The task awaiting Eddie Jones when he takes over the role of England rugby Head Coach is a daunting one to say the least. Knocked out at the pool stages of their own World Cup and promising yet ultimately deflating back to back Six Nations means that the rugby public of England expect a great deal. RFU CEO Ian Ritchie has gotten his wish of an international pedigree coach with this appointment and it is up to Eddie Jones’ England to deliver from the outset.
With this in mind, a hypothetical starting XV has been looked at in order to give our new man in the job all the support he needs. Based on current form from the opening rounds of the Aviva Premiership and European competitions as well as a dash of personal opinion. It has already been stated that overseas players will not be selected for England duty, despite the pleas and drones of a certain Sky Sports pundit, it does not appear it will happen so maybe it’s time to move on. Those players made the decision knowing the eligibility rules and therefore have not been considered for the Eddie Jones’ England: In Form XV.
This is by no means a comprehensive starting England XV just opening the discussion of the form English players.
Eddies Jones’ England: The In Form XV
- Joe Marler (Harlequins) Despite what was probably his worst day in an England shirt versus Australia at the Rugby World Cup, Marler has gone back to his club and rejuvenated himself in a matter of weeks. Impressive showings in the European Challenge Cup have highlighted the need for England to keep him in the squad and continue to work with him.
- Rob Webber (Bath Rugby) A quietly efficient start to the season for the Bath man has seen his sides scrum dominant and his lineout improve. A huge position that needs fixing from the World Cup debacle and although without current form, Dylan Hartley may well still be the man to compete with Tom Youngs for the England shirt.
- Kieran Brookes (Northampton Saints)Taken to World Cup but never really given the chance to shine in a struggling English pack. As with Marler he has taken the disappointment of the World Cup and used it to produce some of the best rugby he has played in his career.
- Maro Itoje (Saracens) Itoje has been mentioned as a future England captain, it is probably too early for that but there is no reason he should not be in Eddies Jones’ first England squad. He currently tops the Aviva Premiership table in turnovers won with five, no mean feat for a second row. Having captained England under 20’s to the 2014 IRB Junior World Championship he has the pedigree to succeed at international level.
- Joe Launchbury (Wasps) The ‘embarrassment’ of receiving the man of the match award in England’s defeat to Australia highlights at once, the publics love for Launchbury and his own honest nature. A great all-rounder across the pitch, Launchbury may well be the man to be Eddies Jones’ England Captain should the mantle be removed from Chris Robshaw.
- James Haskell (Wasps) A talismanic performance against Toulon as Wasps Captain further embedded the reputation of a man once more penalty machine than rugby player. Worthy of a place in the new England set up for his workman like performances and strong ball carrying ability.
- Brendan O’Connor (Leicester Tigers) The most contentious position for some time in the England set up especially since the rugby world showed England how an open side flanker should play. All be it very early into his Leicester career (two games admittedly) but he has shown the kind of jackal like work rate that makes the best 7’s stand out from the crowd. Outstanding in Leicester’s victory over Stade Francais he should definitely be on the ones to watch list.
- Josh Beaumont (Sale Sharks) England undoubtedly have great strength in depth for most positions, none more so than at number eight. Vunipola, Morgan and Waldrom all have strong cases but the 22 year old Sale man continues to grow in stature and confidence. Ultimately he would be down the pecking order but on recent performances deserves his chance as part of the wider England set up.
- Joe Simpson (Wasps) Despite being overlooked for the World Cup squad, Simpson has continued to improve his all round game. The majesty of his box kicking performance against both Leinster and Toulon highlight the rate that he has improved. A livewire in the mould of Danny Care and with the game control of Ben Youngs it is hard to understand how he cannot merit a place in the new England.
- Owen Farrell (Saracens) A tough decision between George Ford and Farrell who have both bounced back from World Cup disappointment with aplomb with commanding performances at club level. Farrell edges it following the sparks of masterclass that were witnessed against Ulster in the Champions Cup. Normally a metronome of kicking quality he took himself out of his comfort zone to play some fantastic front foot rugby with ball in hand.
- Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby) An incredible Six Nations, the only bright spark in a dismal English World Cup and now back to terrorising club defenders week in and week out. Simply put a man for all occasions who deserves all the plaudits that he receives.
- Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs) Versatility is often the downfall for many a sports person, constantly shifted positions at club level means that securing the all-important international honours becomes increasingly difficult. The skill set and vision of the Exeter man though means that Eddies Jones should be looking to accommodate him anywhere in the set up.
- Elliot Daly (Wasps)The sight of his thunderous boot is almost as much of a joy to behold as witnessing Daly carve up defences on a weekly basis. As with Slade he has struggled with being too versatile for his own good. He now needs to settle into a midfield that can take England forward. His self-assured performances so far this season suggest he may be ready for the step up to international level.
- Christian Wade (Wasps) Long overlooked for his size and supposed defensive frailties but he just continues to improve. His electric pace and finishing know how opens defensive lines with ease as seen with his try against Gloucester and poaching qualities witnessed in Leinster. Sides will target his size but they cannot combat his speed and skill in attack. The Kiwis surrounding him in the back three at Wasps can only help to improve his game.
- Mike Brown (Harlequins) As with Watson, just a man on the top of his game with club or country. For Harlequins he continues to excel in everything he does and long may it continue in the red rose of England.
Nathan Hughes (Sensational all season, eligible from June 2016)
Tommy Taylor (Fast becoming one of the best hookers in the league)
Danny Cirpriani (The antithesis to both Farrell and Ford, needed on the bench as a game changer)
Luther Burrell (Maligned by his rejection for the World Cup, should rightly take his place with England)
Johnathan Joseph (Will most likely retain his starting place after a successful past few months)
Hopefully this will give Eddie Jones and fans alike a starting point of discussion on who should be in the squad and who should be wearing the white jerseys on 6th February 2016 at Murrayfield as England take on Scotland.