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Analysing The Three Top Contenders Next In Line For England At 8

BARNET, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 23: Billy Vunipola of Saracens goes off injured during the Aviva Premiership match between Saracens and Sale Sharks at Allianz Park on September 23, 2017 in Barnet, England. (Photo by Henry Browne/Getty Images)

With England’s Billy Vunipola, Nathan Hughes and Jack Clifford expected to miss the November Tests, we take a look at three other contenders.


3. Zach Mercer (Bath Rugby)

Mercer has played for Bath at 6 so far in this campaign and despite that not being his favoured position he has put in Man of the Match performances. He’s filling big shoes too with Matt Garvey, Bath’s captain, usually wearing 6 for the West Country club.

Expect to see the 20-year-old, whose handling is exemplary, operate in the wide channels using his hands and pace to open up space.

His experiences in Georgia will undoubtedly give the 20 year old an edge and he certainly has the drive and determination to become an international star.

He started all five of England’s matches at the World Championships as captain, a leadership which will make him all the more attractive to Eddie Jones.

It may not be this autumn but the bustling Bath number eight looks set to join the senior England ranks sooner rather than later.


2. Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs)

Another youngster who has had a fine start in what’s been a good season for the defending champions so far. 

It takes a good performer to outshine the try-scoring ability of Thomas Waldrom but Simmonds is doing just that. He has already scored an impressive five tries in the opening six rounds of Premiership games.

He has a huge amount of potential and the drive to grow with it. The environment at Exeter will certainly do his chances no harm.

Simmonds is quick and his relatively slight frame makes him extremely tough to catch once he hits top speed.

He has learned to play to his strengths this season, and even though he may be smaller than a behemoth like Vunipola his uncompromising carrying and powerful leg drive make him an ultimate athlete.


1. Mark Wilson (Newcastle Falcons)

More of a blindside flanker but can fill in at number eight if required by England. He brings a bit more experience to the role than Simmonds or Mercer.

Wilson has become a household name for Premiership viewers over the last year and is fast becoming a favourite for Newcastle Falcons fans as their stock continues to rise.

A useful man to have in your side, he is not flashy but produces the basics and is a real leader who doesn’t make it easy for attackers on the floor.

Mark Wilson has long been impressing topping the Aviva Premiership tackle charts for the last two seasons and was last season shortlisted for the Premiership Player of the Year, this earned him an England call-up, albeit with big names missing due to the Lions tour.

Wilson would be the safe option for those hoping England look to experience in the upcoming November series.

England will be hoping those very big shoes left by Vunipola can be filled by one of those three men or it could be a long November for Eddie Jones and his charges.

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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.