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Jacob Umaga named in England squad

Author
Liam Napier, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 21 Jan 2020, 3:37PM
Jacob Umaga is the nephew of Tana Umaga.
Jacob Umaga is the nephew of Tana Umaga.

Jacob Umaga named in England squad

Author
Liam Napier, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 21 Jan 2020, 3:37PM

The next Umaga stands on the verge of international rugby.

Wasps playmaker Jacob Umaga, the nephew of former All Blacks captain Tana and son of ex-Samoan fullback Mike, is one of eight uncapped players included in England's regenerated 34-man Six Nations squad.

Umaga played for England under 18 and 20 but is still eligible for Samoa and New Zealand.

As a teenager, the now 21-year-old spent eight months with the Auckland provincial team that won the Mitre 10 Cup. After initially breaking his arm on that stint he worked his way back to fitness and identifies his time in New Zealand as having a major influence on his development.

Umaga's footwork, pace and ability to take the ball flat to the line has since impressed at Wasps this season to the point he has been selected ahead of Lima Sopoaga for the last four Premiership matches.

Umaga has been selected as England's third-choice first five-eighth, behind captain Owen Farrell and George Ford, and is therefore unlikely to feature much in the first test campaign of 2020, unless injuries strike.

Umaga's promotion comes largely at the expense of Harlequins playmaker Marcus Smith, the 20-year-old who has played for England against the Barbarians previously.

After revealing his squad, which excluded 10 players from last year's World Cup squad, Eddie Jones declared ambitions to make England the "greatest team the rugby world has ever seen".

"It's got the potential to be the best team in the world, which is what we want to be. We set out to be that four years ago and we missed out on that by the World Cup final and came second which is disappointing," Jones said.

"We also want to be the greatest team the world of rugby has ever seen. We want to set ourselves high, see how we can extend ourselves and we've brought in a number of young players to see how far this team can go. It's still a young team and that's the fantastic thing about it."

Henry Slade, Jack Nowell and Billy Vunipola, who broke his arm for a fourth time in two years in Saracens' Champions Cup victory over Racing 92 last weekend, are among those unavailable due to injury.

"It's massively disappointing for him but these things happen," Jones said of Vunipola. "There was a rugby league great, Mal Meninga, who broke his arm four times in two years. Post that two years he then played six or seven years, won grand finals and won test matches for the Kangaroos. The tide will turn for Billy. At the moment it's tough and probably feels the whole world is against him, but he'll be fine."

Leicester prop Dan Cole, who came off the bench early in the World Cup final and was demolished by Springboks prop Tendai Mtawarira, is the headline omission.

Chris Boyd's Northampton Saints have been rewarded for their form this season with call ups for lock Alex Moon, centre Fraser Dingwall and fullback George Furbank. Bath prop Will Stuart is another rookie.

Hooker Tom Dunn, flanker Ben Earl and wing Ollie Thorley are other new additions, while Northampton's Alex Mitchell and Newcastle Falcons' Josh Hodge are on apprentice duties.

Jones did his best to put on a brave face and sidestep the Saracens salary cap scandal hovering over his squad.

"That's not a concern for me. My concern is picking the best players, then the best players coming in and competing hard, playing with pride and passion for England. It's obviously disturbing for the club competition, but I'm sure, like everything else, it'll work itself out."

With seven Saracens players included, and all facing uncertain futures, the relegation saga engulfing European rugby could prove a major distraction for Jones to confront throughout the Six Nations.

"My issue is to pick the squad today and then pick the 23 against France. When the appropriate time to make a selection that possibly involves players from the Championship we'll make a decision on it."

England also confirmed forwards coach Steve Borthwick will switch to a skills role for the Six Nations and finish at end of this season. Borthwick is expected to join the Leicester Tigers, and will be replaced by Melbourne Storm assistant coach Jason Ryles who will assume a specific breakdown focus.

England Six Nations squad:

Forwards: Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, 21 caps), Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, 19 caps), Tom Dunn (Bath, uncapped), Ben Earl (Saracens, uncapped), Charlie Ewels (Bath Rugby, 12 caps), Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers, 14 caps), Jamie George (Saracens, 45 caps), Ted Hill (Worcester Warriors, 1 cap), Maro Itoje (Saracens, 34 caps), George Kruis (Saracens, 41 caps), Joe Launchbury (Wasps, 62 caps), Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, 81 caps), Lewis Ludlam (Northampton Saints, 6 caps), Joe Marler (Harlequins, 68 caps), Alex Moon (Northampton Saints, uncapped), Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins, 31 caps), Will Stuart (Bath Rugby, uncapped), Sam Underhill (Bath Rugby, 15 caps), Mako Vunipola (Saracens, 58 caps), Harry Williams (Exeter Chiefs, 18 caps)

Backs: Elliot Daly (Saracens, 39 caps), Ollie Devoto (Exeter Chiefs, 1 cap), Fraser Dingwall (Northampton Saints, uncapped), Owen Farrell (Saracens, 79 caps), George Ford (Leicester Tigers, 65 caps), George Furbank (Northampton Saints, uncapped), Willi Heinz (Gloucester Rugby, 9 caps), Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby, 47 caps), Jonny May (Leicester Tigers, 52 caps), Ollie Thorley (Gloucester Rugby, uncapped), Manu Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers, 40 caps), Jacob Umaga (Wasps, uncapped), Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby, 42 caps), Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 95 caps)

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