Eddie Jones suffers injury-hit squad ahead of autumn internationals

England Rugby head coach Eddie Jones is having selection headaches going into the autumn internationals in November, with eleven of his squad players out with long term injuries.

England face Australia, South Africa, Argentina and Fiji next month and will be wanting to redeem themselves, along with other northern hemisphere countries, after the last time they met these teams.

Jones’ side will be wanting to rectify a disastrous 2015 home World Cup when they massively underachieved in comparison to the southern hemisphere nations as the aforementioned South Africa, Argentina and Australia along with winners New Zealand all finished in the last four.

However with eleven key players out of action including the likes of Bath’s Anthony Watson, Leicester centre Manu Tuilagi, and Wasps flankers James Haskell and Sam Jones, success in the autumn internationals may prove a tough prospect for the 2016 Six Nations champions.

Coach Eddie Jones, appointed after last year’s World Cup, was praised after guiding England to their first Grand Slam since 2003 at the Six Nations earlier in the year. But his tactics recently came under fire as Exeter Chiefs’ Jack Newell sustained a calf muscle problem while Watson and Jones were also sidelined with lengthy injuries due to the England coach introducing judo to training.

While Jones’ methods were aimed at improving movement at breakdowns and tackling ability, one Aviva Premiership manager criticised the September 3-day camp as “madness” for the introduction of judo and for not giving players enough time to rest between league matches.

Saracens forward Maro Itoje has been the latest player to be ruled out of the autumn internationals after fracturing a hand in the club’s Champions Cup win over Lanelli Scarlets.

European player of the year Itoje, who can play in the back row and the second row, appeared to be the next viable option at open-side for Jones.

But Jones still has a crisis in the open-side flanker position with first choice James Haskell out and potential replacements Sam Jones, Mike Williams and Jack Clifford also sidelined.

Saracens coach Mark McCall said that losing Itoje is a “massive blow” for his club and country. The forward previously starred in England’s Six Nations triumph – a tournament in which he made his debut for the national team.

Meanwhile for Wales, Liam Williams and Jake Ball have been ruled out of selection after the pair were injured for Lanelli Scarlets against Saracens this weekend, but key players Taulupe Faletau, Sam Warburton and George North could be fit in time for their first game against Australia on November 5.

Wales certainly stand in a better position when it comes to fitness of players available. It seems that Eddie Jones will need to rectify the selection nightmare that is the open-side flanker position and ensure back up for key players is provided if England are to have success in the upcoming autumn internationals.

Joe Tanner

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