England head coach Eddie Jones named a 37-man squad for a training camp last week and it displayed some impressive depth in most positions right across the team.
However, what if Jones was to put his charges through a trial match to determine his final starting line-up? Trial matches rarely occur now because of the workload of top players for both club and country, but putting together two teams to face each other does illustrate the selection dilemmas that Jones faces for the three test matches that will soon be fast approaching.
With the England coaches likely to rest a number of Lions tourists for the matches, it is almost certain we will see some of the ‘Probables’ lining up for their country before the end of the year, but out of these two teams who do you think would be the winner? It’s pretty difficult to call!
This team is based on the sides Jones has selected for most of his reign. Kyle Sinckler has boosted his chances of selection on the Lions tour, and openside duo Tom Curry and Sam Underhill put in solid cases to replace James Haskell at seven.
Billy Vunipola should return from injury for the autumn and Ben Youngs may return having missed the Lions tour due to personal circumstances. Youngs has been Jones’ first choice scrum-half for almost every match and is likely to keep the shirt.
Wingers Anthony Watson and Elliot Daly boosted their credentials in New Zealand and fullback Mike Brown was impressive during the Argentina tour this summer.
Dylan Hartley (c)
Lions starter Jamie George could find himself stuck on the bench once more for his country if Jones decides Dylan Hartley is still the right man to lead the men in white, although many supporters would argue the Saracens man has done more than enough to justify his selection at hooker in the starting line-up.
Newcastle’s Mark Wilson started at blindside for the first Test against the Pumas with Robshaw out injured, but this team we’ve picked youngsters, Curry and Underhill, both so impressive for their country over the summer. Either one could usurp Haskell in the senior team.
England must develop depth at fullback, and Jones may decide to experiment with the likes of Watson, Daly or Nowell at 15 for the autumn internationals.
Manu Tuilagi would most likely walk into the senior team if fully fit, having got some rugby for the Leicester Tigers under his belt, but Worcester Warriors’ centre and Lions test player Ben Te’o is unlucky to miss out here.
Paul Wassell, Pundit Arena