Eddie Jones hints that Joe Cokanasiga will be part of England’s World Cup squad despite dropping the rookie wing for the climax to the Guinness Six Nations against Scotland.
A week after being compared to Jonah Lomu by Sir Clive Woodward in response to a bulldozing man of the match display against Italy, Cokanasiga is unable to even secure a place on the bench.
Taking the Fijian-born giant’s place on the right wing is Jack Nowell, who has recovered from a shoulder stinger injury, while Ben Te’o is present as replacement threequarter cover.
Jones explained the shock selection by revealing he has a plan based on the summer’s four World Cup warm-up Tests that will will develop the 21-year-old in time for Japan 2019.
“Joe’s a good, young player and we’re looking after him. He’ll feature very strongly in our plans for the future but we just feel that this week Jack is our best player in that position,” Jones said.
“We’ve got a good plan in place for him. He’ll be ready by the World Cup. I don’t need to reveal my selection plans for the future but I do know he’ll be ready for the World Cup.
“We don’t need to rush him. We’ll bring him through carefully and he’s got a long career ahead of him. I’ve got some reasonable experience doing this.
He'll still learning from being around the squad and will feature heavily in our warm-up games for the World CupEddie Jones on Joe Cokanasiga
“Sometimes you let them go and sometimes you pull them back a bit. We just feel it’s right for him this week to not be involved in the matchday squad.
“He’ll still learning from being around the squad and will feature heavily in our warm-up games for the World Cup.”
Jones has reverted to his first choice midfield with Manu Tuilagi and Henry Slade paired in the centres outside Owen Farrell, resulting in Te’o’s demotion.
Tuilagi gave rugby on these shores a big boost on Wednesday by agreeing a new two-year contract with Leicester, in the process rejecting a substantial offer from Racing 92 that would have made him unavailable for England.
“Manu’s future is looked after and we’re really happy for him. The improvements will come in his speed, power, timing, his running lines. He will be a real handful for Scotland this weekend,” Jones said.
In total there are four changes in personnel to the XV that battered Italy 57-14 at Twickenham with Ben Moon restored at loosehead prop ahead of Ellis Genge and Mark Wilson displacing Brad Shields at blindside flanker.
Ben Youngs will be making his 85th England appearance to surpass the national record for a scrum-half held by Danny Care.
England will win the Six Nations title if they regain the Calcutta Cup and Wales fail in their Grand Slam bid against Ireland in Cardiff. Jones has seized the opportunity to crank-up the pressure on Warren Gatland’s men.
“It’s a fascinating close to the tournament. You have three teams who can win it,” Jones said.
“Wales are a very good team. They are very well coached, great credit to them for what they have done – but they are starting to look a bit tired.
“They have made more tackles than anyone else in the tournament and they are playing against an Ireland side that seems to be peaking at the right time.
“You look at guys like Conor Murray, Johnny Sexton, Garry Ringrose and Peter O’Mahony who weren’t in great form at the start of the tournament but are now starting to come to the fore.
“I’m sure the crowd will hep Wales overcome that tiredness but its going to be a great game.”
The showdown with Scotland could be Jones’ final Six Nations match with his future beyond the World Cup uncertain.
“Well that’s not for me to decide. Other people decide that. I don’t know,” Jones said.
“The only thing I know is that we have had a great week this week and we are absolutely excited by the prospect of us finishing well.”