With the Lions tour drawing to a close this weekend, English eyes will revert back to the national team, and with England head coach Eddie Jones likely to name a 45 man squad this August, there are going to be some pretty tough calls to make.
We look at every position and the players likely to make the cut for the autumn.
Loosehead props (4):
Mako Vunipola, Joe Marler, Ellis Genge, Matt Mullan
Vunipola and Marler will of course be shoe-ins, but both Genge and Mullan emerged from the Argentina tour with credit. It seems very likely that these four will be heavily involved in Jones’ plans in the build up to 2019.
Dylan Hartley, Jamie George, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Jack Singleton
Whom Jones chooses between Hartley and George for his hooker will be fascinating this autumn, but in terms of a third choice hooking option it is wide open. Wasps’ Tommy Taylor seems to have fallen out of favour in recent times, but Exeter Chiefs’ Cowan-Dickie and Worcester’s Jack Singleton are right up there for spots in the upcoming squad. One must also not rule out the likes of Harry Thacker and George McGuigan.
Tighthead props (4):
Dan Cole, Kyle Sinckler, Harry Williams, Will Collier
Will Cole keep his starting spot later in the year? Will upstart Sinckler finally get his first start for his country? The latter’s form for the Lions suggest this might actually happen. Outside of this duo, Williams performed well for England against Argentina, and Collier was a force at scrum time coming off the bench.
Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Courtney Lawes, Joe Launchbury, Charlie Ewels, Nick Isiekwe
England has so many quality locks it will be very difficult for Jones to drop any of them, although Itoje, Lawes and Ewels can all be viewed as potential blindsides as well as second rows. Launchbury and Ewels formed an effective partnership in the two Argentina tests, while Isiekwe is a potentially fantastic player.
Chris Robshaw, James Haskell, Tom Wood, Sam Underhill, Tom Curry, Ben Curry
It seems likely that Jones will stick with his tried-and-tested trio of Robshaw, Haskell and Wood as his flankers, although he could well reward the form of youngsters Underhill and the Curry brothers. It seems now the Australian has genuine options at seven.
Number eights (3):
Billy Vunipola, Nathan Hughes, Mark Wilson
Jones has stuck with Vunipola and Hughes as his two eights right the way through his reign so far, but Newcastle Falcons’ Mark Wilson earned his first cap as a blindside and could well come in to the squad as another option at the back of the scrum.
Ben Youngs, Danny Care, Jack Maunder
Should Youngs return from his self-enforced break from rugby having sacrified a Lions squad spot to be with his brother and his terminally-ill wife, he would be the first 9 in the squad. Youngs will be joined by Care and Exeter Chiefs youngster Jack Maunder.
Owen Farrell, George Ford
Jones has never really deviated away from having just two fly-halves in his squad, but he could call on the services of Lozowski, Slade and Francis as tens as well. With England improving their options at 12, one of Ford or Farrell may make way this autumn. Could Jones decide to give the Saracens man a respite?
Alex Lozowski, Piers Francis, Ben Te’o, Jonathan Joseph, Elliot Daly, Henry Slade
Te’o has been one of the most consistent players in the Lions squad this summer, and he will almost certainly be joined by Joseph and Daly as centre options. New players Francis and Lozowski impressed against Argentina, and Slade showed glimpses of his ability in the first test. Many England fans will also not give up hope over the return of powerhouse Manu Tuilagi as well.
Jack Nowell, Anthony Watson, Jonny May, Denny Solomona, Marland Yarde
Lions wingers Nowell and Watson will rejoin Jonny May and Marland Yarde in the England squad, plus Jones is likely to call up the services of the very raw but ultimately fantastically talented Solomona. This autumn could prove a chance to test out Watson as a fullback as well.
Mike Brown, Mike Haley
Possibly the biggest question mark for Eddie Jones now is whom else does he select as a fullback besides Mike Brown? Should the Harlequins stalwart pick up a long-term injury, who would replace him? For this reason it is likely Haley will be included in a 45 man squad, but his chances of earning a first cap this year seem uncertain.
Paul Wassell, Pundit Arena[gravityform id=”1″ title=”true” description=”true”]