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What's new with Eddie Jones' England as Ireland prep for Twickenham tussle?

The English have a new forwards coach, attack coach, number eight, and fullback.

WHILE THE VAST majority of the England set-up from their march to the World Cup final remains the same, Eddie Jones has made a couple of tweaks since the defeat to South Africa in the decider.

Here, we take a look at the new elements that Ireland will face this weekend in Twickenham.

Matt Proudfoot

After watching his England pack get monstered by the Springboks in the World Cup final, Jones went out and recruited the South Africans’ forwards coach without delay.

england-scrum-coach-matt-proudfoot-222020 Proudfoot has joined from the Springboks. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Of course, the departure of scrum specialist Neal Hatley to Bath and lineout guru Steve Borthwick’s impending move to Leicester meant Jones needed to fill England’s forwards coach position, but he has done well to lure Proudfoot into his set-up.

48-year-old Proudfoot is a native of South Africa but he played four Tests as a prop for Scotland – his final appearance coming in a defeat to Ireland in 2003 – as he qualified through his grandfather. He had stints with Edinburgh and Glasgow, as well as playing for the Bulls and Leopards in his homeland.

Proudfoot started coaching at university level and then moved into the professional game with Western Province and the Stormers before heading for a spell in Japan with the Kobe Steelers.

Allister Coetzee brought Proudfoot into the Springbok set-up in 2016 and though he was expected to leave when Erasmus took over in late 2017, the scrum specialist apparently insisted on fulfilling his contract through until the 2019 World Cup.

That worked out well for Erasmus, clearly, and Proudfoot’s reputation as a technically-strong and open-minded forwards coach grew as the Boks built momentum towards glory in Japan.

The English scrum has been strong in this Six Nations so far with a 95% return on their own feed, as well as five scrum penalties earned on their put-in. They haven’t turned over an opposition scrum in their two games so far.

With Borthwick remaining in the England set-up until the end of this Six Nations, the lineout remains excellent with a 90% success rate on their own throw so far, while they have stolen more opposition throws than anyone else at 19%. 

We perhaps saw Proudfoot’s imprint with the midfield maul England set-up early in their first game against France – something the Boks had success with in the World Cup final. The South African has some superb forwards to work with, of course, and England’s pack will likely ask some serious questions of Ireland on Sunday.

Simon Amor

Jones has another new assistant coach, with former England 7s captain Amor replacing attack coach Scott Wisemantel, who departed home to join Dave Rennie’s Australia set-up after the World Cup.

simon-amor Simon Amor was a left-field appointment. Source: Andrew Fosker/INPHO

Amor has been head coach of the England 7s team since 2013, while he was also in charge of the Great Britain team that won silver at the 2016 Olympics. Following this Six Nations, he will re-join England for the 2020 Olympics and then return to Jones’ set-up full-time after the Games.

40-year-old Amor is certainly a leftfield appointment. He played 15s rugby as a scrum-half with Gloucester, Wasps, and London Scottish, among others, but was best known as the captain of the England 7s.

After retiring from playing, he was head coach and then director of rugby in 15s with London Scottish, before making the move back into 7s with England. 

Upon appointing Amor – who did some work with England before the World Cup – Jones praised his “dynamism and rugby intellect” while highlighting that the former World Rugby 7s player of the year will give England “a fresh view on how we build our attack.” 

The sense is that Jones naturally has the major say in how England attack, but it will be interesting to see how this side of their game develops or otherwise. The kick-heavy win over Scotland gave us very little evidence of what England want to do in attack, so the hope is that there is more on show this weekend. 

George Furbank

Jones backed Elliot Daly as England’s first-choice fullback throughout the build-up to the World Cup and all the way into the final despite many critics arguing that Daly was better suited on the wing.

france-v-england-guinness-six-nations-stade-de-france Furbank has been excellent for Northampton this season. Source: David Davies

In England’s two games since, Jones has abandoned the idea, with Daly shifted to the number 11 shirt. Northampton’s George Furbank – a natural fullback – has been the beneficiary in winning his first two caps at 15.

The 23-year-old’s debut in Paris did not go well as he dropped the ball early on when England had worked a clear try-scoring chance and Furbank never looked totally composed thereafter, though more experienced players around him had similar struggles.

The dire weather in Murrayfield last time out also meant we didn’t get a chance to see the gliding running style and clever evasion skills that have made Furbank such a success under Chris Boyd at Northampton this season. 

If Jones sticks with him again this weekend, Furbank will hope he can deliver solidity against Ireland’s kicking game, while also demonstrating more of his attacking quality.

Tom Curry at 8

When Billy Vunipola was ruled out of the Six Nations, many England fans expected Jones to turn to Harlequins’ in-form Alex Dombrandt, Exeter Chiefs’ Sam Simmonds, or even Bristol’s Nathan Hughes at number eight.

tom-curry-ben-youngs-celebrates-as-ellis-genge-scores-a-try Tom Curry celebrates as England score against Scotland. Source: Andrew Fosker/INPHO

Instead, Jones has shifted flanker Tom Curry into a position he had no previous experience of. That showed in Paris with a few incidences of miscontrol at the base of the scrum, but Curry improved notably in that area and all others against Scotland.

The 21-year-old is a remarkable athletic specimen with the intelligence and skillset to adapt to number eight. Jones is a huge fan of Curry, having handed him his Test debut at the age of 18. 

In recent times, Curry has worn the number six jersey for England but Jones’ sense is that there is much more to the Sale Sharks flanker than just hammering into tackles and carries. Curry has a fine passing and offloading skills, and Jones is backing him to show more of those.

With Vunipola set to miss the entire Six Nations, it seems Jones’ backing of Curry at number eight will continue. It’s an unorthodox selection, of course, but the England head coach believes Curry can emulate former All Black Rodney So’oialo, who successfully shifted from flanker to number eight.

“I think Tom can be a Rodney So’oialo-type player: a mobile, hard-running number eight that has ball skills,” said Jones. “We can’t find another Billy so we won’t go down that track. We’ll find a different sort of player.”

Ben Earl

The 22-year-old Saracens man was touted as another possibility at number eight for England. An openside flanker by trade, Earl has been used off the base of the scrum by Sarries, allowing him to show his eye-opening acceleration and power.

scotland-six-nations-rugby Ben Earl celebrates Ellis Genge's try against Scotland. Source: Scott Heppell

Earl made his Test debut at openside last weekend, replacing Sam Underhill after the Bath man delivered a sublime shift. There weren’t many opportunities for Earl to show his dynamism as he carried just twice, but he had a clever involvement for Ellis Genge’s crucial try, latching into the space on the prop’s right to shield him from a tackle attempt.

Earl is an explosive player who Jones has had his eye on for some time, having brought the Saracens man on England’s tour of South Africa in 2018 without capping him.

After a first bow in Murrayfield, Earl will be hopeful of further opportunity against Ireland.

England have had one other new cap in this Six Nations, with Bath’s 23-year-old tighthead Will Stuart playing for seven minutes off the bench against France before being an unused replacement versus Scotland along with his uncapped Bath team-mate and hooker Tom Dunn.

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Murray Kinsella

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