Eddie Jones yesterday announced his squad to tour South Africa this summer following a lack lustre Six Nations campaign.
Whilst it is safe to say Jones’s honeymoon period as England coach is now over his selections have the ring of a bride to be – “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue”…
Jones has decided to rest a number of players after a heavy season following last season’s Lions tour. Notable absentees include Captain Dylan Hartley, who is given time to recover properly from a further concussion injury sustained playing for England against Ireland in March, Jonathan Joseph and Anthony Watson to name but a few.
In light of those rested, Jones has given a first call up since 2015 for in form Danny Cipriani who first played for England some 10 years ago. At only 30 years old Cipriani will be hoping his form will gloss over past off field misdemeanours that have seen his International career falter.
There are eight uncapped players in the 34 man squad with call ups amongst others for 20 year old Saracens back rower Ben Earls, 21 year old Wasps flanker Jack Willis and 23 year old second row Jonny Hill from Exeter.
Jones’s willingness to experiment with youth will no doubt go down well with those who fear there is a lack of depth in the current squad in the event of injury and when the current crop of senior player retire.
Perhaps the most controversial of the new recruits is 27 year old New Zealand born Brad Shields who was captain of the Wellington Hurricanes before having his contract cancelled by the NZRFU and who qualifies for England through his parents who were born in England.
Shields, who has signed for Wasps for next season, was contracted centrally by the NZRFU until the end of August and the NZRFU initially refused to release him early for England’s summer tour despite Shields stating a desire to play for England.
The RFU invoked World Rugby’s Regulation 9, which covers the ‘Availability of Players’, specifically Regulation 9.2 which states:
“A Union, Association, Rugby Body or Club is obliged to release a Player to the Union for which the Player is eligible when selected by such Union for a National Representative Team or National Squad in accordance with the provisions of this Regulation 9.”
As Shields is qualified for England, and the Tour takes place during the June Window, one of the two designated Global Release Periods (see Regulation 9.7), it is difficult to see how the NZRFU could have prevented Shields from going on tour, contractually or otherwise.
Regulation 9.3 specifically states:
“No Union, Association, Rugby Body or Club whether by contract, conduct or otherwise may inhibit, prevent, discourage, disincentivise or render unavailable any Player from selection, attendance and appearance in a National Representative Team or National Squad session when such request for selection, attendance and appearance is made in accordance with the provisions of this Regulation 9. Any agreement and/or arrangement between a Player and a Rugby Body or Club or between a Union or an Association and a Rugby Body or Club (and/or any proposal made and/or attempted to be made howsoever communicated) which is contrary to this Regulation 9.3 is prohibited, including, but not limited to any agreement and/or arrangement and/or proposal pursuant to which a Player is (or would be) unable to exercise the right to play for a Union.”
Finally, Jones has surprised some by picking 18 year old school boy Cameron Redpath, son of former Scotland scrum-half and captain Bryan and who played age group rugby for Scotland.
Redpath, who currently attends Sedbergh School, which has produced a number of notable England centres including both Will Greenwood and Will Carling, impressed in the U20 Six Nations and recently made his senior debut for Sale in January.
Jones will no doubt hope the marriage of young and old, new and experienced, will provide the required combination to beat a resurgent South Africa over three tests in a country where England have not experienced a lot of success.
If not, perhaps divorce will be on the cards for England and Jones…