England head coach Eddie Jones has suggested he could break from convention and select nine forwards in the upcoming Six Nations. He also claimed winger Jack Nowell is an option at flanker.
Jones has previous in this regard, having played back-rower Hendrik Tui as a winger for Japan against Georgia before the 2015 World Cup.
As reported by the Guardian, Jones made the remarkable claim after announcing his squad for the upcoming Six Nations opener against Ireland.
“There are great opportunities in the game to change it. There is no reason why you can’t play nine forwards. [The extra forward] could stand [at] blindside wing. When Japan played Georgia we played nine forwards. No one knew. It’s like in football, 4-4-2. Everyone used to play that.
“Then it became 5-3-2-1 or whatever it was [5-3-2], so there is no reason in rugby why there might not be changes in formations. I’m serious that there are opportunities to change the game because it has become so orthodox."
Exeter Chiefs' Jack Nowell was singled out as a particular example of a player who could convert to the forwards.
We haven’t tried him out but he is definitely an option. He has great ball-carrying, great tackling skill; he puts his head over the ball, he’s a tough little bloke. He is going to be the new breed of player.
The game has changed. The game used to be 80 minutes, now it is 100 minutes. The next change is you will have players who can play backs and forwards. Do you remember Rod Macqueen [Australia’s World Cup-winning coach]? He used to talk about it. It is going to happen. Jack Nowell is the one who stands out.
21’s are packed.... can’t believe my dream could come true🙏🏽 https://t.co/tvtNbJviir
— Jack Nowell (@nowellsy15) January 18, 2019
The move has been criticised by former England coach Clive Woodward. Writing in his Sportmail column, Woodward declared it "a huge own-goal. Eddie’s not coaching Japan any more, this is England."
England have witnessed moves like this in the past. Former Leicester, England and British & Irish Lions flanker Tom Croft famously filled in as an auxiliary winger on several occasions while Sam Burgess endured a less successful spell swapping from flanker to centre.
Jones will have the opportunity to trial the move soon as the Six Nations kicks off on Saturday, February 2 with England facing Ireland at the Aviva Stadium.