With a number of new faces and fringe players impressing against Wales on Sunday and with Saracens taking the domestic double for this season, Eddie Jones has some serious selection scenarios to ponder before the first test on 11th June.
We take a look at a couple of possible teams the England head coach could choose.
1) The tried and tested
Vunipola, Hartley (c), Cole, Itoje, Kruis, Robshaw, Haskell, Vunipola, Youngs/Care, Ford, Nowell, Farrell, Joseph, Watson, Brown.
Bench: George, Mullan, Hill, Launchbury, Clifford, Youngs/Care, Burrell, Daly
If Jones wishes to go for consistency in selection over choosing on form then he could pick a side very close to the line up that won the Grand Slam earlier this year.
With Joe Marler taking a break from the tour to get himself back in the right frame of mind after a rollercoaster year, Vunipola would come into the team with Wasps’ Matt Mullan taking the bench spot.
Besides a few changes on the bench, this is virtually the same 23 that went on to defeat France in Paris and seal a first grand slam since 2003.
2) Form over reputation
Mullan, George, Hill, Itoje, Kruis, Clifford, Harrison, Vunipola, Care, Farrell (c), Nowell, Slade, Daly, Watson, Goode
Bench: Hartley, Vunipola, Cole, Launchbury, Haskell, Youngs, Burrell, Brown
Up front, Matt Mullan deserves the chance to show what he can do for England after an excellent season for Wasps, with Saracens’ Jamie George having shown greater form than captain Hartley and Paul Hill impressing over Cole in the Premiership this year.
The second row picks itself, but in the back row a quicker, more abrasive trio in Clifford, Harrison and Vunipola might overshadow the reliable flank pairing of Robshaw and Haskell.
Owen Farrell’s form for Saracens at fly-half suggests he deserves the chance to reclaim the 10 jersey from the misfiring George Ford of Bath.
Henry Slade, finally back from the leg break that robbed him of a chance to star in the Six Nations, should be given the chance to bring his early season form into the international arena.
With Jonathan Joseph struggling to make an impact for an atrocious Bath side this year, Wasps’ elusive Elliot Daly should come in to the side.
With Alex Goode being in outstanding form for Saracens in the latter half of the season, he would be the pick over stalwart Mike Brown who is having a mixed season.
3) A mixture of the two
Vunipola, Hartley (c), Cole, Itoje, Kruis, Robshaw, Haskell, Vunipola, Youngs/Care, Farrell, Yarde, Slade, Joseph, Watson, Brown
Bench: George, Mullan, Hill, Launchbury, Clifford, Youngs/Care, Ford, Goode
Jones may decide to stick closely to his Grand Slam team but make one or two tweaks to bring in some players on impressive form their clubs.
Even though Nowell has been Jones’ wing of choice since he started in his role as head coach, Yarde offers a physicality on the wing that the Exeter flyer simply cannot provide. Jones’ selection of Yarde over Ashton proved controversial, but Yarde has always been a player of immense potential and under the tutelage of England’s coaches, he might just well start to show the quality he possesses.
Exeter’s Henry Slade so often lines up at 13 for his club, but Jones may see the multi-talented centre as better utilised at 12, partnering the established Joseph at outside centre. Slade is the second playmaker-style 12 that Jones favours and would be a better fit than the likes of Luther Burrell.
By moving Slade to 12, it would allow Saracens’ in-form fly-half Owen Farrell to make the 10 shirt his own, having been shunted next to George Ford for the whole of the Six Nations campaign. Given Ford’s inconsistency this year, it would make a lot of sense to have the Champions Cup and Aviva Premiership winner back in his best position.
Even though the likes of bolters Ellis Genge and Kyle Sinckler are likely to spend much of the tour holding tackle bags and watching on from the stands, they will gain valuable experiences from the tour and may push for further honours in the Autumn Internationals.
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