Jacob Umaga, nephew of All Blacks legend Tana, could make his England debut on Six Nations ‘Super Saturday’.
Days after losing out to Joe Simmonds in the Premiership Final battle of the 10s, Yorkshire-born Umaga has beaten the Exeter captain to Red Rose selection.
Eddie Jones is without seven of the squad that won against Wales last time out for the trip to Italy, where victory could secure England the title in the championship's delayed final round.
George Ford, Elliot Daly and Joe Marler yesterday joined Manu Tuilagi, Courtney Lawes, George Kruis and Luke Cowan-Dickie in being ruled out.
Yet so impressed is Jones with Umaga, scorer of a dazzling try at Twickenham, that the 22-year-old is one of only two fly-halves in his 36-man squad.
“Jacob is a young guy who has plenty of courage in the way he plays,” said Jones. “I like the way he attacks the line. He reads the game well.
“The way the game’s changing, when you get quick ball now you’ve got to be able to go quickly. You can’t sit back and wait for things to evolve.
“The ability to make decisions quickly is extraordinarily difficult. So you need a 10 who’s very instinctive, who just does it. It’s something you can’t coach.”
Jones likens fly-halves to sushi chefs in that it can take them a whole career to perfect their art. He claims Dan Carter only hit his peak at 35.
“The development of the player is something no-one knows," he explained. "All you can try to do is put him in an environment and encourage him to play to his strengths.
"He might graduate very quickly and be able to make sushi at the corner stall – and then he might be able to make sushi at a five-star restaurant."
Owen Farrell remains Jones’ first choice as captain and, in Ford’s absence, is almost certain to start at fly-half.
"He will definitely be in the restaurant," said Jones. "Whether he is serving sushi or eating it, we'll see.
“Owen is the most professional player I have seen. A guy that has this unbelievable desire to win. He wants to play for England, he wants to be the best captain we have had.”
Farrell has not played since being banned for a red card high tackle on September 5. The plan was to shake off the rust against the Barbarians, only the Covidiots had other ideas.
If that cancellation tested Jones’ patience, so too did being asked to justify picking only three of Exeter's double-winning team.
“At the end of the day it’s my judgement call,” said the Australian. “We’ve come to the decision this is the best 36. A number of good players out there will be massively disappointed and they are two of them.”
Backs: J Cokanasiga, O Farrell (capt), G Furbank, W Heinz, J Joseph, O Lawrence, M Malins, J Marchant, J May, D Robson, H Slade, O Thorley, J Umaga, A Watson, B Youngs.
Forwards: T Curry, T Dunn, B Earl, C Ewels, E Genge, J George, J Hill, T Hill, M Itoje, J Launchbury, L Ludlam, B Obano, D Ribbans, J Singleton, K Sinckler, W Stuart, S Underhill, B Vunipola, M Vunipola, H Williams, J Willis.
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