So, did you get all the names right in Eddie Jones first England squad for the 2016 RBS Six Nations?
I thought not! We all expected the Aussie import would make brave decisions and he hasn’t disappointed. England begin their Six Nations campaign with a trip to Murrayfield to face Scotland on Saturday 6th February and there will be new faces a plenty.
But is he right?
With the dust settling on Wednesday’s announcement of his 33-strong England rugby squad for the Six Nations there is time to reflect on the wider implications. They are intriguing and still plenty of room for argument among fans and armchair know-it-alls.
A host of players have been shown the door following the failure to qualify for the knockout stages of last year’s home World Cup.
Chris Robshaw is retained but no Tom Wood, Brad Barritt, Geoff Parling, Ben Morgan, Tom Youngs or Joe Marler. Morgan and Parling have been hampered by injury, but hard-as-nails Wood is a surprise outcast. As is Youngs.
If you opt for flair at centre then there is no place for the more defensive-minded Barritt.And, if the World Cup failure told us anything, it is that England need more from their centres.
No Luther Burrell either and Danny Cipriani has again missed out despite fine form for Sale.
Hard to see where that leaves Cipriani – a case of mercurial brilliance unfulfilled at the highest level. What a tragedy. Indeed the pivotal positions, fly half and scrum half, are little changed.
It is Ford and Farrell again at No 10, surely something of a disappointment. They don’t frighten the very best.
At No 9 it remains Ben Youngs or Danny Care. Both have a talent for making a game-changing break.
Jones has chosen to recall Dylan Hartley from disciplinary exile but the equally excitable Manu Tuilagi is deemed temporarily not fit enough to join the squad after a long injury layoff.
However Chris Ashton returns on the wing.
Perhaps no surprise that the abrasive Hartley is back – legendary England captain Martin Johnson was no angel either, but led from the front.
New stars to lead the way in the Six Nations
A host of uncapped players show Jones’ faith in youth – Josh Beaumont, Jack Clifford, Elliot Daly, Ollie Devoto, Paul Hill, Sam Hill and Maro Itoje. The Magnificent Seven will add pace, passion and desire. They will want to make an impression. Have they been blooded too early? Jones doesn’t think so.
Versatility is to the fore – Saracens 21 year old Itoje covers lock and blindside flanker while Sale’s Beaumont, son of RFU chairman Bill Beaumont, can switch between lock and No 8.
Itoje, a former Harrow School pupil, was captain of the England Under 20 side who won the junior World Cup in 2014. He believes he is ready.
He said: “Given the opportunity, I think I would do well. I am confident in my ability. If I am put in that situation I think I will give a good account of myself.”
Mark McCall, Saracens’ director of rugby, noted: “He has brought real consistency to his performances. He makes things happen on and off the ball. His lineout intellect and knowledge is growing, but he’s a young player and people have to realise that there’s more to come.”
Daly has been talked about a lot and come through the England age groups. He is quick, defensively solid, with game awareness.
Clifford too has long been tipped for greatness, can play across the back row but is the great hope for the open side No 7 slot where England were so shockingly exposed by Wales and Australia.
Gloucester’s Matt Kvesic is also an open side – clearly Jones is well aware of the need to sort the position out. Which leaves Robshaw on the blind … if that is he isn’t left warming the bench.
In all, 13 players from the disgraced World Cup squad are absent from the 33 with Henry Slade, Kieran Brookes and Jonny May injured and Sam Burgess having converted back to rugby league.
Others dropped are Rob Webber, David Wilson and Richard Wigglesworth.
We are seeing the end of an era and every England supporter hopes a bright new and exciting world of rugby will follow. It all starts in the 2016 Six Nations.