Six Nations Rugby: Eddie Jones names Owen Farrell captain for France clash after Dylan Hartley is ruled out

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Farrell will replace the injured Hartley as skipper.

Owen Farrell will lead England into Saturday’s clash with France after Dylan Hartley was ruled out of the Six Nations showdown in Paris by a tight calf.

Farrell, the team’s inside centre and goalkicker, starts as captain for the first time after Hartley conceded defeat in his battle with the injury sustained in training at the start of the week.

Hartley has been an ever-present under Eddie Jones, starting all but one of his 26 Tests in charge and always acting as skipper, and his absence at the Stade de France is part of the most radical team selection of the Australian’s reign.

Jamie George, the British and Irish Lions’ starting hooker against New Zealand last summer, is given the number two jersey while Mako Vunipola has been named vice-captain.

“Owen will be very proud to be captain but at the same time he’s disappointed for Dylan to miss out through injury. He knows the position of captain carries a lot of responsibility,” Jones said.

“We need to make sure we have one strong voice among the forward leaders and Mako has been doing some great work behind the scenes. He will step up and take that on officially against France.”

In total there are five changes – two of them positional – to the side defeated 25-13 by Scotland at Murrayfield on February 24.

Mike Brown has been dropped at full-back following his disappointing display in the Calcutta Cup, resulting in Anthony Watson moving from the wing and Elliot Daly being immediately reinstated after his recovery from ankle and calf injuries.

A further development of significance sees the power of Ben Te’o preferred to the quick feet of Jonathan Joseph at outside centre.

Ben Te'o has been picked ahead of Jonathan Joseph.

Ben Te’o has been picked ahead of Jonathan Joseph.

“Mike Brown has been excellent for us but he was a little bit off against Scotland and we’ve decided to start Anthony Watson there,” Jones said.

“We want to attack a little bit more so Anthony starts at full back with Elliot Daly on the left wing and Jonny May on the right wing. It’s a great back three for us.

“Elliot has come back into camp and is in really good fettle, moving well and he’s obviously a very good player having done so well for the Lions in the summer.

“It was always the plan – we felt we’d need someone a bit bigger and stronger on a slower track at the Stade de France and this is why Ben Te’o starts.”

Brown and Joseph are included on a heavily-changed bench that sees Luke Cowan-Dickie present as a reserve hooker.

Kyle Sinckler is back as tighthead prop cover – Harry Williams has been struggling with a neck problem – and is joined among the replacements by James Haskell and Sam Simmonds.

“This game is about the opportunity for the team to move forward and we want a response from the players this week,” Jones said.

“Against France we want to be brutal and aggressive on the gain line and to play with a great tactical discipline.”

England team to face France:

  1. Anthony Watson
  2. Jonny May
  3. Ben Te’o
  4. Owen Farrell (captain)
  5. Elliot Daly
  6. George Ford
  7. Danny Care
  1. Mako Vunipola
  2. Jamie George
  3. Dan Cole
  4. Joe Launchbury
  5. Maro Itoje
  6. Courtney Lawes
  7. Chris Robshaw
  8. Nathan Hughes

Replacements:

  1. Luke Cowan-Dickie
  2. Joe Marler
  3. Kyle Sinckler
  4. James Haskell
  5. Sam Simmonds
  6. Richard Wigglesworth
  7. Jonathan Joseph
  8. Mike Brown

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Six Nations: England finding their bite after Scotland loss says Jonny May

Alex Broun 8/03/2018
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Jonny May has revealed that the recent bite to training has forced the intervention of coaches as England look to relaunch their Six Nations title defence.

A 25-13 loss to Scotland produced only the second blemish of Eddie Jones‘ 26 Tests in charge and on Saturday France provide the opportunity to make amends for surrendering the Calcutta Cup.

Leicester wing May insists the fallout from Murrayfield has been evident in the squad’s practice sessions.

“There has been a bit of an edge in camp – a positive one,” May said.

“The boys have been training hard and smashing each other in training. You can just feel it.

“(Captain) Dylan Hartley leads it well. He always says, ‘Listen, we don’t want the coaches blowing their whistles, telling us to up it. We want the coaches blowing their whistles, telling us to rein it in.’

“That’s how it has been this last couple of weeks.

“There have been no dust-ups, but it has been physical. It has needed to be.”

England’s only previous experience of defeat under Jones came in last year’s Grand Slam game against Ireland, the anguish of that occasion heightened by the knowledge that the same group of players would not meet again until the autumn due to British and Irish Lions call-ups.

The Stade de France showdown offers the prospect of immediate redemption by fixing the shortcomings in defence, leadership and at the breakdown that were exposed in Edinburgh.

“It’s the first time that we’ve had a loss and stayed together. Last time after the Ireland loss we all went away,” May said.

“It’s a shame we didn’t have a game last weekend because we all wanted to get back out on the pitch.

“Sometimes it’s disappointing that you need to have a loss to have a reaction. That’s why we can be scratching our heads and thinking, ‘Why did this need to happen for us to feel this way?’.

“I don’t think we need to reinvent the wheel or go back to the drawing board because we’re a great team.

“It’s not that we were complacent or anything but sometimes you do get beaten and it does bring an edge and a desire to get back out there and put it right.

“It’s been pretty dark since. We’ve had to sit on the result for a couple of weeks. We were are all really disappointed and hard on ourselves.

“Now we want to go out there and show what it means. This is new territory for us. This is our opportunity to pull back together and learn as a group and push on.”

Dylan Hartley may not be fit to face France

Dylan Hartley may not be fit to face France

England name their team to face France on Thursday morning, with Hartley’s fitness the main source of concern.

The captain is struggling with a tight calf which has been monitored daily and is subject to a fitness test, with Jamie George on stand-by to start at hooker and Owen Farrell the probable replacement as captain.

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Six Nations: Maro Itoje's dip in form down to "second-season syndrome", says England coach Eddie Jones

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Eddie Jones insists “second-season syndrome” explains Maro Itoje’s slide in form since last summer’s British and Irish Lions tour.

In between making his debut against Italy two years ago and helping the Lions record a drawn Test series against New Zealand, the England lock’s international career was an unqualified success that included a World Rugby player of the year nomination.

He was used sparingly during the autumn and – having subsequently recovered from a fractured jaw – he has struggled to make an impact after three rounds of the 2018 Six Nations title defence.

While Jones has pointed out that the nation which supplies most players to a Lions tour traditionally labours through the next season, he believes there is a different source for Itoje hitting a plateau.

“Maro is second-season syndrome. First season, no one knows what’s your best shot, no one knows where you score runs,” Jones said.

Eddie Jones of England

“Second season, everyone knows and they take that away from you. And you’ve got to find a different way to score runs. That’s what he’s finding at the moment.

“It’s a great exercise for him, because by the time he gets to the World Cup he’ll be in his third year.

“He is going to be a great player for us. What he’s going through at the moment is very natural.”

Jones believes opponents have found a way to nullify Itoje’s presence at the heart of the forward battle, but is backing the 23-year-old to emerge stronger from an experience that he believes is drawing the best from him.

“Maro is an energetic player who gets a lot of his energy from around the ruck, but he is just not being given that opportunity,” Jones said.

“He is a very diligent and serious player. I have been really impressed by him. He has done remarkably well.

“In fact, I am more impressed by him this season than I was last season because he is working hard to improve his game, he understands he has to improve his game.

“He has to work it out himself but the coaches assist him in steering him in one direction to prioritise his time and effort.

Maro Itoje 1

“A lot of players get stuck in second-season syndrome. It’s difficult, particularly when you come out of the blocks in the first season because you not only carry the expectation, you carry more attention from other players.”

England head to Paris for Saturday’s match against France with their title defence delicately poised following a 25-13 defeat to Scotland that has placed Ireland at the forefront of the chase for supremacy in Europe.

“History shows that the team that has the most Lions struggles in the Six Nations,” Jones said.

“There’s a lot of reasons to understand why. We had 16 players on the Lions tour. I always knew this was going to be a tough year, but we haven’t used that as an excuse and we don’t intend to.

“We’ve had to manage players differently, we’ve had to train players differently. We’re getting to the end of it now. I’m starting to see some light about where the players can be.

“But certainly, you’ve got that many players playing a post-season tour – that is three or four times longer than a normal tour – and it’s going to have an effect.”

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