Bagshot (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Eddie Jones said a need for greater speed from his back three lay behind his decision to drop Mike Brown for Saturday’s Six Nations clash against France in Paris.
Brown is the kind of fullback beloved by coaches if not always appreciated by fans — sound under the high ball and defensively solid but he rarely excites spectators by pulling off a thrilling counter-attack.
The Harlequins stalwart has been an ever-present during Jones’s reign as England coach.
But following Six Nations champions England’s 25-13 defeat by Scotland last time out — just their second loss in 26 Tests under Australian boss Jones — Brown will be on the bench in Paris this weekend.
Jones has instead moved Anthony Watson across to fullback, with Jonny May on the right wing and the fit-again Elliot Daly, back from an ankle problem, on the left wing.
– ‘More pace’ –
That gives England a speedy back three and, in Daly, a long-range goal-kick specialist as well for the trip to the Stade de France.
“It’s a tough call on Brownie. He’s been a real good solid player for us but we’ve decided to go with a back three with a bit more pace this week,” explained Jones at his squad’s Bagshot training base, southwest of London, on Thursday.
France, fresh from a 34-17 win over Italy that gave them a first win of the tournament, have a team full of powerful ball-carriers.
But Jones is clearly looking to his outside backs to give the French the run-around.
“We feel the game will lead itself to that and it will be advantageous for us, but Brownie will come and do his job off the bench,” former Australia and Japan coach Jones said.
Jones insisted Brown had responded “really well” to his demotion, adding: “I’ve been really impressed by him. Obviously the players sense selection changes early in the week.
“He’s really given his best, has trained hard, helped Anthony which is a really good sign for the team.”
It had been feared that Wasps flyer Daly, who played for the British and Irish Lions in their drawn Test series with New Zealand last year, might miss the entire Six Nations.
But he has returned to face France, with Jones saying: “He has come back refreshed, he is enthusiastic, injury-free and ready to go. We know he is a class player so it just adds to what is a strong back-three for us.”
Jones was clearly enthused by the prospect of Watson, May and Daly all starting together.
“The three of them are genuinely quick. They have enormous pace but they have got to work together,” he said.
“France score a lot of their points through attacking kicks, so we need to counter those and take the opportunities and attack when we get loose ball from them.”
Owen Farrell will captain England for the first time on Saturday after Dylan Hartley was ruled out because of a calf injury, with Hartley’s place at hooker taken by long-serving deputy Jamie George.
Meanwhile powerful ball-carrier Ben Te’o has been recalled in place of Jonathan Joseph to start alongside Farrell in midfield.
“Owen has the respect of the players, he respects the players he’s a passionate aggressive player and he’ll lead from the front,” said Jones.
Te’o will find himself up against powerhouse French centre Mathieu Bastareaud and Jones added: “The French play fairly direct and he’ll enjoying getting a shot on Bastareaud early.”