In the run-up to the 2011 Rugby World Cup, the All Blacks held a series of “What if?” conferences. “We talked regarding worst-case scenarios,” Jerome Kaino remembered and Kieran Read said: “The worst would be if Dan Carter and Richie McCaw get harmed.” The head coach Graham Henry didn’t actually think that would happen ‘surely not possible’ he told himself but he wanted to plan for it anyway.
Seven months out from the World Cup, it feels as if Eddie Jones continues to be so busy working out through the best-case situation that he hasn’t had time to concerning about the worst nevertheless.
Jones has built an England squad who are capable of beating anyone, so long as they need their key players fit, as they did against Ireland in Dublin at the start of the month. Then again you get to those “What ifs?”. It’s pretty simple to work out what the worst of these are.
Jones surely is aware of all this. Like every international coach, he will have his depth chart, marking the chain of command of players in each position. However, take the list at fly-half. There’s Farrell, so Ford, who seems to be lucky to get off the bench, and beyond him, perhaps, Danny Cipriani, who has been frozen out since last summer. Or at scrum-half, where, after Youngs, Danny Care has been dropped from the squad and Robson can’t appear to urge a game.
Few would deny that Jones contain a first fifteen who are robust enough to win the World Cup in Japan. However, unless they get terribly lucky, they are going to prove they can do it without them, too.
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