England coach Eddie Jones eyeing forward role for Jack Nowell

Jack Nowell has played 31 Tests
Jack Nowell has played 31 Tests

England coach Eddie Jones has gone against the traditional playbook as he aims to develop a new breed of players beginning with Jack Nowell.

With the World Cup around the corner, the former Japan and Australian coach Jones is taking one of the biggest gamble by going with eight forwards and Nowell, who plays at wing been pushed at openside flanker.

Citing the example of his move in the 2015 World Cup game against Georgia when he moved the back-rower Hendrik Tui on the wing, Jones said: "There are great opportunities in the game to change it. There is no reason why you can’t play nine forwards. [The extra forward] could stand [at] blindside wing.

“When Japan played Georgia we played nine forwards. No one knew. It’s like in football, 4-4-2. Everyone used to play that.

“Then it became 5-3-2-1 or whatever it was [5-3-2], so there is no reason in rugby why there might not be changes in formations. I’m serious that there are opportunities to change the game because it has become so orthodox.

"Be really good at the core things but look at opportunities where you can change it.”

Nowell, who recently recovered from a hamstring injury is one of the most versatile player in the England squad as seen during his comeback game against Castres last Sunday where he put on an impressive performance at fullback.

However, all his 31  games - 29 for England and two for British and Irish Lions - at international level has come at either wing, full-back or centre, and a move to openside flanker has shocked many but Jones remains unfazed. He also reckons Tom Curry and Sam Underhill can be made flexible in number of positions to try out new combinations to surprise the opponents.

“We haven’t tried him out but he is definitely an option. He has great ball-carrying, great tackling skill; he puts his head over the ball, he’s a tough little bloke. He is going to be the new breed of player.

“The game has changed. The game used to be 80 minutes, now it is 100 minutes. The next change is you will have players who can play backs and forwards.

"Do you remember Rod Macqueen [Australia’s World Cup-winning coach]? He used to talk about it. It is going to happen. Jack Nowell is the one who stands out. [Tom] Curry and [Sam] Underhill are the opposite. They could play in a number of positions.”

England will begin their Six Nations 2019 campaign at Aviva Stadium in Dublin when they face defending champions Ireland on 2nd February.

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