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Opinion: Five Changes England Must Make For Fiji Test

BAGSHOT, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 15: Eddie Jones,(R) the England head coach talks to forwards coach Steve Borthwick during the England training session held at Pennyhill Park on November 15, 2016 in Bagshot, England. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

England play Fiji on Saturday and Eddie Jones must make five changes to develop his squad, argues Daniel Rey. 

Having dispatched of a South Africa side ranked fourth in the world, England’s attention now turns to the team seven places lower.

It is imperative that Jones uses the opportunity to increase competition for places; it’s what New Zealand would do.

Here are five changes England should enact following victory over the Springboks.

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1. Nathan Hughes

Hughes has clearly overtaken Ben Morgan in the pecking order, but Jones needs to know whether the Fiji-born No. 8 should be England’s back row replacement when James Haskell and Jack Clifford return.

COVENTRY, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 18:  Nathan Hughes passes the ball during the Wasps training session held at Broadstreet RFC on October 18, 2016 in Coventry, England.  (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

For that, he needs to start the Wasps man against the land of his birth. It would be a typical Jones move.

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2. Ben Te’o

England persevered with a bizarre tactic of using inside centre Owen Farrell as a crash ball runner off the set-piece against South Africa – a clear sign that Jones is still looking for a carrier at No. 12.

Although the Ford-Farrell axis is working well, Jones will be tempted to move Farrell to fly-half and pick Te’o outside him. With Manu Tuilagi still injured, he represents the best running option at inside centre.

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3. Alex Goode

The 56-year-old clearly prefers Mike Brown to the Premiership Player of the Year at full-back, and I wonder whether this is in part because of the balance of backline.

Best used, Goode is an auxiliary playmaker. But England are deploying both Ford and Farrell in midfield. There isn’t really room for a third pivot.

BARNET, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 17:  Alex Goode of Saracens is tackled by Lee Dickson of Northampton Saints during the Aviva Premiership match between Saracens and Northampton at Allianz Park on September 17, 2016 in Barnet, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

However, if Te’o, a strong carrier but less able creator, were at 12, the case for Goode’s inclusion would be strengthened, particularly if his Saracens teammate Farrell starts at fly-half.

Given he likes the Worcester centre’s dynamism, Goode at fullback is an experiment Jones should try.

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4. Jamie George

Dylan Hartley is the cornerstone of Jones’ pack, which is all the more reason to give George an opportunity. The Northampton hooker is injury prone, and has mentioned in the past (via The Telegraph) that he is only one major injury away from retirement.

“If I got another one now, I would be worried. I would probably start looking at other careers or stuff like that, or maybe a long lay-off.

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 07:  Dylan Hartley of Northampton receives attention to a head injury during the Aviva Premiership match between Northampton Saints and Saracens at Franklin's Gardens on November 7, 2015 in Northampton, England.  (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

“I just had a constant reminder every time that you see your kid and you think, ‘If I hit my head again, what’s that going to mean?’

“With that in mind, England should cover their bases and give the Saracens man a start against Fiji.”

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5. Kyle Sinckler

Dan Cole is undisputedly England’s first-choice tighthead, and with Kieran Brookes in the international wilderness, where is the experience to back up the Leicester Tiger?

To fast-track his adaptation to international rugby, Kyle Sinckler, promoted over Paul Hill for the autumn series, must start against the Fijians.

Daniel Rey, Pundit Arena

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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team. If you would like to join the team, drop us an email at write@punditarena.com.