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England's Danny Care kept on his toes by baseball tactics

England's scrum-halves are adjusting to a new view of team pecking orders as Eddie Jones highlights parallels with baseball in his approach to selection and player use.

Danny Care started against Scotland and Ben Youngs was then given the No.9 jersey for their trip to Italy but this was not a favouring of one over the other. Instead, it indicated the Jones era making a break with tradition.

"One starts and one finishes," Jones said after their win in Rome on the Youngs vs. Care debate. "I'm not obsessed with who starts and who finishes. It's whatever suits our game plan that decides which one starts and which one finishes.

"In baseball, if you're a good finisher you get paid a lot of money. In rugby, it's seen as a second choice -- but in our eyes it's not a second choice."

Jones' method keeps players on their toes: they could have the game of their life one week but be dropped to the bench the next if their skillset is not right for the occasion, and that is where comes the baseball logic applies.

The head coach is renowned for the attention he pays to statistics and few sports lend themselves as neatly to numbers-influenced pointers as baseball.

Jones wants rugby's equivalent of baseball's 'closers' -- the pitchers usually introduced late in a contest to preserve a lead. On Sunday Care, who changed the tempo of the game, was England's version of the New York Yankees' Mariano Rivera.

While Rivera's right arm and ability to throw cutters was legendary in closing out matches for the Yankees, Care's role was to end what the starting XV had begun.

But the Harlequins scrum-half has already found it requires as change of mindset. "Everyone wants to be in that starting line-up, you want to be out there having the first crack at it," Care said after his impressive performance from the bench against Italy. "But as you've seen, it's a squad effort.

"It is every week. Whoever is on the bench is still a very good player and when they come on they're looking to further what the guy has done before them and try to kill the game off. The lads who start the game do the real hard stuff and whoever comes off the bench gets to finish it off."

This strategy is not new in rugby. Australia coach Michael Cheika said before their win over Wales in the Rugby World Cup that "the finishers in this game are going to be really important".

ESPN's Greg Growden highlighted earlier examples of this tactic in their wins over South Africa in Brisbane in July and then against the All Blacks in Sydney. The replacements were game-shifters rather than game-savers.

On Sunday, Care's role was to inject a new tempo into the side but it has not become a philosophy that applies to each position on the field. The back-row is likely to be subject to it but Dan Cole is firmly first-choice tight-head and the backs, bar No.9, seem to be settled in a preferred pattern. So it is down to the scrum-halves and loose-heads to adjust.

"He said to me in the week he's like to get me on with 30 to go. I think I got 31 so he gave me an extra one [minute]," Care added.

"My mindset was [that] I was disappointed not to be in the starting line-up but I knew I had a big role to come off the bench and give some energy and try to win the game and kill the game off. That was my aim going into this game, and hopefully it went quite well."

Care's outlook is likely to be similar for their match against Ireland on Feb.27. He will harbour hopes of starting the match but the bigger picture for the squad will be to make it three wins from three.

"The games just get harder and harder," Care said. "We know how big England-Ireland is. We've had some good success against them recently. We know they're come out firing.

"Ireland will be disappointed with their loss but they'll come to Twickenham thinking they'll get the win and wanting to do so. We've got to prepare as well as we can."