Matt Dawson Column England Must Start With Jonathan Joseph Against Wales In The Six Nations Opener
Watching Jonathan Joseph run riot last Sunday made me instantly feel better about England’s midfield headache.
Joseph has spent two and a half years since his England debut on the fringes of selection. But he can be marginalised no more. Not after what he did to Toulouse.
His running, his carrying, his vision, his ambition – against the most successful club in European Cup history – was sensational.
No question about it at all in my mind, he starts the Six Nations against Wales in two weeks.
Play him outside Brad Barritt, with his Bath club-mate George Ford pulling the strings at fly-half. All of a sudden, Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies don’t feel quite so good about life.
All of a sudden, I’m thinking they have their hands full.
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For me, it is such an obvious selection, I can’t see why England have named as many as five centres in their squad – and just three wings.
No way will all five get game-time. Better to have given Billy Twelvetrees’ spot to either Dave Strettle or Chris Ashton.
Either is more deserving of it.
Still, English rugby approaches the Six Nations – and, before that, what I regard as the most exciting European club weekend ever – feeling good about itself.
Bath, Saracens, Wasps, Leicester and Northampton all won well in the penultimate round of Champions Cup qualifying, leaving only Sale out of contention for a quarter-final spot.
David Rogers / GettyCentre of attention: Joseph”s form suggests Wales will have their hands full in Cardiff
You can’t move for monster match-ups over the next couple of days, with Wasps-Leinster, Northampton-Racing Metro and Clermont-Saracens all pool deciders.
Bath, like Wasps, are trying to reach the last eight after losing their first two games – a feat never before achieved. They play Glasgow on Sunday.
I take Saints and Wasps to each make home advantage tell and top their groups.
Bath should also win and advance as one of the three best runners-up.
Which brings me to Saracens.
There are very few club sides I would take to beat them in the form they showed against Munster a week ago. But Clermont, who have not lost at home in Europe for seven years, are one of those.
Mark McCall’s men thrashed the French outfit 46-6 at Twickenham in last season’s semi-final.
I fear they might pay for that on Sunday.
CHAMPIONS CUP ROUND 6
Saturday: Wasps v Leinster (Pool 2, KO 1pm, BT Sport); Castres v Harlequins (P2, 1pm, BT Sport); Northampton v Racing Metro (P5, 3.15pm, BT Sport); Treviso v Ospreys (P5, 3.15pm, Sky Sports); Scarlets v Toulon (P3, 5.30pm, Sky Sports); Ulster v Leicester (P3, 5.30pm, Sky Sports).
Sunday: Bath v Glasgow (P4, 1pm, BT Sport); Montpellier v Toulouse (P4, 1pm, Sky Sports); Munster v Sale (P1, 3.15pm, Sky Sports); Clermont v Saracens (P1, 3.15pm, BT Sport).
DAWSON”S CHAMPIONS CUP QUARTER-FINALISTS Northampton, Toulon, Clermont, Wasps, Toulouse, Racing Metro, Bath, Leinster.
Matt Dawson is a rugby expert for BT Sport. Watch European Champions Cup and Aviva Premiership games live on BT Sport.