What might Eddie Jones’ England World Cup squad look like for the next edition of the tournament in Japan in 2019? We assess those players likely to make it and those who are on the periphery.
Which players are now in with a good chance of making it on to the plane for Japan in 2019? Although it is impossible to know how players’ form will alter and whether they will be able to avoid injuries, the following individuals are young enough and talented enough to make it:
Mako Vunipola, Joe Marler, Jamie George, Dan Cole, Paul Hill, Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Joe Launchbury, Courtney Lawes, Jack Clifford, Billy Vunipola, Ben Youngs, Danny Care, George Ford, Owen Farrell, Jack Nowell, Jonny May, Manu Tuilagi, Jonathan Joseph, Elliot Daly, Anthony Watson, Alex Goode
It says an awful lot about the work done by the RFU, the clubs and former head coach Stuart Lancaster that England are in a position to know around 23 of the players that are very likely to make up their 2019 Rugby World Cup squad of 31.
Race Against Time
For some current players it will be about how they are managed between now and 2019, given their age and the amount of rugby they have played over the years.
In terms of individuals like Chris Robshaw, James Haskell, Mike Brown – players old enough to have been first capped or spent a large chunk of their international careers under Martin Johnson – they are now all on the wrong side of 30.
Robshaw is the youngest of the three, but it seems realistic that only one between the Harlequins blindside and Haskell will make the final squad. Whilst both offer versatility across the back row, they are two very different players who will drastically alter the balance of back row options available to the England coaches in their final squad.
Mike Brown would be 34 by the time the World Cup kicks off in Tokyo, which is pretty old for a fullback anyway, let alone one who has never been famed for his pace. His England career may be over well before the next World Cup season.
As for Dylan Hartley, the rest of his career will depend on whether he picks up any further concussion injuries. Given the fragility of the situation he is in, it seems very unlikely that he will still be leading England in three years’ time. Someone else will need to step up to lead England from the front.
On The Edge
One thing’s for sure, there is going to be a lot of talent pushing the incumbents for their places well before we arrive at the next edition of rugby’s flagship tournament.
More and more players are coming through the age grade teams into Premiership sides and Eddie Jones’ decision to promote U20s players like Will Evans and Joe Marchant as well as youngsters such as Ellis Genge and Kyle Sinckler into the senior squad opens up England’s potential player pool even further.
In almost every position, there are players lining up to challenge others for the white shirt. Recently capped players like Teimana Harrison could well go on to be the heartbeat of the Red Rose side, whilst the likes of Harry Mallinder and Danny Cipriani cannot even get into the extended EPS squad at the moment.
Pundit Arena’s 2019 World Cup Squad
Let’s be honest, all rugby pundits set themselves up for a fall when naming squad predictions years in advance. The vicissitudes of fortune mean players could rapidly lose form or pick up serious injuries, or see new players could come out of nowhere and make a real impact on international rugby.
However, with the risk of destroying any credibility this writer might have built up in three years, here is my squad:
Props: Mako Vunipola, Joe Marler, Dan Cole, Paul Hill, Henry Thomas
Hookers: Jamie George, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Tom Youngs
Locks: Maro Itoje (c), George Kruis, Joe Launchbury, Courtney Lawes
Back row: Jack Clifford, Teimana Harrison, Sam Underhill, Chris Robshaw, Billy Vunipola, Nathan Hughes
Scrum-halves: Ben Youngs, Danny Care
Fly-halves: George Ford, Owen Farrell
Wings: Jack Nowell, Jonny May, Marland Yarde
Centres: Manu Tuilagi, Henry Slade, Jonathan Joseph, Elliot Daly
Fullbacks: Alex Goode, Anthony Watson
Paul Wassell, Pundit Arena