‘It’s been a difficult squad to pick’: Eddie Jones bemoans loss of nine ‘very good players’ for Six Nations finale but insists he is happy with his squad as he defends decision to leave out Exeter pair Sam and Joe Simmonds
England coach Eddie Jones will be forced to shake up his backline after George Ford and Elliot Daly were ruled out for ‘a couple of weeks’.
Both players are mainstays in England’s matchday 23, but they have been sidelined by Achilles and shin injuries respectively.
The situation could force Jones to blood new talent for Saturday’s Six Nations finale against Italy, with rookies Jacob Umaga and Ollie Lawrence both in contention.
England head coach Eddie Jones says he has ‘nine very good players’ unavailable to face Italy
Elliot Daly, pictured in training earlier this month, is among those struggling with injury
‘They won’t be available for a couple of weeks,’ confirmed Jones.
‘It’s been a difficult squad to pick, probably a little bit different to any squad we’ve had to pick before. We’ve got nine very good players unavailable. We’ve had a congested club season which has provided selection challenges because of some of the mismatches in games.
‘But I’m very happy with the squad. We’ve got a nice balance in there of experienced players and I think 25 per cent of the squad is uncapped players, so there are opportunities for some young talent to come through.
‘We’ve had two great mini camps and a great week in training. We’re looking forward to getting on to the field and doing the business.’
Umaga has been brought into the squad after impressing at No 10 during Wasps’ charge to the Premiership final.
‘Jacob is a young guy at 10 who attacks the line and has plenty of courage in the way he plays,’ said Jones.
‘He’s a solid defender and is one of the reasons why Wasps did so well. We had him in camp earlier in this Six Nations and we were impressed by what he did, so we’re looking forward to working with him again.’
Despite the injury list, Jones did not select in-form Exeter brothers Sam and Joe Simmonds.
No 8 Sam Simmonds was named European Player of the Year, while Joe Simmonds captained Exeter to their double trophy success.
‘I’ve spoken to both of those boys to make sure they have an understanding of the situation,’ said Jones.
‘Ultimately selection is a judgement situation there are people out there who think certain players should be in and people who think certain players shouldn’t be .
‘At the end of the day. it’s my judgement call with the coaches. We do due diligence – I’ve done about 8,000 miles over the last three months going to watch players live, watching what they do in the warm up, watching every bit of play and we’ve come to the decision this is the best 36.
‘There are a number of good players out there who will be massively disappointed and they are two of them.’