To assess the England rugby squad options that are available, one needs to look far and wide. From current squad members and to include in-form players.
We are not far away from Eddie Jones first squad announcement since rugby restarted. The break in the season has allowed for some players to stand out and put their hands up for selection. In some cases, these players would have been relatively unknown halfway through the season.
Will Eddie make some radical changes to his usually consistent selection process. Will he rely on his trusted players or will there be a raft of surprises getting into the squad. There is no doubt that there is a collection of players who have really played themselves into contention.
Below, Last Word on Rugby will assess who may be in contention and any potential squad bolters who could spring a surprise.
#1 Loose Head prop
It will be no surprise to see the likes of Ellis Genge and Mako Vunipola in this selection. They both continue to be a cut above the rest of the league’s looseheads. Vunipola is arguably one of the best forward players in the world. Genge has a different style of play, and one that suits Jones’ style of squad management in having finishers coming from the bench. Beno Obano and Alec Hepburn have been around the squads and either would be more than suitable third choices.
A potential development spot for Emmanuel Iyogun, the 19-year-old thrust into starting their European quarter-final for Northampton Saints. Getting applause from Eddie on his substitution may be a sign he ‘liked’ what he saw?
The hooker position has historically been one of stiff competition. The dynamic Jamie George has done an excellent job of filling the void left by Dylan Hartley. It would be a surprise if George didn’t continue to hold the position but Luke Cowan-Dickie continues to push for first-choice selection. Being at the forefront of Exeter’s charge towards potential domestic and European success and being nominated for European player of the year, his selection is well deserved.
A deserved third choice spot must go to Tom Dunn. The in-form hooker in the league has one of the best running games for a hooker and continues to score and deliver solid set-piece for Bath. Let’s not forget the huge potential bolter option of Alfie Barbeary too. He continues to impress on the flanks for Wasps, so maybe in line for a development spot.
#3 Tight Head prop
Without doubt, Kyle Sinckler continues to be one of the box office players that people tune in to watch. The softest hands for a tighthead prop seen in many years and a combative approach to the position, it would be a surprise to see him omitted to say the least.
Harry Williams continues to impress for Exeter and will likely be the backup option for Eddie. The player that stands out as the obvious choice for third choice is Will Stuart of Bath. The Bath pack has been dominant so far since the restart and Stuart’s role in the pivotal tight head position wouldn’t have gone unnoticed.
#4-5 Second Row
The England squad options at second row are the envy of world rugby. There is a plethora of choices here, and there will come a point where world-class players will be dropped. All in favour of testing up and coming talent who could be’ just as good’. Maro Itoje will continue to be the face of England rugby and deservedly so. Being one of a handful of players England have that would arguably walk into any team in the world.
Going on form, there needs to be a time where Jonny Hill at Exeter gets a chance, this could be his time. His performances with Exeter have been immense and will have no doubt caught Eddies’ eyes. Charlie Ewels will likely be present in the squad as he continues to excel at the set-piece.
An unlikely name to be considered, but one that would be worth exploring is Ben Donnell at London Irish. He has been part of the England youth teams and has been ever-present for the Exiles this year. Holding his own in a team struggling for performances. However, the remaining spots are likely to go to Courtney Lawes and Joe Launchbury as they continue to be world-class players. That is subject to the injury sustained on Tuesday night doesn’t rule out Lawes.
Not a bad position to be in at all.
#6-7-8 Back Row
What is now quickly becoming an area of strength for England probably provides the greatest selection dilemma for Eddie. To put it simply, the squad cannot fit all of the options available into the squad; Tom Curry, Jack Willis, Sam Underhill, Lewis Ludlam, Billy Vunipola, Sam Simmonds, Ben Earl, Ted Hill, and Mark Wilson. As well, according to Mail Online rumours of Tommy Reffell of Leicester being prized away from Welsh rugby. A plethora of England squad options that may see Mark Wilson to drop out of the squad to make room.
No matter who Eddie chooses there will be quality players left out. This shows the depth in the England squad options currently and with a lot of is being young talent, it is exciting for England squad options for the future.
Ben Youngs has been the incumbent of this shirt for many years, and there is an argument to say that he should continue to be selected. Although, this based off allowing him to collect his 100th cap in the Red Rose. However, international rugby shouldn’t be a place for niceties.
The in-form scrum-half in the country is undoubtedly Ben Spencer. Now a starting scrum-half having moved from Saracens, he has shown what he is capable of if given the starting position. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Youngs selected but, the battle for the third position is very competitive.
Jack Maunder at Exeter, Alex Mitchell at Northampton and Harry Randall at Bristol all offer the options of being young developing scrum halves. Alternatively, the steady hands of Dan Robson or Danny Care albeit unlikely in the latter case are possible options here.
#10 Fly Half
Owen Farrell is the captain of Eddie Jones’ England squad, with that in mind we know he will be there come to the squad announcement. George Ford has continued to put in performances in the England shirt that arguably deserves continued selection as the backup. However, Marcus Smith needs to be brought into the equation eventually.
Smith has International rugby quality, and will be in the team eventually. However, we shouldn’t rule out Joe Simmonds at Exeter. Steering Exeter to a European Cup final isn’t an accident and deserves recognition for this. Will Eddie choose to look at his now?
The future looks strong in this position with England, Jacob Umaga (see below image) at Wasps continues to impress, James Grayson at Northampton continues to learn his trade under Dan Biggar and Manu Vunipola at Saracens is getting a good amount of game time.
Eddie often chooses out of position players, to fill the roles in the centres. Whether it be Owen Farrell stepping out from Fly Half or Manu Tuilagi stepping in from the outside. The latter will no doubt also be in the squad by sheer fact of his x-factor ability.
Henry Slade is likely to retain his place in the squad, continuing to show class at centre for Exeter. Jonathan Joseph has been solid for Bath and unlikely to be dropped. Rounding off a likely unchanged centre core will be Ollie Devoto who also hasn’t done any harm with his performances for the Chiefs.
Outside that, the fifth slot currently filled by Fraser Dingwall could be transferred to another young player to be looked at. The question is, is it time to have a look at Ollie Lawrence, the exciting young centre at Worcester?
#11-14-15 Back Three
Jonny May will likely continue to be England’s most dangerous weapon on the wings. Having moved to Gloucester, whilst still playing well, he is arguably being outshone by club mate Ollie Thorley; Justifying the Gallagher Premiership’s top try-scorer selection too.
Anthony Watson will likely be the full-back of choice, whilst George Furbank has been struggling to recover the form that led to his first caps in February earlier this year. Elliot Daly will likely fill the position he often does as the utility back from the bench. A battle between the in-form Ruaridh McConnachie, the physical specimen Joe Cokanasiga or the all-rounder Jack Nowell will decide the choice of fifth slot in the squad.
There is also the chance to see the likes of Zach Kibirige, as a possible development player.
2020 Six Nations – Italy v England, October 31. Stadio Olympico, Rome
England Squad Options
This possible squad could be the group to take on Italy in October. Who else would you like to see in the England squad for the upcoming International fixtures?
Are there any bolters you think deserve to be there? Which players mentioned do you think Eddie should move on from? What other England squad options would you like to see?
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