England have a rebuilding job to do this summer following an underwhelming Six Nations in which they finished in fifth place.
The return of three of their big names could play a large part in the rebuilding process, as Eddie Jones looks to right the wrongs of this campaign and lay down a marker in South Africa in June.
1. Billy Vunipola
One man England have undoubtedly missed over the last year is Saracens number eight Billy Vunipola.
Vunipola has arguably been Eddie Jones’ key player since taking the reins from Stuart Lancaster. He possesses raw power and the quick ball he generates can give England that lethal, deadly edge that has been lacking in their attacking play.
Vunipola is a born ball carrier and he likes to punch close to the breakdown, attack the fringes, something Nathan Hughes and Sam Simmonds are not designed for.
He is an invaluable member of the England squad and will relish a chance to perform against the Springboks.
Whether Eddie Jones will see enough of Vunipola to give him a shot before the tour remains to be seen. If fit, Vunipola walks into the England squad every day of the week.
2. Manu Tuilagi
Injury-plagued Leicester centre Manu Tuilagi is expected to return to club action on April 27th against Newcastle, much to the joy of Matt O’Connor and of course, Eddie Jones.
Manu Tuilagi on his day is England’s most destructive player, and is unplayable when he in form and fit.
He may be the physicality England’s midfield has been crying out for and one that could shape the England gameplan as they head to the Southern Hemisphere.
The centre will be desperate to prove his fitness and force his way onto the plane to South Africa ahead of a seriously important tour for England and Eddie Jones.
Having failed to play for the Lions last summer, South Africa could be the perfect place to get Tuilagi back into the international fold.
3. Ben Youngs
Ben Youngs missed almost the entire Six Nations after heading off during England’s opener against Italy. Undoubtedly England’s best scrum-half, he is a more stable, pragmatic alternative to Harlequins Danny Care.
Youngs kicks better and offers better service. He can change a game with his kicking and when playing the percentages.
There is no doubt that England looked far less assured with Danny Care pulling the strings during the most recent Six Nations.
Ben Youngs is close to a return and may return on Saturday against Northampton.
He will want to prove to Eddie Jones that he is fit enough to tour especially with the young Ben Vellacott playing so well for Gloucester and Jones apparently determined to give youth a chance.
Fred Blagden, Pundit Arena.