England’s last ‘proper’ tour of the southern hemisphere was back in 2012 when they went to South Africa.
The tour of New Zealand is discounted as – due to the farce over the Premiership final clashing with England’s tour – essentially two different squads were sent over. In 2013 England sent a Lionless squad to Argentina and so was not a first-string side either.
On that occasion, England sent out a squad of 42 players.
Using this number as a model, here is a potential squad for the senior tour to Australia this summer:
Props: Marler, Vunipola, Mullan, Cole, Brookes, Hill
Hookers: Hartley, George, Cowan-Dickie, Haywood
Locks: Kruis, Launchbury, Lawes, Itoje, Attwood, Symons
Back row: Robshaw, Haskell, Clifford, Kvesic, Vunipola, Beaumont, Ewers
Scrum halves: Youngs, Care, Simpson
Fly halves: Ford, Farrell, Cipriani
Centres: Slade, Tuilagi, Joseph, Daly, Hill, Devoto
Wings: Watson, Nowell, Yarde, Rokoduguni, May
Full-backs: Brown, Pennell
What was pleasantly surprising about selecting this squad was how easy a lot of it picked itself. The vast majority come from the existing Six Nations EPS and few of them deserve dropping. The only player that I feel doesn’t deserve to be in the senior squad is Alex Goode, who still resembles a decent club fly-half trying to make it as an international full-back.
Although he’s a smart player, he lacks the out-and-out pace and defensive qualities to make it as a fullback at the very top level. Worcester’s Chris Pennell, continuing his outstanding form this season, deserves another shot.
Real battles for coveted starting places are appearing now, with Maro Itoje making it more and more difficult for the likes of Courtney Lawes and Joe Launchbury, although George Kruis seems to be making the number five shirt his own. Dave Attwood deserves to come back into the reckoning and London Irish’s Matt Symons is a rare gem indeed: an English player making a success of himself in New Zealand for the Chiefs in Super Rugby before moving back to the UK. Such is his quality that only a year ago he was being touted as a potential All Black.
Moreover, young Paul Hill will continue to push to be in the side and Kieran Brookes will relish the chance to take the shirt off stalwart Dan Cole.
Dylan Hartley will likely remain as captain, but Jamie George is pushing him hard in the Six Nations and Luke Cowan-Dickie and Northampton’s Mike Haywood are two genuinely exciting prospects, whose time will come eventually.
The current options in the back row will continue to cause Eddie Jones nice problems, in terms of selection, and even Matt Kvesic might be given a rare chance to shine for his country.
Joe Simpson and Danny Cipriani could be handed an early chance to renew their former Wasps club partnership, with the Sale fly-half signing for the Coventry-based side for next season. A midweek side involving this 9/10 axis would be a tantalising prospect.
Henry Slade should be back in time to be involved in this tour and with Owen Farrell as a continuing stopgap inside centre and Manu Tuilagi as a long-term convert there, the summer should provide the selectors with some heated debates.
Elliot Daly and Jonathan Joseph will both attempt to sway the coaches’ minds about their suitability for the outside centre birth, and Ollie Devoto and Sam Hill provide longer term answers in the centre.
There is only a slender chance that Jonny May will return for England’s summer tour, but if he is fit then he has to be included. The currently banned Chris Ashton will be available for selection once more, but now that Jones’ honeymoon period is over, with Anthony Watson and Jack Nowell growing into their roles and more and more young wingers coming through, it appears Ashton’s last hurrah may have come and gone. Players like Marland Yarde and Semesa Rokoduguni deserve their opportunities more than Saracens’ Ashton now.
Hopefully midweek fixtures will be arranged for the fringe players to push for full honours in the three-test series. Even taking the 23 involved in the tests out of the equation, there is a potentially really strong second-string team in there.
As well as this, Jones is hoping to organise an Under-23 tour to South Africa this year. If he does take an expanded squad to South Africa then this team will be severely hit by the senior tour and will be a real test of the nation’s playing resources, but nevertheless should provide some interesting discussions for fans and the media alike.
Regardless of what happens in this Six Nations, the future is already looking brighter for the Red Rose.
Paul Wassell, Pundit Arena
Read More About: alex goode, All Blacks, Anthony Watson, ben youngs, billy vunipola, chiefs, chris pennell, chris robshaw, dan cole, danny care, danny cipriani, dave attwood, dave ewers, dylan hartley, elliot daly, england international rugby, england rugby, english rugby, eps, george ford, george kruis, Henry Slade, jack clifford, Jack Nowell, James Haskell, Jamie George, joe launchbury, joe marler, joe simpson, Jonathan Joseph, Jonny May, josh beaumont, Kieran Brookes, Luke Cowan Dickie, Mako Vunipola, manu tuilagi, marland yarde, Maro Itoje, matt kvesic, matt mullan, matt symons, midweek fixtures, mike brown, mike haywood, Ollie Devoto, owen farrell, paul hill, sam hill, Semesa Rokoduguni, summer tour, Top Story