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There will be plenty of sleepless nights ahead for the England squad that heads to Japan, but Sunday night can be counted as the first. Eddie Jones names his ‘final’ 31-man squad today and, in doing so, will make the dreams of certain players and kill off those of the unlucky few that fail to make the cut.
It is the toughest decision that any head coach will face at international level, and it is not uncommon for the omitted players to experience in one single moment a sense of hatred and resentment towards the person that has cost them their World Cup dream. Sure, there will be selection calls to make further down the line that will have a much bigger impact on England’s fate, but fail to make the 31 and it’s an autumn spent thinking ‘what could have been’.
World Cup selection is a complicated matter at the best of times, yet throw Jones into the mix and it becomes increasingly difficult to predict what will happen over the next 24 hours.
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But that has also rubbed off on the players. After four years of working under the Australian’s control, Jonny May has learned that trying to predict what Jones will do is the chief cause of those sleepless nights. Instead, the England wing will attempt to put selection out of his head and accept that whatever will be will be – though with 14 tries in his 16 Tests since the start of 2018, his place on the plane is as assured as they come.
“If there wasn’t a game on Sunday, it would be a bit more edgy,” May said. “Obviously we are always doing things for the team, but you’d be kidding yourself if you said it wasn’t a bit ‘I’ve got to get over him for that selection on Monday’.
“I’ve been here for a few years now and the worst trap you can fall into is trying to second-guess what Eddie’s thinking. That will definitely keep you up at night and you’ll certainly never get it right either. If he picks you, it could be the best or the worst thing. Just get on with it. Trust what he’s doing. Focus on yourself.
“It is uncomfortable but that’s the nature of our job. That’s what we’ve got to deal with. We have pressure of playing, pressure of selection, pr
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