Why England players are backing under-fire Eddie
SPOTLIGHT: Sam Simmonds says England’s players are fully behind under-fire Eddie Jones as the head coach attempts to restore some pride to the team after another disappointing Six Nations campaign.
England could finish as low as fifth for a second successive year if they are defeated by Grand Slam-chasing France on Saturday and results in Cardiff and Dublin go against them.
Jones has faced questions over whether he is the right man to lead England into the 2023 World Cup but a battling 32-15 defeat to Ireland, fought out with 14 men for all but 82 seconds, has spared him greater scrutiny.
Exeter number eight Simmonds said Tuesday that the Australian still has the support of the players.
“Eddie’s experience in the game is amazing,” he said. “When he talks, boys listen. I feel like as a group, probably in this campaign more than any other, we’ve come together as a squad.
“Although that maybe hasn’t been reflected in the results against Scotland and Ireland, I feel like people could see at Twickenham on Saturday what it meant for us to play for England.
“Also, we’re not just playing for England, we’re playing for the coaches. It’s big to see that and how much confidence we have in what Eddie does and in how we play the game at the weekend.”
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France are strong favourites to win the first Six Nations crown for 12 years, with Ireland the only remaining rival for the title.
But Simmonds insists they are not impenetrable, with their colossal pack an asset but also a potential Achilles heel that can be exposed by a high-tempo game.
“They’ve got a lot to play for, but so have we,” he said. “They’re renowned for having a big pack but we’ve spoken a lot about how we can counteract what they do and potentially try to move them around a little bit more, to dampen down their strengths and turn them into weaknesses.
“They’ve got star players across the board, guys like Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack can pull things out of the hat like a lot of people can’t.”
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Max Malins has been omitted from the 28-man squad for the game in Paris, leaving Elliot Daly, Louis Lynagh and Joe Marchant as the options to replace him on the right wing.
Sam Underhill has been retained, pointing to his likely selection to fill the void at openside created by Tom Curry’s hamstring injury.
Hooker Jamie Blamire was a late replacement for Jamie George in the defeat to Ireland but he has lost that role to Nic Dolly, who is included in his place as Luke Cowan-Dickie recovers from a knee injury.