Springboks

England vulnerable as Boks head to Twickenham

2018-11-02 08:25
Eddie Jones (Getty)

London - A crisis-relieving victory in the final Test of England's rugby tour of South Africa in June gave Eddie Jones some breathing space amid mounting criticism of his tenure.

A loss to the Springboks on Saturday at the start of a tough-looking schedule of November Tests might see the doom-mongers return in force.

Less than a year out from the Rugby World Cup, coach Jones - and the England team as a whole - remains in a vulnerable place.

Just this summer, England were on a six-match losing run, a dramatic slump after the record-tying 18-match winning streak at the start of Jones' reign. A load of injuries have hit the playing squad hard. Just as unsettled is Jones' backroom staff, where there has been a high turnover in recent months including the departure of defence coach Paul Gustard in May.

Then there are some eyebrow-raising squad selections - the continued omission of in-form flyhalf Danny Cipriani, for example - that have been jumped on by critics.

For the game against South Africa at Twickenham, Jones picked Ben Te'o in midfield despite the centre having played only 28 minutes of rugby for Worcester since May due to thigh and calf injuries. Openside flanker Brad Shields got the call to a loose trio containing just 10 caps, even though he is struggling for form at club level with Wasps. Owen Farrell was handed a start in the No 10 jersey for only the third time, with long-time flyhalf George Ford dropped to the bench.

After a brilliant first two years in the job, when everything he touched turned to gold, Jones appears to be scratching around for a new formula with the Rugby World Cup in Japan looming. It was relatively easy to name England's best line-up amid their long winning run.

That's not the case anymore.

The Springboks look in good shape to add to the turmoil surrounding the England team. Beating the All Blacks 36-34 in September for a first victory in New Zealand in nine years was another confidence-booster after winning the Test series against England 2-1 over the summer.

They almost made it two straight wins over the world champions, but conceded two late tries to lose 32-30 in the final match of the Rugby Championship at the start of October. Still, the Boks played about as well as they had done all season.

South Africa will have Duane Vermeulen back after the No 8 missed the entire Rugby Championship after signing with Kubota Spears in Japan. With Warren Whiteley also back from a groin injury, the Springboks have a new and formidable loose trio led by captain Siya Kolisi.

Several European-based players, including lock Franco Mostert and backs Faf de Klerk, Willie le Roux and Cheslin Kolbe, are unavailable because the Test is outside the international window.

Kick-off is at 17:00 (SA time) on Saturday.

Teams

England

15 Elliot Daly, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ben Te’o, 11 Jonny May, 10 Owen Farrell (co-captain), 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Mark Wilson, 7 Tom Curry, 6 Brad Shields, 5 George Kruis, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Dylan Hartley (co-captain), 1 Alec Hepburn 

Substitutes: 16 Jamie George, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Harry Williams, 19 Charlie Ewels, 20 Zach Mercer, 21 Danny Care, 22 George Ford, 23 Chris Ashton

South Africa

15 Damian Willemse, 14 S’bu Nkosi, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Duane Vermeulen, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Steven Kitshoff

Substitutes: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Thomas du Toit, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 RG Snyman, 20 Lood de Jager, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Andre Esterhuizen

Read more on:    england  |  springboks  |  eddie jones  |  rugby
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