As Eddie Jones and England move forward after a fantastic 2016 that has seen the team collect their first Grand Slam in thirteen years and win a historic series 3 – 0 in Australia, England will now play four teams in the Autumn: South Africa, Fiji, Argentina and Australia.
We take a look at the changes Jones could make to his squad.
Current EPS squad:
Backs Brown (Harlequins), Goode (Saracens), Nowell (Exeter Chiefs), Watson (Bath), Yarde (Harlequins), Daly (Wasps), Joseph (Bath), Slade (Exeter), Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers) – replaced with Luther Burrell (Northampton), Te’o (Leinster), Farrell (Saracens), Ford (Bath), Care (Harlequins), B Youngs (Leicester).
Forwards Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs), George (Saracens), Hartley (Northampton, capt), Cole (Leicester), Genge (Leicester), Hill (Northampton), Mullan (Wasps), Sinckler (Harlequins), M Vunipola (Saracens), Itoje (Saracens), Kruis (Saracens), Launchbury (Wasps), Lawes (Northampton Saints), Harrison (Northampton), Haskell (Wasps), Robshaw (Harlequins), Clifford (Harlequins), B Vunipola (Saracens).
It seems likely that Luther Burrell might well have played his last game for England. Although finding a rich vein of form towards the end of the Premiership season and performing well enough against Wales to be called up to the Australia tour as a replacement for Manu Tuilagi, he was hauled off the field after 30 minutes in the first Test due to some defensive lapses and because the defensive system just wasn’t clicking. Burrell did not feature in the 23 for the next two Tests.
With Henry Slade, Ben Te’o, Owen Farrell and Tuilagi all as inside centre options, it may be that Burrell’s days as an international are over.
Similarly, Marland Yarde was picked over regular Jack Nowell for the first Test but despite finishing with a try had little impact on the game, being dropped in favour of Nowell for the second and third Tests. His place may go to the likes of Jonny May when he returns from injury or Semesa Rokoduguni, who had a superb summer with the second-string Saxons squad.
Te’o was selected in Jones’ squad for the summer, but may become surplus to requirements with three other players fighting for the inside centre berth. It may be that Jones hangs on to him for the time being, but this writer would rather see the likes of Kyle Eastmond or Ollie Devoto given another chance over the Worcester-bound Te’o.
Although Joe Marler decided to take the summer off to try and get his head in the right place after a series of incidents on and off the pitch, he will more than likely come back into Jones’ plans for the Autumn. With Marler returning, it is likely Wasps’ Mutt Mullan will drop out and bolter Ellis Genge stays to continue his development.
Finally, Teimana Harrison did well enough at the tail end of the season to be called up to England’s touring squad. Yet, despite an impressive performance against Wales in the friendly in May, he struggled to make any impact against Australia in the third and final Test after replacing the injured James Haskell.
With Josh Beaumont returning from injury shortly and Nathan Hughes now qualified to represent England through the residency rule, Jones has considerable options in the back row to ponder over.
Jones has also namechecked the U20s, who won the World Rugby U20 Championship in superb fashion in Manchester last weekend. One player who stands out within the squad is captain Harry Mallinder, who at times looked like a man playing against boys. He may come in to the equation as another 10/12 option. Moreover, hooker Jack Walker – formerly of Yorkshire Carnegie but has now signed for Bath – may sneak in ahead of Luke Cowan-Dickie.
Potential new England EPS squad:
Backs Brown (Harlequins), Goode (Saracens), Nowell (Exeter Chiefs), Watson (Bath), May (Gloucester), Daly (Wasps), Joseph (Bath), Slade (Exeter), Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers), Mallinder (Northampton), Farrell (Saracens), Ford (Bath), Care (Harlequins), B Youngs (Leicester).
Forwards Walker (Bath), George (Saracens), Hartley (Northampton, capt), Cole (Leicester), Genge (Leicester), Hill (Northampton), Marler (Harlequins), Sinckler (Harlequins), M Vunipola (Saracens), Itoje (Saracens), Kruis (Saracens), Launchbury (Wasps), Lawes (Northampton Saints), Hughes (Wasps), Haskell (Wasps), Robshaw (Harlequins), Clifford (Harlequins), B Vunipola (Saracens).
Paul Wassell, Pundit Arena
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