thebjcc

Stuff that matters

England have been handed a double boost before Saturday’s game against Japan with Jamie George making a surprise return to the squad and Jonny May declared fit to sharpen the attack. Courtney Lawes is still absent with a head injury.

George’s return comes out of the blue after he was initially expected to miss the entire autumn campaign having broken two metatarsals when on duty for Saracens at the start of October. His availability is welcome given Luke Cowan-Dickie has only just recovered from a knee injury and England’s other options at hooker are limited. George replaces Newcastle’s George McGuigan in the 36-man squad.

May has not appeared in a Test for England since last November but is ready to feature against Japan as Jones seeks a more “potent attack” than showcased in Sunday’s dismal defeat by Argentina. The 32-year-old wing sustained a dislocated elbow a little more than two weeks ago but after a visit to a specialist delivered positive news, May is primed for an unlikely return. He was summoned into camp last week and though not deemed fit to face Argentina, Eddie Jones admits his pace would be a valuable asset as England seek to get back to winning ways.

Joe Cokanasiga showed up in glimpses against Argentina and scored England’s first try while Jack Nowell toiled on the other wing. Northampton’s Tommy Freeman, who impressed when winning his first two caps on the summer tour of Australia, is also back in the squad after making a comeback for the Saints with two tries against Exeter on Friday. “You’d always like to have more gas,” said Jones. “And maybe Jonny May coming back will give us that.”

Lawes remains sidelined with the head injury sustained towards the end of September but Northampton’s in-form scrum-half Alex Mitchell is called into the squad to replace Raffi Quirke, who sustained a wrist injury in Sale’s victory over Gloucester on Saturday. Gloucester’s Val Rapava-Ruskin drops out of the squad along with McGuigan and Quirke. Manu Tuilagi is selected after Jones revealed he was hampered by a blister during the defeat by Argentina.

It was England’s first loss to the Pumas since 2009 and a first at Twickenham in 16 years with Jones admitting his side are now “under the pump” with fixtures against the All Blacks and South Africa following Saturday’s visit of Japan. Jones, however, believes it is a position in which England excel and Maro Itoje agrees.

“We need to go,” said Itoje. “There’s no point putting our hands to our face or looking down. We need to walk towards whatever pressure and whatever situation we face. Putting this in perspective, if we [had got] a couple more things right in that game it’s a different result. We know the capacity, the skill level, we just need to go out there and do it.

“We’ve had times, even with England, when things haven’t gone our way and the important thing to do in those situations is as a group, come closer together, be direct about where we’ve gone wrong and why. And then people just have those adult conversations and move forward. We’ll review the game and we’ll be really clear with each other what we need to do to improve.

“No one’s going to be shouting at each other, or calling people out. It’s just being honest with each other about where we were good, where we were bad and where we need to improve. We all want to improve, we don’t want results like this. So we have to have these conversations to put ourselves in better positions.”