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Analysis: What England’s Latest EPS Really Tells Us

The changes to England’s EPS system and the way Eddie Jones announces his squad mean that we gain a greater insight into the coach’s selection thinking and it makes for very interesting study indeed.

Eddie Jones names his final squad for the Autumn Internationals on 29th October, meaning those players inside and outside the coming three day training camp have less than a month to impress the England boss and cement their places in his final squad.

We begin with the changes to the forwards over the three squads.

The Forwards

45-man elite player squad (1st August): 45-man elite player squad (30th September): 37 players attending Brighton training camp from 2-4 October:
Forwards Forwards Forwards
Josh Beaumont (Sale Sharks) Josh Beaumont (Sale Sharks) Josh Beaumont (Sale Sharks)
Jack Clifford (Harlequins) Jack Clifford (Harlequins)  
Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers) Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers) Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers)
Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs) Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs)  
Will Evans (Leicester Tigers) Will Evans (Leicester Tigers)  
Charlie Ewels (Bath Rugby) Charlie Ewels (Bath Rugby)  
Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers) Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers)  
Jamie George (Saracens) Jamie George (Saracens) Jamie George (Saracens)
Teimana Harrison (Northampton Saints)   Teimana Harrison (Northampton Saints) *injury replacement for James Haskell (Wasps)
Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints) Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints) Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints)
James Haskell (Wasps) James Haskell (Wasps) James Haskell (Wasps)
Paul Hill (Northampton Saints) Paul Hill (Northampton Saints) Paul Hill (Northampton Saints)
Nathan Hughes (Wasps) Nathan Hughes (Wasps) Nathan Hughes (Wasps)
Maro Itoje (Saracens) Maro Itoje (Saracens) Maro Itoje (Saracens)
  Sam Jones (Wasps) Sam Jones (Wasps)
George Kruis (Saracens) George Kruis (Saracens) George Kruis (Saracens)
Joe Launchbury (Wasps) Joe Launchbury (Wasps) Joe Launchbury (Wasps)
Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints) Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints) Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints)
Joe Marler (Harlequins) Joe Marler (Harlequins) Joe Marler (Harlequins)
    Ben Morgan (Gloucester Rugby) *injury replacement for Jack Clifford (Harlequins)
Matt Mullan (Wasps) Matt Mullan (Wasps)  
Chris Robshaw (Harlequins) Chris Robshaw (Harlequins) Chris Robshaw (Harlequins)
Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins) Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins)  
  Tommy Taylor (Wasps) Tommy Taylor (Wasps)
Billy Vunipola (Saracens) Billy Vunipola (Saracens) Billy Vunipola (Saracens)
Mako Vunipola (Saracens) Mako Vunipola (Saracens) Mako Vunipola (Saracens)
Mike Williams (Leicester Tigers) Mike Williams (Leicester Tigers) Mike Williams (Leicester Tigers)
Tom Youngs (Leicester Tigers)    

Northampton Saints’ openside Teimana Harrison has been excluded from the extended 45 man squad, which highlights his inconsistent form this season, with the New Zealand-born flanker being benched for key Premiership fixtures. However, his inclusion in the training camp in Brighton offers the Saintsman a lifeline.

On the flip side, Wasps’ excellent form and Sam Jones’ performances for his club mean he essentially takes Harrison’s place in the EPS squad proper, with both Harrison and Jones given a chance to go head-to-head to fight it out for a spot in October’s final EPS announcement.

At hooker, Taylor was originally left out of the extended squad back at the beginning of August – with Leicester’s hooker Tom Youngs given a chance to prove his worth to the England coaches having been left out of all squads since the end of the World Cup campaign last year.

However, with Wasps in sterling form (Taylor playing a big role in attack but particularly in defence – the hooker is in the top ten tacklers in the Premiership this season so far) and Leicester being inconsistent, it is no great surprise to see Youngs demoted once more.

Similarly, it appears Jones has now cast his eye on another of England’s World Cup dropouts in Ben Morgan, who gets an opportunity as injury cover to show he can still offer something to an England team with burgeoning options at number eight in Billy Vunipola, Nathan Hughes and Josh Beaumont.

Interestingly, both Kyle Sinckler and Matt Mullan have been left out of the reduced training squad, suggesting both are in Jones’ long term plans but neither will play much of a part in the upcoming games against South Africa, Argentina, Fiji and Australia.

Moreover, all of Luke Cowan-Dickie, Will Evans, Charlie Ewels and Ellis Genge are missing – suggesting there is unlikely to be any changes to England’s front row options come November.

The Backs

Backs Backs Backs
Mike Brown (Harlequins) Mike Brown (Harlequins) Mike Brown (Harlequins)
Danny Care (Harlequins) Danny Care (Harlequins) Danny Care (Harlequins)
Elliot Daly (Wasps) Elliot Daly (Wasps) Elliot Daly (Wasps)
    Ollie Devoto (Exeter Rugby) *injury replacement for Manu Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers)
Owen Farrell (Saracens) Owen Farrell (Saracens) Owen Farrell (Saracens)
George Ford (Bath Rugby) George Ford (Bath Rugby) George Ford (Bath Rugby)
Alex Goode (Saracens) Alex Goode (Saracens) Alex Goode (Saracens)
Mike Haley (Sale Sharks) Mike Haley (Sale Sharks)  
Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby) Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby) Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby)
  Alex Lozowski (Saracens)  
Joe Marchant (Harlequins) Joe Marchant (Harlequins) Joe Marchant (Harlequins)
Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby) Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby)  
Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs) Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs) Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs)
Dan Robson (Wasps) Dan Robson (Wasps) Dan Robson (Wasps)
Semesa Rokoduguni (Bath Rugby) Semesa Rokoduguni (Bath Rugby) Semesa Rokoduguni (Bath Rugby)
Joe Simpson (Wasps)    
Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs) Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs) Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs)
  Ben Spencer (Saracens)  
Ben Te’o (Worcester Warriors) Ben Te’o (Worcester Warriors) Ben Te’o (Worcester Warriors)
Manu Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers) Manu Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers)  
Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby) Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby) Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby)
Marland Yarde (Harlequins)   Marland Yarde (Harlequins) *injury replacement for Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby)
Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers) Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers) Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers)

Like Teimana Harrison, it appears Marland Yarde has been punished for inconsistent performances for his club and for a somewhat mediocre outing for the national team against the Australians in the first test of last summer’s series.

Again, like Harrison he is given one more shot to show he deserves a place in the final squad with a spot in the training squad as an injury replacement.

However, there have been a couple of very interesting changes to the make-up of the squad. Out goes Wasps scrum-half Joe Simpson and in comes the raw potential of Ben Spencer. Coventry’s premier sports team has two wonderful talents in both Dan Robson and Simpson, but it appears the former’s excellent form coupled with the electric feet of Spencer has seen Simpson drop down the pecking order.

Alex Lozowski comes in as a third or fourth fly-half option to the extended EPS squad, whereas only Farrell and Ford (and arguably Slade as third choice) were in the original squad back in August. Although Jones denies his inclusion has anything to do with new Italy boss Conor O’Shea’s interest in the Italian-qualified youngster, adding him to the EPS but not including him in Brighton’s training squad allows Jones to show he’s got one eye on the Saracens fly-half for the future and keep Lozowski’s allegiances with England – at least for the time being.

Finally, Sale’s fullback Mike Haley misses out on a training squad spot, but he is a young talent with a very bright future and will bide his time before eventually usurping Mike Brown or Alex Goode.

Overall verdict

The changes to the EPS squad announcements as part of the progressive partnership between clubs and country mean Eddie Jones is provided with greater flexibility in terms of the players he can monitor but also the individuals he can see in training.

Moreover, it means if players don’t continue to perform for the clubs they are likely to be demoted from the squad at different stages and Jones has done exactly that with several individuals here. This works symbiotically for both the Australian and the English clubs.

So overall what does it tell us? Well, don’t expect many changes from the side that played the Aussies over the summer except in those positions where injuries have hit the team. There are particular issues at openside flanker and inside centre still, but other than that things remain pretty clear.

There may be opportunities to experiment a little throughout the series, but the head coach is unlikely to deviate too far from his already established 23.

Paul Wassell, Pundit Arena


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Author: The PA Team

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