With a new England U-23 team likely to tour South Africa this summer, running in parallel with the senior squad’s tour of Australia as well as the U-20s Junior World Championship taking place in Manchester, it seems the nation’s playing resources are going to be stretched.
However, Pundit Arena writer Alan Drumm pointed out that Eddie Jones has plenty of young talent at his disposal, and even with potentially 30+ players on tour with the senior squad in Australia, Jones will still be able to select a powerful team for the U-23 side to face the Emerging Springboks twice.
The U-23 tour would provide a much-needed player pathway between the U-20s and the senior set up, particularly with the Saxons having played no fixtures during the Six Nations this year due to a crowded domestic and international schedule.
Moreover, limiting selection criteria to a specific age group means ageing journeymen are excluded. So what team might Jones and his coaches select? For the purposes of this exercise, only players currently 23 years or younger have been considered, which means a number of rising names such as Dan Robson and Christian Wade have not been included.
England U-23 team to play the Emerging Springboks
- Nick Auterac
- Harry Thacker
- Kyle Sinckler
- Elliott Stooke
- Charlie Ewels
- Lewis Ludlam
- Sam Underhill/Matt Kvesic
- James Chisholm
- Ben Spencer
- Alex Lozowski
- Marland Yarde
- Sam Hill
- Ollie Devoto
- Jamie Elliott
- Mike Haley
At prop, Sale’s Ross Harrison would push Nick Auterac hard for the loosehead spot, but the latter’s ten games he has played this season despite fierce competition at Bath for frontrow spots shows how highly rated he is by Bath coach Mike Ford. Tightheads Kyle Sinckler and Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi would be likely to fight it out for the number 3 shirt.
Harry Thacker has been impressing fans on a regular basis at Welford Road this season and will continue to be given plenty of opportunities this season with Tom Youngs unfortunately sidelined. However, Thacker would face a lot of competition from the likes of Saracens’ Scott Spurling, Newcastle’s George McGuigan (who is currently being courted by Ireland) and Yorkshire Carnegie’s Jack Walker. Walker’s inclusion would be a second major triumph for the Leeds-based team after former player Paul Hill earned his first cap for England during the Six Nations.
Will Spencer and Sam Twomey are just a couple of competitiors for the second row spots, but regular Premiership starters Elliott Stooke and Charlie Ewels get the nod here. Given the rise of George Kruis and Maro Itoje recently, the Premiership is producing second rows of real quality.
Bath’s David Sisi would push Saints’ Lewis Ludlam at the blindside, and with Chris Robshaw and James Haskell not getting any younger, opportunities may arrive for these players at number six.
It may well be that both Sam Underhill and Matt Kvesic end up on England’s senior tour this summer, but if not one or both will start for the U-23s. Underhill, currently based at the Ospreys, is a highly rated young openside and has attracted the attention of both Wales coach Warren Gatland and Eddie Jones. Kvesic, who is many fans’ openside of choice, was arguably unlucky not to feature in the Six Nations.
Harlequins’ James Chisholm is the standout performer at number eight and deserves a chance to shine on the summer tour.
At scrum half, Saracens’ Ben Spencer is possibly unlucky not be included in the senior squad, but with Ben Youngs, Danny Care and Joe Simpson ahead of him it is hardly surprising. Even with Neil de Kock and Richard Wigglesworth at Sarries, Spencer has managed to make quite an impact and has already played for England Saxons. Former Saints’ man, Alex Day, now of Cornish Pirates, may challenge Spencer for honours.
At fly-half there are a lot of options. London Irish have already handed Theo Brophy-Clews opportunities at Premiership level, but Eddie Jones could also choose Wasps’ Alex Lozoswki – son of former England centre Rob, who is off to Saracens for start of the 2016-2017 season. Exeter’s Will Hooley and Gloucester’s Billy Burns could also come into contention for a starting spot.
On the wings, full England international Marland Yarde could work his way back into test recognition on this tour with Saints’ Jamie Elliott and Tom Collins pushing him for a starting berth.
In the centre, England’s increasing depth is reflected with the likes of Ollie Devoto and Sam Hill both selected for England’s senior squad for the Six Nations. Neither achieved a cap, but they are at least in the England coach’s thoughts. Saints’ Harry Mallinder and Sale’s Will Addison could also come into the mix.
Finally, at fullback Sale’s Mike Haley should be given the chance to shine. Mat Protheroe, a Welsh-born England U-18 representative and one of the standout performers in a poor U-20s side this season, would not yet qualify for England based on residency grounds and will not even be eligible to represent the England U-20s team at the Junior World Championship this summer.
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