The England coach has chosen Nathan Hughes, Maro Itoje and Jack Clifford, who have started only four Tests between them, against a Wales trio with 130 caps. Clifford’s inclusion is an abrupt about-turn after he was dropped from the England training squad last month.
“There are two things here; I am always trying to pick the best 23 and I am always looking to develop a side for the next World Cup,” said Jones.
“Clifford has the pace and power to play seven and I want to give him an opportunity. It’s a gut feeling I’ve got that it’s going to benefit the team for this week.
“Before Clifford was picked, everyone here was telling me he’s the best young player but now I pick him he’s too inexperienced, so I don’t see how you can win here. He’s a great young player and deserves the opportunity.”
Eddie Jones has defended his decision to field an inexperienced back-row against Wales
Eddie Jones wants to give Jack Clifford an opportunity
England captain Dylan Hartley insisted the Brisbane-born Harlequin, who turns 24 on Sunday, deserves his chance ahead of Tom Wood, who is on the bench.
“Jack’s the guy who turns up every Sunday night, puts everything in Monday and Tuesday and then goes back and plays for his club on the weekend. Those guys are so important to the squad and to see him get a shot this week in such a big game for us is a big pat on the back to his perseverance,” said Hartley.
“I don’t think experience is going to be a dealbreaker this weekend because you look what is in front of those guys and it is a front five that is pretty hefty in caps. We will be just fine. They are the sort of guys that I think will thrive in that environment.”
Six Nations 2017: 10 weird and wonderful highlights from past tournaments
Fri, February 3, 2017
Click through the gallery for some of the most bizarre moments in Six Nations history
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Click through the gallery for the most bizarre moments in Six Nations history
The game will be played with the roof open against Welsh wishes after England, as the visiting team, exercised their right to block them on the issue. “I want to test them but I want to win,” said Jones.
Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones dismissed the relevance of the roof to the showdown.
“We’re fortunate to have a stadium that adds to the occasion but the rugby has to be the focus and hopefully we can do the occasion justice,” he said.
“We’ve all got one thing in common – the pride of a nation. It’s up to us to show that on the pitch.”