We take a look at the five most talented wingers available to England right now, including some big names here but having to leave out some fantastic individuals out as well.
5) Christian Wade
Despite prodigious talent, Christian Wade just cannot seem to get a look-in when it comes to England selection. Part of a scintillating Wasps side this season and last, the diminuitive winger is reminiscent of the likes of Shane Williams and James Simpson-Daniel with his breathtaking footwork, superb awareness and the wonderful ability to create something out of nothing.
However, there continue to be question marks over his defence and it seems Eddie Jones is yet to be convinced, with the wee man not even making it into England’s 45-man EPS squad this month.
Although Wade appears destined not to wear the white of England this Autumn, his club will be extremely grateful that he will be available to them throughout. England’s loss is most definitely Wasps’ gain.
4) Jonny May
A knee injury has stunted May’s blossoming international career since last year’s World Cup, with the natural speedster having taken no part in the new Eddie Jones era so far. However, the Australian is a vocal supporter of the Gloucester winger and has included May in both of his extended EPS squads in both August and September.
Although May has his critics, particularly with regards to his defence, what makes the player so exciting is not only his electrifying pace but the flair with which he plays the game. In a era which often seems so dominated by robotic moves and pre-programmed set plays, May is a breath of fresh air in English rugby.
This try he set up for his club encapsulates this perfectly:
3) Jack Nowell
Nowell is something of the ‘odd one out’ in this list in that his game is not primarily based on acceleration or pace. Rather, he is an intelligent player whose impressive footwork, uncanny awareness of both space and opportunities available as well as finishing abilities put him at number three in our list.
Whilst Nowell is certainly not the quickest, he is by far the smartest winger England has and pops in the right place at the right time again and again.
Although small in stature, he is deceptively strong and unlike some of the other names here is growing as a defensive player. His efforts in the Six Nations and the tour of Australia did not go unnoticed.
2) Semesa Rokoduguni
Even though he was left out of England’s Six Nations squad and failed to make the cut for the tour of Australia, Fijian born and bred Rokoduguni has slowly been biding his time at Bath. His consistent performances for his club – as well as for the Saxons in South Africa over the summer – have seen him rewarded with a place in England’s 45-man EPS squad in September and a spot in the 37-man training squad for this month.
The stats in the Premiership for the first four rounds back up this call-up as well: Rokoduguni is the best carrier out of all the candidates here (39), the man who has made the most metres in the whole Premiership (375), the best offloader (6) and the player who has made the most breaks (8).
Rokoduguni now has a genuine chance to oust one of the incumbents in Nowell and Watson, and now that Jones is paying attention the Bath winger has never had a better chance to add to the solitary cap he earnt against the All Blacks back in 2014.
1) Anthony Watson
It’s so easy to get caught up in all the hyperbole surrounding wunderkind Maro Itoje that one can easily ignore the equally impressive achievements of Bath’s Anthony Watson.
At just 22 years of age Watson has already won 24 caps and scored 12 tries in that time. His game is built on pace but also the ability to score in even the most difficult of situations. As well as his fantastic finishing skills, Watson is improving as a player in all facets of backline play.
Indeed, despite England’s lacklustre World Cup campaign last year, Watson came out of the tournament with his reputation improved – one of the few players wearing the Red Rose to do so.
The successes of the England team this year are the just rewards for a young talent who works tirelessly at his own game. How good Watson can be in the years to come is anyone’s guess.
Paul Wassell, Pundit Arena