New England coach Eddie Jones defended his conservative first team after naming an experienced line-up to face Scotland in the Six Nations in Edinburgh on Saturday 6 February and keeping his uncapped trio on the bench. The Australian said last week that a Calcutta Cup match was not a time to experiment and he was true to his word when he unveiled a team boasting a total of 512 caps.
Ive picked the best 23 to win the match, Jones said, a number of times, when pressed on his squad which many fans had hoped would contain a few more fresh faces in the wake of Englands World Cup quarter-final exit under Stuart Lancaster.
The uncapped trio of flanker Jack Clifford, centre Ollie Devoto and prop Paul Hill were named among the replacements while Owen Farrell will play at inside centre with George Ford at fly-half. Danny Care is restored to first-choice scrum-half.
Former captain Chris Robshaw switches to the blindside flank position, James Haskell is in at seven and number eight Billy Vunipola completes a powerful, but hardly fresh, back row. The starting XV boasts 512 caps, with lock George Kruis and winger Jack Nowell the least experienced on 10 each.
That contrasts with Lancasters first team, also for a trip to Scotland four years ago, which had only 236 caps. Lancaster started with three uncapped players and gave another four their debuts off the bench. Uncapped pair Maro Itoje and Elliot Daly will travel to Scotland with the squad and Jones said they would eventually get their chance and could both go on to be 60-cap players.
I know you love them, I read the papers every day, Jones said. It shows the strength of the Premiership if they are the form players you say but are not in the 23, but theyll get picked when they are ready for test rugby.
New captain Dylan Hartley is the most seasoned operator, with 66 appearances, though this will be the hookers first match since last years Six Nations â€“ he was left out of the World Cup squad by Lancaster for disciplinary reasons.
A lack of leaders in the team was highlighted by some observers as a weakness for England during the World Cup, where despite their home advantage they failed to reach the knockout stage. Jones has acted to address that issue by appointing three vice-captains â€“ Farrell, Vunipola and fullback Mike Brown â€“ to support Hartley.
We have a variety of characters and personalities there, Jones told reporters. Billys a young guy with not a lot of leadership responsibility but who is a really key player at number eight. Owen is tough as nails, a very good speaker, while Browny is a quiet assassin type but very committed.
England have won the Six Nations just once since 2003, and finished second in their four seasons under Lancaster.