Analysis: Jones goes back to tried and tested for ‘fascinating’ finish

There is still a Championship to be won for England on Saturday, as long as Ireland do them a favour in Cardiff.

There is still a Championship to be won for England on Saturday, as long as Ireland do them a favour in Cardiff.

And that has been reflected in the side Eddie Jones has sent out to take on Scotland – there is no experimentation here, they are fully locked and loaded.

This is the exact same XV that downed Ireland in the 2019 Guinness Six Nations opener – save for two injury-enforced changes in the pack with Mako Vunipola and Maro Itoje absent.

And with revenge firmly on the menu for Jones after last year’s Calcutta Cup loss in Edinburgh, expect the Red Rose to be firing on all cylinders this weekend.

And Jones has made it clear that he is anticipating another twist in this dramatic tale as Wales chase a first Grand Slam since 2012 and the perfect farewell for coach Warren Gatland.

“It’s a fascinating close to the Championship. You have three teams who can win it. Wales are a very good team. They are very well coached, great credit to them for what they have done — but they are starting to look a bit tired,” Jones said.

“They have made more tackles than anyone else and they are playing against an Ireland side that seems to be peaking at the right time.

“You look at guys like Conor Murray, Sexton, Ringrose, O’Mahony, guys that weren’t in great form at the start are now starting to come to the fore. I am sure the crowd will help Wales overcome that tiredness but it’s going to be a great game.”

There were certainly some eyebrows raised that Joe Cokanasiga misses out on the England matchday 23 altogether.

The Guinness Man of the Match against Italy really could not have done any more in his first-ever Championship start.

But Jones has always liked holding his young bucks back – think of Maro Itoje back in 2016 who came off the bench in Rome before finally getting his chance as the Championship wore on.

“He’s gradually developed from a Vauxhall Viva. He might be a BMW now, maybe only series three, so he has a few series to go,” said Jones three years ago of Itoje.

And this time around, he has made it clear that he is playing the long game with Cokanasiga.

Jones told the BBC: “In England I have seen so many good young players start with this boom, and then they play three or four Tests. I want him to play 100 Tests for England.”

And the recall is just reward for Jack Nowell, so impressive in Dublin and Cardiff, who has shaken off a shoulder problem and will be itching to prove himself against a Scotland team that he has already grabbed two Test tries against.

Mark Wilson, Henry Slade and Ben Moon were all impressive starters during the autumn and the early part of this year’s Championship.

They were rotated out last weekend against Italy as Brad Shields, Ben Te’o and Ellis Genge got their chance.

But they return to take on Scotland and Jones is confident in his matchday 23 and their ability to get the job done.

“Every week we pick the best 23 for the game and this week the 23 involves Henry and Manu at centre,” Jones explained.

“Last week, the best 23 involved Ben and Manu. It is a horses for courses [approach]. Scotland tend to pass the ball a lot and Slade’s defensive qualities will suit the game really well.”

Defeat to Scotland last year in the Championship set off a dip in form for England that Jones took a while to put right.

They ended up fifth in the 2018 Championship standings and slipped to a summer series defeat to South Africa before the green shoots began to grow in Dublin.

And now Jones is itching to show Scotland what they are made of – although the head coach is certainly not underestimating his opponents.

“We are playing against one of our most traditional foes in Scotland for the Calcutta Cup. We have had a good preparation and the side is going to be in a great state to play against Scotland on Saturday,” Jones added.

“Scotland is a difficult side, they are always at you, they play with a lot of enthusiasm and effort and have got a lot of attacking strings to their bow. Finn Russell is an exceptional player at 10 and they have got some pace on the outside so we are going to have to defend really well against them.”