Jones turns to ‘Bomb Squad’ as England look to bounce back against Scotland
Eddie Jones will unleash his own ‘Bomb Squad’ upon Scotland at Murrayfield in the conviction England can still win the Guinness Six Nations title.
Jones has opted for a six-two split between forwards and backs for only the fifth time in his Twickenham reign, pointing to a forward-led assault to regain the Calcutta Cup surrendered at Murrayfield two years ago.
It was a tactic used to great effect by South Africa at last autumn’s World Cup, including in the 32-12 demolition of England in the final, and was subsequently dubbed the ‘Bomb Squad’.
Once the opposition had been softened up, the six replacement forwards would be sent on at predetermined times to ensure the physical onslaught was maintained for the full 80 minutes.
Three Springboks had ‘Bomb Squad’ tattoos inked on to their hips and the tracksuit mastermind of their success in Japan – Matt Proudfoot – is now in charge of England’s pack.
Heavy rain is forecast for Edinburgh and Jones, who has revamped his starting XV with five changes, has pinpointed the area where Scotland can be targeted.
“I just think our strengths are up front and that’s what we want to play to,” Jones said,
“We’ve got an obvious gameplan that we want to play against them. We’re not hiding from the fact that we want to take them on up front. We just think it’s going to be a high volume, high-intensity game in the forwards. You want to have as much artillery in that area as you can.”
Ben Youngs’ demotion to the bench is the biggest call of the major surgery performed in response to the 24-17 defeat by France that launched their campaign in such disappointing fashion.
Youngs has been first choice scrum-half for virtually the entirety of the Jones era but he has been replaced in the starting XV by Willi Heinz and is limited to supplying cover from the bench.
Flanker Courtney Lawes, prop Joe Marler and lock Charlie Ewels have also paid the price for the first-half collapse at the Stade de France, losing their places to Lewis Ludlam, Mako Vunipola and George Kruis.
The final change is enforced by Manu Tuilagi’s absence for at least one match because of a groin strain, creating an opening at outside centre for Jonathan Joseph.
Jones is “100 per cent” certain England can regain the Six Nations crown they most recently lifted in 2017 and expects his players to finish the tournament strongly knowing they were probably undercooked for the Paris opener.
“The World Cup final is a one-off final. I’m happy to say that if I went back to that game again, I can’t think there’s a team in the world that would have beaten South Africa that day. And that happens. No embarrassment,” he said.
“France – for some reason we just weren’t on the button early and I think I underprepared the team for the game, so it took us some time to get into the game.
“There is a reason for that given the workload of the players. We underprepared for the game and I take full responsibility for that. But there’s a reason for that and my view is that we’ll see the reason at the end of the competition – that we’ll be full of running.”
Captain Owen Farrell admits England were wounded by their performance at the Stade de France and has promised an emphatic response.
“You do tend to have a bit more of a look at yourself after a loss. It allows you to be a bit more open. We have done that. We have been open,” Farrell said.
“We have said where we want to improve and I would expect us to not just talk about it but do it as well. We have stepped up a notch in training and that is exciting when you are preparing for a big Test match. We have stepped up.”