HEAD COACH Eddie Jones insists the vision of Owen Farrell and George Ford acts as the catalyst for England’s “collective talent” to flourish
Farrell and Ford were the ringmasters of Sunday’s seven-try NatWest Six Nations rout of Italy in Rome, the twin playmakers combining to unpick the defence with crisp passing and clinically-executed moves.
While Jones claims the make-up of his midfield remains open to revision, he believes the basis for English success is operating as a team that is greater than the sum of his parts.
“We don’t have a lot of big carriers so we’ve got to be inventive in how we play,” said Jones.
“The pleasing thing against Italy was that we invented stuff that gave us momentum. George and Owen together, they see the game better than anyone.
“I still don’t know if my view of those two has changed. The best option may be Ford and Ben Te’o, the best option might be Farrell and Ben Te’o, or we might want Alex Lozowski in there.
“We’re not sure, but we keep looking and George and Owen together give us plenty of options.
“They’re getting a great understanding together on how to play and use their collective talent. Those are key words for us because our game is based on collective talent.
“We don’t have a lot of guys individually who can run through brick walls, so we’ve got to do it through collective talent.”
Jones was delighted by the dominance of his scrum in the successful start to their title defence at the Stadio Olimpico, describing it as the best set-piece performance of his reign and adding “that’s English rugby”.
The Australian credits scrum coach Neal Hatley and the leftfield contribution of consultant Marc dal Maso for the improvements made.
“It did well because of great work done by Neal Hatley and also great physical development by the players. They’ve got stronger and are more flexible so we can scrum lower,” Jones said.
“It’s because of a combination of the players and coaches working together. We’ve obviously prioritised it.
“Del Maso has floated in. He’s a crazy scientist who has got the perfect picture of a scrum in his head. I’ve never met a bloke like him. He brings something different because he’s got so many unusual thoughts.
“He might bring six things forward and one of them will be absolutely brilliant. It’s a great resource for us to have him there. He floats in, floats out, brings one or two ideas and we work out whether it’s good for us to do it.”
England face a six-day turnaround before Saturday’s clash with Wales at Twickenham, scheduling that hinders the champions in the view of Warren Gatland who insists it “makes a big difference”.
But Jones said: “We’ll adapt to it. We’re going to ride a slightly different pattern that I’ve found successful in the past to get teams to recover and by Saturday we’ll be flying.”
England have called up Richard Wigglesworth to replace injured Ben Youngs on Saturday.
Youngs suffered knee ligament damage in the seven-try rout of Italy on Sunday and will miss at least the Twickenham showdown with Gatland’s men and possibly the entire tournament.
The Leicester scrum-half’s name was missing from the 32 summoned to England’s Surrey training base, confirming Wigglesworth will provide cover for Danny Care as a replacement against Wales.
A scan undertaken yesterday will determine Youngs’s fate and it is also an important week for Nathan Hughes, who is to be assessed by medics to see whether he will play any role in this Six Nations.
His participation is threatened by a knee injury sustained in December, although the Fijian-born No 8 was expected to be back for the latter rounds.
The absence of Billy Vunipola, who will sit out the entire Championship with his own knee problem, will mean Hughes’s availability would be a substantial boost, even if Sam Simmonds demonstrated in Rome that he is an exciting alternative.
Youngs’s misfortune could enable Care to become England’s most capped scrum-half as a starter.
Leeds-born Care stepped off the bench to equal Matt Dawson’s record of 77 Red Rose appearances in the No 9 jersey and with Youngs stricken, a place in the starting XV now awaits.
“You never want to see a bad injury like that and I was gutted to see Ben in so much pain,” Care said. “First thing’s first, he’s a good mate as well as a competitor for the shirt. He’s in pain and all our thoughts are with him.”