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What next for England squad after disastrous Six Nations?

W

ith the dust barely settled on England’s disastrous Six Nations campaign, head coach Eddie Jones has already promised personnel changes following this summer’s Lions tour.

Here, Will Macpherson assesses how to the current squad fared during the tournament – and what comes next…

Back three

Anthony Watson was magnificent, scoring four tries in the tournament. On the opposite flank, it was a mixed bag for Jonny May, who finished brilliantly against Italy and did the hard yards against France. They are very settled as the first-choice wings.

Full-back is a position in flux. Elliot Daly has struggled for a while, and it was the right call to promote Max Malins, who is more of a natural in the position. It was a shame, then, that Malins was ruled out injured in Dublin, denying him game time and pushing Daly out of centre, where he would rather play. Daly deserves a shot elsewhere, but probably has to settle for the No23 shirt. 

Spare a thought for Paolo Odogwu, who was with England throughout and did not get a go – even when Malins was injured at the last minute. Jones opted instead for an extra forward, George Martin. 

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Centre

Ollie Lawrence cannot catch a break. Got a start in the horror defeats that bookended the tournament, but did not make an impression. Henry Slade is a classy operator who England are still not getting the best out of, even if his partnership with Owen Farrell was growing before his injury. England are much worse when Manu Tuilagi is absent. 

Half-backs

Ben Youngs retains a firm grip on the No9 jersey, whatever happens with his form. Desire for change is understandable, but Dan Robson hardly made a positive impression when given a go off the bench. At fly-half, George Ford had a poor game against Ireland. Ford is a frustrating player: so gifted, a vital leader, and with a coach-like understanding of the game’s tactics, but sometimes that does not translate onto the field. 

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Front row

This feels a department in transition. At hooker, Jamie George started slowly, but did not do too much wrong throughout the campaign. Has Luke Cowan-Dickie overtaken him as the preferred starter? A messy showing in Dublin probably has not helped. Both remain likely Lions, so other options will be introduced this summer.

Kyle Sinckler was utterly dominant at tighthead (worryingly so?). On the loosehead, with Joe Marler absent, Ellis Genge did not kick on as England would have hoped, and Mako Vunipola was leaking penalties at an alarming rate by the end of the campaign. Beno Obano needs more of a go than a couple of minutes at the end of the Scotland defeat. 

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Lock 

Perhaps the area that tested England’s depth, with George Kruis overseas and Courtney Lawes and Joe Launchbury missing most or all of the campaign.

Maro Itoje was an ever-present, of course, and his game became a little messy with a lot on his plate. The return of Charlie Ewels alongside him helped, because Jonny Hill is just a little raw and ill-disciplined. 

Back-row

Tom Curry was outstanding, and the fact that he did the post-match media while Farrell had his HIA after the Ireland game shows his status as a future England captain. He missed his mate Sam Underhill, who was prevented from a recall after injury because of Covid red tape. 

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Billy Vunipola, like the other Saracens, started poorly, but was excellent against Wales and France. 

Otherwise, things were a little bitty. Mark Wilson was solid but unspectacular, Jack Willis picked up a horrible injury, while George Martin got a few minutes against Ireland. Ben Earl has still not started, but perhaps cannot complain; his main impression off the bench has been giving penalties away. 


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