Touching Wood

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Another Eddie Jones’ selection, another eyebrow raised. Tom Wood’s inclusion has people talking. In selecting the Northampton man, Jones knows he has made a surprising choice. In press conference, Jones talked about Wood’s work ethic and hair. “Tom Wood is like Samson. He gets stronger with long hair and a beard”. This semi-flippant response is typical of Jones, evading genuine enquiry, especially one which has merit, with levity. His work ethic is good but as the following stats show (and surely that’s where work ethic will display itself?), there are other players who are unlucky to miss out.

Of course, Tom Wood has played for England before. He understands an international environment, that may well have come into Jones’ thinking. But he is playing for a club side struggling at the moment. Their performance against Castres was, by many accounts, the worst for some time. I think some Saints’ fans would be surprised by his inclusion.

I can’t help think, by looking at these stats, that the good work of some players in the Premiership is being ignored. Jones will know what he wants though and, of course, he has the ultimate choice. Wood has come along way in Jones’ estimation having been referred to as ‘distinctly average’ by the Australian at the start of the year. Like he has with Jones, Tom Wood, if given the chance, will have to prove people wrong.

The stats below are taken from OPTA and from the first 6 weeks of this year’s Aviva Premiership campaign. There are mitigating factors; the positions these players have played in these games, the way their team sets itself up and game plans, team mates, opposition etc.

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Other than that, the England squad to face the likes of South Africa this autumn is pretty much as expected. There is the curious issue of naming Ben Morgan when he wasn’t named in the earlier EPS announcement, in favour of Josh Beaumont, who was. I’m not entirely sure what the point of an EPS squad is, if you’re going to ignore it. I would have liked to see a few more ‘new’ players given an opportunity for these forthcoming tests. And I suppose that is what niggles about Wood’s inclusion. It seems a retrograde step. He has previously been an excellent player for both club and country. Is he now?

This November and December, England will play the teams vying for the label of second best team in the world. Their back row will have to be top drawer to deal with the talent coming their way. Will it be good enough? Eddie Jones is touching wood.

 Sam Roberts © 2016. (Text only). All Rights Reserved

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