A new Six Nations is almost upon us, would you believe it. Perhaps it’s because of the lack of fans, or that the annual media scrap that is the Six Nations Launch last week took place virtually, but it almost feels as though the competition has snuck up on us all.
England and Eddie Jones of course will beg to differ, with the players being put through their paces this week at their newly-adopted home of The Lensbury in Teddington, where they were also based throughout the autumn.
In terms of selection, Jones and his coaching staff have not been stretched this much in the pack for some time. England go into Saturday’s game against Scotland without their two looseheads, Mako Vunipola and Joe Marler, opening the door for Ellis Genge and perhaps one of Beno Obano (Bath) or Tom West (Wasps) to made their debut this weekend.
Kyle Sinckler is suspended, handing Will Stuart a chance to impress and reintroduce his mullet to a national audience, while at lock, Joe Launchbury was in sensational form before being struck down by an ill-timed injury.
Take out Sam Underhill too from the back row and England’s pack is set to look very different against Scotand. At least the backs should be familiar, but a trio of in-form players are hammering on Jones’ door for selection; Bristol scrum-half Harry Randall, Wasps wing Paolo Odogwu and another Bristol player in full-back Max Malins. Will Jones stick with his trusted backline operators – think Ben Youngs, Anthony Watson, Elliot Daly – or mix things up? Knowing the England coach, the safe option seems more likely.
Speaking of Malins, here’s a nice line about how nervous he was the first time he worked with Jonny Wilkinson, who now helps out as a kicking coach on England’s staff.
“I had a group session with Jonny a few years back and met him on a couple of camps. On the first time I was curled up into a little ball, a nervous wreck!” Malins said.
“It’s still very surreal that he’s in and around these camps when he was someone I looked up to and wanted to be as a young boy. After each time I see him I get more normalised by it, but there’s still that tingling inside which is awesome.
“I was very outcome driven with my kicking a few years back and Jonny’s very much about the process and deeper thinking behind it.
“Now I just go out and kick a ball and don’t worry about where it has gone, it’s all about the why and how you feel. That’s something I’ve learned from him.”
Lovely stuff (we’ve all been there). Anyway, team news coming up at 11.