England have had their worst season under Eddie Jones recently, and the looming tour to South Africa looks ever more ominous with a lot of the England squad looking tired.
One problem England suffered match after match in the Six Nations was the inability to boss the breakdown, something Hamish Watson did so well in the Calcutta Cup triumph.
The question is, who is the long term solution at openside flanker? We take a look at three top contenders.
- Sam Underhill
The Bath Rugby flanker has been strong this season and, despite several injuries for his club, has made a name for himself as a ferocious tackler.
Underhill already has six caps for England with three of those coming as starts but he is yet to cement himself in the starting line-up. England did improve at the breakdown against Wales and Scotland when Underhill came on.
He is a fast openside and his powerful, full throttled defensive game coupled with a hunger and desire to compete at the breakdown make him an attractive proposition for Eddie Jones.
At just 21 years old as well Underhill has plenty of time to develop and at Bath has few old heads who know a thing or to about test rugby with Francois Louw and Taulupe Faletau having 133 international caps between them able to impart knowledge on Underhill.
2. Tom Curry
An impressive debut for Tom Curry back in June has catapulted him into England contention and it was a shame he missed his chances in November and during the Six Nations due to a dislocated wrist.
Curry is making waves and earning rave reviews alongside twin brother Ben in Sale as they go in search of Champions Cup rugby.
Curry is good over the ball and effects turnovers well, he’s closer to the ‘traditional’ openside like David Pocock in Australia. He works hard at the breakdown and has knack for being in the right place at the right time.
Curry is once again a young players at only 19 years of age this young flanker has a big future ahead of him and Eddie Jones will surely want to take a closer look at the teenager on the hard grounds of South Africa.
3. Ben Earl
The England under-20s star is starting to establish himself in the Saracens squad which is impressive considering some of their back row options.
Earl is a real scrapper at the breakdown and showed just how effective he can be in the recent Six Nations as he turned ball over using his powerful frame and low centre of gravity.
The Saracens man also may have the edge over Underhill and Curry with his ability to carry, something England sorely missed with the long-term injury to number eight Billy Vunipola.
Earl is the next big thing according to many and Eddie Jones would be wise to start taking an interest in Saracens back row star coming of age.