Will Greenwood on British and Irish Lions: Some England players are ‘on a wing and a prayer’ for selection

Will Greenwood says some English players are “on a wing and a prayer” for Lions selection, and believes Eddie Jones will have to make changes if he is to stay on as England coach.

England finished a disappointing Six Nations campaign in fifth place, losing to Wales, Scotland and Ireland in a championship for the first time in nearly 50 years.

The poor run of results has seen Eddie Jones’ job called under question, but Greenwood says there could also be ramifications for the England players who started the season with “guaranteed” Lions places and are now in jeopardy of missing out completely when Warren Gatland names his squad.

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“Disappointing I think is one of the great understatements, having lost to Ireland, Scotland and Wales for the first time since 1976,” Greenwood told Sky Sports News.

“You’ve got a whole host of Welsh Lions, you’ve got a whole host of Irish Lions going ‘Warren, pick me’, and some Scots have done really rather well.

“On the flip side of that, there’s a whole heap of English lads who, on October 1st 2020, had guaranteed positions to go to South Africa or play in a Lions series in the UK – most of them now are on a wing and a prayer.”

The Rugby Football Union has begun a review into England’s Six Nations campaign this week – as is standard practice every year – with Jones’ future as head coach expected to be on the agenda.

The Australian signed a contract extension less than a year ago, meaning his deal runs until the 2023 World Cup. However, it does contain a release clause that can be triggered by the RFU, and Greenwood says the 61-year-old will be forced to make changes – including players – if he is to lead England in France in two years’ time.

“As Eddie predicted himself, the second it goes wrong everyone’s clambering for his head,” Greenwood said.

“There needs to be some change but there are a variety of different levers of change available to [RFU chief] Bill Sweeney.

“A frank, honest, transparent discussion with Eddie is number one on his list to understand if Eddie’s prepared to change.

“If Eddie’s prepared to change then I suspect there will be another opportunity given to him; a potential summer tour to Canada and the USA if Covid allows.

“Then a big autumn where, two years out from the World Cup, he might then be able to thank some of the legends who got him so far, but now hand on the baton to the next generation.”

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‘Almost farcical to take captaincy from Farrell now’

One of England’s biggest shortcomings in the Six Nations was the high number of penalties given away, with captain Owen Farrell drawing criticism for the overall ill-discipline of the team.

Greenwood said it would be “almost farcical” to take the captaincy away from Farrell now, given that England’s tour to USA and Canada in June will be about blooding young talent, so the Saracens man will likely be rested on the slim chance that he isn’t selected in Gatland’s squad to take on the world champion Springboks.

However, Greenwood conceded that Jones will need to “pick a captain on form” come the autumn Tests in November.

“When you arrive at the autumn, if Eddie’s still in charge – pick a captain on form,” the 2003 World Cup winner said.

“Why are we suggesting that Owen Farrell must go now? He would not captain England to USA and Canada; he’s either on the Lions tour or he’s rested.

“That would certainly be a key position of authority within the England team that would be explored come the autumn.

“But it’s almost farcical to say Owen Farrell must go now, because he might go away, Saracens might get promoted, he might have a wonderful Lions tour, he could come back in the form of his life and he’s still the right guy.

“Currently, if there was a game next week, that would be a different question.”

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