With focus turning to when Eddie Jones names his 30-35 man England squad for the defence of their Six Nations title, it might be a good idea to look at a few young English players who could sneak into the squad.
Son of an England legend and current club captain at Sale Sharks. Beaumont Junior has made 87 tackles, 99 carries and won 60 lineouts since the beginning of the 2016/17 Aviva Premiership Season, according to Premiership Rugby. Still only 24 years old, Beaumont might not have the smash and grab abilities of Billy Vunipola, Nathan Hughes or Ben Morgan – but he adds versatility and leadership experience to an England back row which is still to settle into a fixed trio under Eddie Jones.
With Dylan Hartley’s discipline being questioned for his attempted beheading of Sean O’Brien, there might be room in the England squad for another young, abrasive hooker.
Tommy Taylor’s potential has been noted by England’s selectors, having been part of the preliminary 45-man squad for the Autumn internationals. Taylor is currently the first-choice hooker in a reinvigorated Wasps squad, which is expected to challenge for silverware in the coming seasons.
Depending on the decision regarding Dylan Hartley’s possible ban for his red card offence against leinster, Taylor could get a chance to represent England in February and March – though he faces strong competition in the form of Jamie George and Luke Cowan-Dickie.
It would be easy for anyone to say that “it’s only because his Dad’s the coach”, but the 20-year-old inside centre has already developed a reputation as a versatile and talented youngster, scoring 32 points in 25 matches for the Saints. He also has the experience of being a key part of an England squad that won the 2016 Under 20 Rugby World Cup, winning man of the match in the final against Ireland.
His attacking play with ball in hand, mature decision-making and kicking game, combined with some good form between now and the Six Nations squad announcement, could see Mallinder Junior given a call up to expand England’s playing options in the midfield.
Another player on the list who was part of England Under 20s win at the last Junior World Cup (scoring four tries in seven matches), Joe Marchant earned a place in the England squad for the 2016 Autumn Internationals.
However, a debut failed to materialise. Harlequins mixed form in domestic and Europeans leagues means he may not be first in the list of outside centres after Jonathan Joseph, especially when considering Elliot Daly and Manu Tuilagi are fit for selection.
The second Harlequins player in this list, Clifford has developed a reputation as a powerful and dynamic flanker – having captained the 2013 England Under 20s to Six Nations and Junior World Cup titles, and represented England 7s during the HSBC World Sevens Series in Japan and Hong Kong.
Having a young, hard-working flanker with a varied skill set would provide Eddie Jones cover in all three back-row positions, and further develop their strength in depth. However, the back-row is currently one of the most competitive areas in the England squad. It would take a series of impressive performances between now and the end of January for Clifford’s name to be on the list of 30-35 players chosen for England’s defence of their Six Nations title.
Graham Manditsch, Pundit Arena
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