Who should start in the England Rugby tour to South Africa

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The dust has settled on the 2018 Six Nations, and England fans will be keen to look forward [rather than dwell on the recent past]. The tournament was an unmitigated disaster, which brought forward a lot more questions than answers. So if the England Rugby tour to South Africa were being played tomorrow, which players deserve to be selected?

Who should start in the England Rugby tour to South Africa

An important tour to South Africa looms this summer, and with just 18 months to go until Rugby World Cup in Japan, Last Word on Rugby writer James Kimber looks at a possible starting XV for the first test.

Considering the five tests played in 2018, any England Rugby tour now would have a wide squad to select from. And any consideration, is respective of recent form, fitness and their future value – when looking at the bigger picture.

1. Ellis Genge

Has been cruelly hamstrung by injuries so far this season, but on his day in unstoppable. The sort of player who will relish the challenge of the confrontational Springboks, Genge deserves a shot this summer.

A destructive ball carrier and competent scrummager, the highly-rated Leicester prop could push the established Marler and Vunipola hard.

2. Dylan Hartley (c)

A lot of this team will be relatively inexperienced, with new combinations being tested. Who better to glue them together than Jones’ warrior-like captain?

Jamie George has played a phenomenal amount of rugby in the last 18 months, so I’d bring the destructive Luke Cowan-Dickie off the bench for some added knuckle.

3. Kyle Sinckler

There’s no two ways about it, similarly to Genge, Sinckler was built to take on South Africa. An aggressive, hard-carrying front row who has one thing many props lack – pace, and heaps of it.

Needs to work on his scrum-craft at the top level, but after a poor tournament from Dan Cole, Sinckler should be given his chance to take the starting jersey.

4. Nick Isiekwe

The young Saracen is highly-rated by Jones, and has been given more regular starts for Saracens this season.

Injury to Courtney Lawes and a dire need for rest for Maro Itoje brings the young Saracen in for his chance. The second row is a position of great strength for England at present, and Isiekwe could develop that even further.

5. George Kruis

With youth and inexperience all around him, England will need some experience and an adept lineout caller to shore up the set piece.

Kruis hasn’t hit the heights of previous seasons, but is widely known as one of the best lineout operators in the world. This is an area of historically South African strength, so England will need a man like Kruis to help them through the tour.

6. Jack Willis

A bolter. Willis has come from nowhere and been superb for Wasps, particularly when their international players have been away.

Whilst current holder of the shirt Chris Robshaw is a grafter who covers immense amount of ground, Willis is a more ‘Hollywood’ option. Strong over the ball and a powerful carrier, he’s the sort of all-court back row England have been crying out for.

Brad Shields, the current Hurricanes captain who has signed for Wasps, may also be in the reckoning. However with Jones stating that he won’t take a look at him until he arrives in England, this tour may come too soon for the talented back row.

7. Sam Underhill

The Bath openside has yet to live up to promise, yet many forget that he’s still just 21 years old. Before a clumsy yellow card, looked to have made a real difference to the breakdown in the Calcutta Cup. And importantly, he has the raw physicality to cope with the Springboks.

With James Haskell struggling to find an English club and Robshaw clearly not a natural openside, hopefully Underhill will get a run of games under his belt to challenge for the 7 jersey.

Sale’s Tom Curry will also be in the running if he hits a run of form when returning from injury. Was nothing short of superb on his England debut during the tour of Argentina, and is another rapid poacher who could be the answer to England’s breakdown problems.

8. Sam Simmonds

Bath’s Zach Mercer will no doubt push him hard, however Simmonds was one of England’s few shining lights in an otherwise disappointing tournament.

With Nathan Hughes out with a long-term injury, and Billy Vunipola needing to be wrapped up in cotton wool, has a chance to cement his place in the forefront of Eddie Jones’ mind.

Doesn’t have the raw power of usual starter Billy Vunipola, but has raw pace and clever footwork that will suit the fast track of South Africa.

9. Dan Robson

Prior to Ben Youngs’ injury, England looked well stocked in this department. However, a horrible ankle injury to the Leicester starlet in Rome ended his competition, and season, prematurely.

This gives Jones a chance to blood a new 9. Robson has been nothing short of superb in the last few seasons for Wasps. He offers both a serious running threat, and dependable kicking game, and needs to be given his chance to take that third 9 spot in England’s World Cup squad.

10. George Ford

The Leicester man may have not had a vintage year, but is a classy enough operator that he deserves a chance to play himself back in to form.

It’s too soon for Marcus Smith to start, and Owen Farrell needs to be rested. As a result, Ford must be given the chance to lead the backline in his absence. What if Farrell gets injured just before Japan 2019? English fans will dread to think it, but all eventualities must be covered for the England Rugby tour to South Africa.

12. Manu Tuilagi

Some pundits and fans alike may be worried about Ford’s defence in the 10 channel. How best to keep South Africa’s big runners away from him? Stick Manu Tuilagi on his shoulder.

If he stays fit, Jones will have to find a way to squeeze him into his World Cup squad. It could be said he is a better and more attacking version of Ben Te’o who needs more game time. Has the ability to cause carnage when pulled from the bench in a must-win World Cup game.

13. Henry Slade

Slade is a wonderful player to watch. Think back to his silky show-and-go in the first test of the 2017 Argentina tour, and you’ll understand why he needs to be given a run in the team.

With Jonathan Joseph out of sorts and Ben Te’o not shining in a struggling Worcester and England team, England need to try a new option.

Whilst Henry Trinder is another precocious talent, he’s another who needs to prove his fitness long-term. Previously a ‘jack-of-all-trades’, Slade finally seems to have found his position for Exeter as a ball-playing 13, but is still capable of hitting hard lines and solid defence.

11. Jonny May

Form players Olly Woodburn and Christian Wade are clearly not deemed international class by Jones, so another experienced head will be required.

England, with all options available, are blessed with a plethora of talented wingers including Daly, Watson and Nowell. All three went to New Zealand and have, or have recently had serious injuries which require them to be rested.

Who better to replace them than May? One of the best straight-line finishers in the business, he managed four tries despite England’s dreadful Six Nations campaign. Has also worked hard on his game under the high ball and defensively, so can continue to do so in South Africa.

14. Denny Solomona

Injuries will force England to look at a rookie option out wide. Surely 10 tries in 15 games this season is enough reason? A lethal finisher from anywhere, and despite two defensive howlers off the bench on his debut in Argentina, picked up the winning try with a fantastic finish from 45m out.

May not be everyone’s cup of tea, but is a natural try-scorer and should be given the opportunity to impress, and to redress preseason poor choices.

15. Mike Brown

Similarly to Hartley, Brown will be required on this tour as an experienced head to keep the back line in check.

Watson is another who’s been ruled out for a lengthy period with a nasty-looking injury this Six Nations campaign, and Brown can provide an unspectacular but crucial solidity against a country known for their kicking game.


So there we have it, LWOR have put the case forward for the England Rugby tour. But Eddie Jones, his coaching group and every fan of the game will have evidence for who they wish to start.

Who would you pick in yours? Let us know in the comments below, on Facebook or Twitter.

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