Owen Farrell This is one magnificent add-on.
The time of dress rehearsals is almost up.
After England’s fringe players were ushered into the spotlight in two World Cup warm-up matches against Wales, something closer to a first-choice XV tuned up against Ireland.
The improvement was stark. England ran in eight tries in a resounding 57-15 victory to give coach head coach Eddie Jones plenty of positives to review his squad.
However, with just a warm-up against Italy to come before they fly out to Japan – with their opening World Cup match against Tonga on 22 September – there are still a few areas to give Jones pause for thought.
First, three positives…
1. Back-row balance
Jones spoke about the need for “Samurai spirit” when he named his squad. On Thursday, he ticked off another Japanese analogy when he referred to flankers Tom Curry and Sam Underhill as the “kamikaze kids” in honour of their full-blooded commitment.
With Billy Vunipola a certainty to fill the number eight shirt, Jones has long tinkered with the rest of his back row to bring the right mix of ball-carrying physicality and turnover-pinching street smarts.
Jones hoped that by naming Curry and Underhill – both all-action specialist open-sides – in his XV he would win a decisive advantage in the breakdown ground war.
Not only did they help secure England fast, clean ball, but they combined beautifully with ball in hand as Curry scored England’s sixth try.
Ironically, when Jones took charge of England, the Australian bemoaned t
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