Despite the inexorable march of professionalism on the sport, many fans still yearn for some aspects of the old amateur era in rugby, and the concept of the trial game is one that for many is still close to their hearts.
So, what would an England trial game look like? It’ll never happen given the contractual demands on players from both their clubs and the national side, and the sheer volume of games they have to take part in throughout the course of the year, but in the spirit of 2017 let’s look at some alternative facts and pick the two teams that would fight it out for places in the final England team:
Note: Both sides are based on the most recent England squad.
England Possibles XV
England can still call on the older head of Matt Mullan at loosehead and the greener raw power of Ellis Genge, but Bath prop Catt has been in such good form that he deserves his shot in the team.
Even with second choice George in the team as hooker, we have to leave out the fantastic defensive capabilities and work rate of Wasps’ Tommy Taylor.
Tighthead prop Sinckler will surely get a first start during the Six Nations this year, whilst Launchbury and Lawes are world class operators at lock.
The back row looks a little more inexperienced with the uncapped Williams at flanker and Harrison and Clifford sharing just 13 caps between them, but it is certainly not short of talent and enthusiasm.
At 9 and 10 is the blend of youth and experience with Danny Care and Saracens’ Alex Lozowski, who has been in such fine form for his club, with a pairing of Te’o and Slade in the centres.
Out wide sees the inclusion of Bath winger Anthony Watson and Harlequins’ Marland Yarde, and finally Elliot Daly tried out at fullback.
England Probables XV
You know England are in a pretty good place squad development wise when most of the first team picks itself, a situation the country’s not enjoyed since the halcyon days of 2003.
Even with the injuries of Mako Vunipola, Chris Robshaw and Billy Vunipola robbing the team of serious experience and quality, the side that Eddie Jones may field is packed with caps, grit and determination.
Dylan Hartley (c)
So, which team would come out on top? It’s certainly not an easy call.
Paul Wassell, Pundit Arena