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“You can’t win anything with kids,” Alan Hansen famously bellowed in a takedown of Manchester United after their 3-1 defeat by Aston Villa 24 years ago. Clearly, nobody told Eddie Jones.
On Friday morning, Jones named England’s second-youngest starting XV at a Rugby World Cup, with an average age of just 26 years and 170 days – a number that is drastically lowered by 21-year-old Tom Curry who will become England’s third youngest World Cup player after Manu Tuilagi and Joe Cokanasiga.
With seven players aged 26 or younger, Jones has doubled-down on his initial squad selection by backing youth over experience, having axed a number of established players last month. While this is very much his strongest available squad – with Mako Vunipola and Jack Nowell unavailable through injury – it is still something of a gamble to include so many young players.
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A further four players feature among the replacements who fall into that age bracket, and while the opening match against Tonga will not be the be all and end all of England’s campaign, but when the bigger tests arrive in the form of Argentina and France, will they have the mental strength to see out the match?
We’ve seen in the past how England have struggled in this department. Jones’s side should have beaten Wales in the Six Nations last February, only to slip from a dominant position to defeat that cost them the championship. Barely a month later, England saw a 31-0 lead over Scotland unravel spectacularly at Twickenham that saw Owen Farrell’s leadership questioned and the
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