Eddie Jones this evening announced a reduced 25 man squad for Saturday’s big fixture against the Springboks, but his chosen men included a few surprising names and excluded a number of players thought almost certain to be a part of the final match day 23.
We take you through each position and the players who will start and operate from the bench.
With Ellis Genge out of the picture for the time being, it seems the battle for the loosehead shirt will be between Saracens’ Mako Vunipola and Harlequins’ Joe Marler, with the former likely to keep his jersey from the summer given his fantastic club form of late.
At hooker, Dylan Hartley will start with Jamie George and Tommy Taylor fighting it out for the bench spot.
Dan Cole will start at tighthead, but the uncapped Kyle Sinckler has edged himself ahead of the already established Paul Hill and may well finally gain his first run in an England shirt.
Sale Sharks’ Josh Beaumont is a surprise inclusion despite being a late call-up to the squad as injury cover for Courtney Lawes who is now fully fit once more. With the number eight proving to be one of the best operators in the lineout in the Premiership this season, he could be used as both lock and back row cover in the squad.
However, with young Charlie Ewels being sent home it is almost certain that the old Red Rose pairing of Joe Launchbury and Courtney Lawes will be reunited once more.
Bath’s Dave Attwood retains his place in the squad and may feature for England for the first time since the friendly against Wales back in May.
Billy Vunipola will surely start at 8, but it seems the other two positions will be fought between Northampton Saints’ recalled Tom Wood, Harlequins stalwart Chris Robshaw and uncapped Wasps back rower Nathan Hughes.
There will be no surprises here with Ben Youngs likely to start ahead of Danny Care.
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George Ford will undoubtedly continue at 10 with Saracens fly-half Owen Farrell continuing to operate as a second five-eighth at 12.
Semesa Rokoduguni looked a shoe-in for the England side given the injuries to both regular wings Jack Nowell and Anthony Watson, but Marland Yarde has obviously impressed the England coaches in training and has nudged ahead of the Fijian-born flyer. Gloucester’s speedster Jonny May will now start his first England game since October last year after recovering from a long-term injury.
Owen Farrell will almost certainly start at 12 with Jonathan Joseph continuing to partner him at 13. Although Eddie Jones is vocal in his appreciation of Worcester centre Ben Te’o, the Australian would be foolish to break up a centre partnership that has worked so well for England this year. Yet the powerful league convert may be used as a replacement at some point during the match.
Wasps’ Elliot Daly will continue to cover the centre positions from the bench.
There is only one dedicated 15 here, with Mike Brown continuing in the role. Alex Goode has a number of advocates for his inclusion ahead of the Harlequins man, but it appears Jones favours ‘Mr Angry’ over ‘Mr Reliable’.
Elliot Daly has played for Wasps at fullback before and seems most likely to provide cover for Brown from the bench.
Pundit Arena’s Predicted England 23:
Mako Vunipola, Dylan Hartley (c), Dan Cole, Joe Launchbury, Courtney Lawes, Chris Robshaw, Nathan Hughes, Billy Vunipola, Ben Youngs, George Ford, Jonny May, Owen Farrell, Jonathan Joseph, Marland Yarde, Mike Brown
Replacements: Joe Marler, Kyle Sinckler, Jamie George, Dave Attwood, Tom Wood, Danny Care, Ben Te’o, Elliot Daly
Paul Wassell, Pundit Arena
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