Eddie Jones to persevere with Tom Curry as England’s number eight
Eddie Jones will persist with Tom Curry’s conversion to number eight for England’s Guinness Six Nations clash with Scotland in the belief he is the long-term answer in the position.
Jones has once again opted against selecting a specialist eight in an unchanged 34-man training squad, denying the in-form Alex Dombrandt or Fijian-born powerhouse Nathan Hughes the chance to press their claims.
With Billy Vunipola ruled out of the entire Six Nations by a broken arm, Curry was shifted across the back row for Sunday’s comprehensive 24-17 defeat by France but made little impact.
The 21-year-old was a star of last autumn’s World Cup but on Sunday’s evidence he is a more influential player at blindside or openside flanker.
The absence of a specialist for the trip to Murrayfield points to Curry continuing in his new role and head coach Jones is convinced he will eventually flourish.
“I think Tom can be a (All Black) Rodney So’oialo-type player – a mobile, hard-running eight who has ball skills,” Jones said.
“We can’t find another Billy so we won’t go down that track. Instead we’ll find a different sort of player.
“We want this team to be a great team. To do this we need to have the ambition to make players great players.
“Tom is one of those players we feel can be an absolutely outstanding number eight, but it will take time.
“I am prepared to accept some mistakes for him to learn and become a better eight. We don’t have a one-game selection policy.
“Just look at players like Ellis Genge and how long it has taken him to be a Test player – four years.
“They have to go through this apprenticeship and sometimes they go through some pain at the start of it.”
Vunipola was sorely missed at the Stade de France, especially during lengthy spells when England’s forwards pounded the whitewash but lacked the brute strength to make the final breakthrough.
“That sort of attack has become a power game and we weren’t good in that area,” Jones said.
“In the World Cup final we weren’t good in that area and we weren’t good there against France. It’s an area we need to improve in.
“We need to find a way to get some more power because you’ve got to carry through bodies. We’ve got to find a way to have more variety.”
Another urgent task heading to the Scottish capital is restoring the confidence of George Furbank, the 23-year-old Northampton Saint who endured an error-ridden international debut in Paris.
Jones said: “Coaching is about helping players get better. What do you think I’m going to do? Say: ‘George you’re absolute rubbish get out of here, go back to Northampton, work in the shoe factory?’
“What am I going to say to him? Of course I’m going to help him become a better player, and I thought he was good against France.”