Eddie Jones has been forced to look at alternatives after a number of players suffered injuries.
The forward pack Eddie Jones has selected to play against South Africa feels very much like the unit that embarked on the 2015 World Cup campaign.
After being described as being “distinctly average” by Jones, Northamton’s Tom Wood has come back into the side, as have Joe Launchbury and Courtney Lawes. Dylan Hartley’s inclusion breaks with the 2015 theme, but the inclusion of Jonny May counters this somewhat.
In any event, the fact that England are able to field such a strong and experienced team reveals the depth of talent now at Jones’ disposal.
If England are to come through a rigorous autumn schedule and finish 2016 unbeaten without the likes of James Haskell, Maro Itoje, George Kruis and Anthony Watson, then Jones will have a number of selection headaches come the Six Nations.
This is particularly the case in the backrow, where the England coach has yet to find a place for Nathan Hughes, and has to do without Jack Clifford and Teimana Harrison.
Indeed, the fact that Alex Goode has yet to break into the side and Jonathan Joseph has been has been replaced by Elliot Daly, illustrates that a competitive environment also exists among the backs.
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It is also worth remembering that Manu Tuilagi has yet to feature under Jones, despite being name checked by the Australian as being one of England’s few world class players. Persistent injuries have kept the Leicester Tigers centre on the sidelines, allowing Ben Te’o to stake his claim for a place in the squad.
The situation in midfield is complicated by deployment of Owen Farrell and George Ford as dual playmakers, creating a log jam of talent.
The same can be said for England’s wingers, where the inform Semesa Rokoduguni has been unable to add his solitary cap, and Chris Ashton failed to even be considered for selection since Jones’ arrival.
Jones also has an enviable number of quality hooker at his disposal, where the likes of Jamie George, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Tommy Taylor and Tom Youngs all have to wait patiently in line.
Alan Drumm, Pundit Arena
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