The winger moves to back row after Charlie Ewels’s red card

Jack Nowell packs down at flanker for England

It was more than three years ago that Eddie Jones floated the possibility of Jack Nowell playing in the back row. Against Ireland at Twickenham, the England coach got to put his theory into practice.

After lock Charlie Ewels was sent off in the second minute of the match – the earliest red card in the history of the Six Nations – England needed to shuffle their personnel at scrum time.

When scrums were called, captain Courtney Lawes moved from the blindside to the second row and Nowell, who had been selected on the wing for this match, packed down at flanker.

At the start of 2019, England coach Jones had talked of Nowell of being a “new breed” of player who can play in the backs and forwards.

“He (Nowell) is definitely an option at seven,” said Jones back then. “We haven’t tried him out but he is definitely an option, because he has great ball-carrying, great tackling skill, he puts his head over the ball, he’s a tough little bloke. He’s a great option. He can play wing, 13, 15 or seven for us.

“The game has become so orthodox, so we have to look at opportunities to change it. Jack Nowell is the one who stands out. Tom Curry and Sam Underhill are the opposite (as forwards who could play in the back line). They are as quick as Nowell. They could play in a number of positions on the field.”

So how did Nowell go in the forwards? Well, judging by the first half at Twickenham, pretty well. England won three scrum penalties during that first half, albeit that Ireland led 15-9 at the break.

Whether referee Mathieu Raynal was getting those calls at scrum time right was up for debate. Former England prop Alex Corbisiero felt Cian Healy needed to readjust his position.

In contrast, former Ireland prop Mike Ross felt England were wheeling those scrums.

Either way, Nowell was receiving praise for his scrummaging on social media.

Whether Jones ever picks him in the pack from the off in a Test match, rather than in a situation such as being at a numerical disadvantage, we shall have to wait and see.

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