According to England coach Eddie Jones, his squad for the World Cup is about 75% ready, but which spots are still to be decided and who could work their way into the Australian’s plans before the showpiece event in Japan in 2019?
For the 2015 edition of the tournament, countries selected 31-man squads, so just how far down the road is Jones’ squad right now? We take a look at each position.
In 2015 England opted for five props: two looseheads and three tightheads. Right now the men in white have two loosehead and two tighthead spots sewn up, which leaves just one prop spot left. There is a third hooker spot available but it would be surprising to see either Dylan Hartley or Jamie George dropped now before 2019.
Loosehead Props (2)
Certainties: Mako Vunipola, Joe Marler
Certainties: Dylan Hartley, Jamie George
Maybes: Jack Singleton, Tom Dunn, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Tommy Taylor
Tighthead Props (3)
Certainties: Dan Cole, Kyle Sinckler
Maybes: Harry Williams
In the second row, it seems Jones’ options are already secured: he will likely take four locks.
Certainties: Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Courtney Lawes, Joe Launchbury
In the back row, Jones will surely opt for Chris Robshaw and James Haskell, but could bring in another openside option in Tom Curry or Sam Underhill, as well as Newcastle’s Mark Wilson. Billy Vunipola and Nathan Hughes will go as England’s two number eights.
Certainties: Chris Robshaw, James Haskell
Maybes: Tom Curry, Sam Underhill, Mark Wilson
Number Eights (2)
Certainties: Billy Vunipola, Nathan Hughes
Jones may opt for only two scrum-halves in his squad or go for three with Jack Maunder the most likely to be chosen at the moment.
Scrum Halves (3)
Certainties: Ben Youngs, Danny Care
Maybes: Jack Maunder, Dan Robson
Jones has stuck with two fly-halves for most of his squads so far, although he could bring in Alex Lozowski, Piers Francis or Henry Slade as a third option.
Certainties: Owen Farrell, George Ford
Lions tourists Anthony Watson and Elliot Daly will both go, but a third winger spot is highly contested between the versatility of Jack Nowell, the pace of Jonny May and the raw talent of league convert, Denny Solomona.
Certainties: Anthony Watson, Elliot Daly
Maybes: Jack Nowell, Jonny May, Denny Solomona
It seems Lions tourists, Ben Te’o and Jonathan Joseph will go to Japan, but if Manu Tuilagi can return from injury (a big ‘if’) then he could join the duo, as well as one of a number of candidates.
Certainties: Ben Te’o, Jonathan Joseph
Maybes: Manu Tuilagi, Henry Slade, Alex Lozowski, Piers Francis, Joe Marchant
Mike Brown remains England’s only dedicated fullback in the squad, but Jones may soon look to the likes of Elliot Daly, Jack Nowell, Anthony Watson or Alex Lozowski to provide back up in the position.
Certainties: Mike Brown
Paul Wassell, Pundit Arena