidently decided not to meddle with the creative hub of a side still seeking fluency.
However, it is striking how much change there is in the front five, for a Test against a country renowned for their pack power. Ellis Genge and Will Stuart can prove their scrummaging credentials while Charlie Ewels and Joe Launchbury can offer leadership and physical clout in the second row.
It is another formidable England side more than capable of dispatching out-classed opponents. But, crucially, the selection changes will make the whole process intriguing, rather than a dull formality.
Jones has decided not to meddle with the creative hub, with Dan Robson named on the bench
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