England’s veteran prop Dan Cole has been given the chance to revive his international career after addressing his weaknesses under instruction from head coach Eddie Jones.
Cole is poised to win his 79th cap, and first for nearly a year, after ousting Harry Williams from the matchday 23 for Sunday’s Guinness Six Nations match with France at Twickenham. Scrum coach Neal Hatley has revealed the 31-year-old’s comeback is reward for his determination to remain a tighthead option for England.
“Dan responded really well to being left out. He’s hit some of the best numbers we’ve seen from him in training,” said Hatley.
“He’s really attacked the areas we’ve asked him to improve on. He’s applied himself hence his reintroduction into the squad. I’ve stayed in touch with Dan Cole fairly regularly. He’s a guy with close on 90 caps and is a British and Irish Lions tourist so his experience is invaluable.”
The other front row change sees Ellis Genge make way for Ben Moon as supporting loosehead to Mako Vunipola, with Jones set to reveal his starting XV this morning.
Hatley said: “It’s obviously a close call, but with the form Dan and Ben have been in – they’ve gone really well – we think it’s a good opportunity to put pressure on Ellis, Harry, Kyle Sinkler and Mako. We’re really trying to develop strength in depth in the squad because you never know what could happen around the corner. You need not just two deep, but four or five deep.”
Cole and Moon are superb scrummagers, but Hatley denies their recall has been motivated by the strength of the French set-piece and the danger posed by their huge props Jefferson Poirot and Uini Atonio.
“You can never guarantee who starts, who finishes or how many scrums you’ll get,” said Hatley.
“In our second Test against Australia we had two scrums in the whole game.
“There’s no point picking an out-and-out scrummaging pack and then have only two scrums.” An injury-enforced change will see either Courtney Lawes or Joe Launchbury start alongside George Kruis in the second row while Maro Itoje recovers from knee ligament damage.
Whichever lock misses out on the starting XV will secure a place on the bench, with Brad Shields the forward likely to be culled from the 25-man training squad retained for Sunday’s game.