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Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Inside Line: Five questions for Eddie Jones to answer after England’s rollercoaster 2021

He and Jonny May were the main-stays of England’s back three, with Adam Radwan, Manu Tuilagi and Joe Marchant earning starts in the number 14 shirt before Max Malins played 72 minutes on the right wing against the Springboks.

Eddie Jones has clearly been keen on using Steward and Malins, a rounded footballer, together. May is valuable for his communication, experience and positioning nous. He will have aided Steward’s arrival, but the 31-year-old endured scruffy and uncertain moments at the weekend. With that in mind, does the slippery Radwan come back into the equation?

Marchant might not always stay in midfield. Daly could well return to the left wing. Anthony Watson hopes to be back in the spring. Jack Nowell’s low-slung power provides something different, as does the offloading and heft of Joe Cokanasiga. Both need to sustain fitness, of course.

As ever, Jones has intriguing options. But one spot, that of Steward, would appear to be sewn up for the Six Nations and beyond.

Is Smith-Slade the new Ford-Farrell?

The issue of what to do with Owen Farrell, which has become gradually more pertinent over the past year, is lingering. Although he kicked 15 points and facilitated some neat attack against Australia, a positive COVID test and an ankle injury stunted the Saracen.

Courtney Lawes assumed the role of skipper with little fuss. Tom Curry took over where necessary. Jones revealed that Henry Slade had been an official vice-captain for the final week of the campaign. All of that, plus the manner in which England put three tries past South Africa in his absence, with Marcus Smith kicking goals unflappably, does not bode well for Farrell’s place in the first-choice team.

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