What different forward options does England head coach Eddie Jones have at his disposal? In an earlier article we took a look at three different back division selections the Australian could go with, but now we turn our attentions to the depth the Red Rose have throughout the pack.
Below you’ll find three different packs that Jones could choose to look at throughout the Autumn international schedule. This season England have four test matches to play: South Africa, Fiji, Argentina and Australia.
Whilst South Africa, Australia and Argentina will prove serious challenges for the men in white, the England coaching team may be tempted to rotate the squad for the match against Fiij. However, if Jones is feeling confident there could even be changes throughout the series of matches, given the demands playing four consecutive tests have on individual players.
We take a look now at three packs that England could pick.
The Tried And Tested
This is the current first-choice pack and the one Jones is likely to stick close to in the Autumn, although Haskell has been ruled out of the games with a serious foot injury.
Given the Wasps’ back rower’s long-term absence, the likes of Jack Clifford and Teimana Harrison will come into the equation for the number seven shirt.
The Likely Lads
Outside of England’s current pack there are players in every position who could realistically challenge the incumbent. The battle between Joe Marler and Mako Vunipola has begun in earnest this season after the Harlequins loosehead took a break over the summer to regain some mental clarity after several on-field controversies that were down to clouded and poor judgment on Marler’s part.
Jamie George’s form for both club and country is pushing Dylan Hartley to improve his performances and Paul Hill is quickly developing into a fine player.
Joe Launchbury and Courtney Lawes would walk into most international teams, but they are kept out by the fantastic consistency of Saracens duo Itoje and Kruis.
England U20s openside Will Evans is a player of enormous potential and given Eddie Jones’ willingness to give raw talent its chance, the Leicester Tigers youngster might get a run out against Fiji even when not first choice at his club.
Fijian born and bred Nathan Hughes is similarly likely to be given a chance in the Autumn, potentially against the country of his birth.
Finally, we come to the players that are either included in the expanded EPS squad or have played for England or the Saxons in recent times.
Ellis Genge was a surprise call-up to the England senior squad in the summer, but the former Bristol man is a wonderful ball carrier. He needs to continue to work on his scrummaging, however he will likely continue to be in Jones’ thoughts for the foreseeable future. A game against a team like Fiji not traditionally known for a strong set piece might be a good way of continuing his development.
Tommy Taylor is an exciting talent at Wasps and another player that has come through the excellent player pathway at Sale Sharks; statistically, he is also one of the best defenders in the Premiership. He was capped under Jones during the friendly fixture against Wales in May and is quickly winning over fans at the Ricoh Arena.
However, the experienced Tom Youngs has found favour again with the England head coach and has been included in the EPS over Taylor. Similarly, Exeter Chiefs’ Cowan-Dickie has been a mainstay of England squads since the World Cup announcement. All three are fighting for England’s third choice hooker spot.
Northampton Saints’ Kieran Brookes was close to starting for England as recently as last season, but injuries have played their part recently and the talented tighthead needs a run of games for his club to get England recognition once more. This will not be made easy with Paul Hill one of his club mates.
Although Charlie Ewels and Mike Williams were included in August’s EPS squad, Dave Attwood is a talented lock that was unlucky to miss out on World Cup selection. He was excellent on the Saxons tour last summer and like former England stalwart Tom Wood should not be ruled out of the equation.
Matt Kvesic can’t seem to get a break after being demoted from the extended 45-man EPS squad recently, but he is too talented an openside to ignore. If Gloucester can find some consistency then he may come back into the reckoning.
Finally, Sale Sharks’ recently appointed captain Josh Beaumont is a fantastic athlete and offers something a little different to both Vunipola and Hughes, and after recovering from serious injury will hope to gain a first cap sooner rather than later.
Tommy Taylor/Tom Youngs/Luke Cowan-Dickie
Paul Wassell, Pundit Arena