Joe Cokanasiga and Tommy Freeman might just be the sparks that can ignite the England attack. They were the two clear positives that came out of that embarrassing defeat to the Barbarians two weeks ago. Importantly Joe Cokanasiga and Tommy Freeman worked well off Marcus Smith’s running game.
The likes of Owen Farrell, Billy Vunipola, and Danny Care are also likely to come back, to give some much-needed experience going into what will be a grueling three-test match series.
Charlie Inglefield picks his England rugby team for the all-important first test in Perth this coming Saturday.
#AUSvENG Heavyweights to return
Billy Vunipola and Danny Care look set to restart their international careers. Few would have thought this after a promising 2021 Autumn campaign for England. Both Vunipola and Care deserve their respective call-ups given how good their form has been in the Gallagher Premiership. The scrum-half position remains a big problem for Eddie Jones.
Raffi Quirke has been beset with injuries and Harry Randall has not been convincing. Ben Youngs remains in pole position but does he have enough left in the tank to go to France? Care should start in Perth. England needs quick ball, and Care is still ‘one of the best’ in business in providing that.
In Vunipola’s case injuries to Alex Dombrandt and Sam Simmonds have given him a chance to restart his international career. Vunipola was the best Saracens player on show against Leicester in the Gallagher Premiership final. He looks fit, powerful, and motivated. Jones will surely start Vunipola on Saturday to give England some firepower at the back of the scrum.
Farrell can give Smith some much-needed support
When Marcus Smith grabbed the number 10 shirt with such aplomb in the 2021 autumn series, many thought that Owen Farrell’s starting spot was in jeopardy. It might well have been if Smith had ignited England’s backline in this year’s Six Nations. That’s not to say Smith did not play well in the Championship but, for all of his efforts, England’s backs failed to fire. It is therefore logical that Jones brings back Farrell to lend Smith some support. The Freddie Steward try in England’s win over Australia last November showed that this combination – given time – can work.
England at the moment is low on confidence and the reassuring presence of Farrell will certainly bring back a degree of belief. What will help Smith is Farrell’s kicking game – both from the tee and in open play. The key for Jones is to ensure that Smith’s off-script brilliance is not lost in England’s quest to reassert their game-plan around possession and territory. Farrell on his hip could be the best option facing the Wallabies at home in Perth.
Joe Cokanasiga and Tommy Freeman can ignite England back three
With Jonny May succumbing to Covid this week, the two wing spots are up for grabs. Joe Cokanasiga and Tommy Freeman would be many observer’s choices; including Last Word on Rugby.
Tommy Freeman was on Marcus Smith’s wavelength at Twickenham against the Barbarians and looked dangerous throughout. He is also excellent in the air – an important factor when Australia launches to the skies. Joe Cokanasiga comes in on the other wing as his power can compensate for the loss of Manu Tuilagi. He looked for work around Marcus Smith and constantly got England over the gain-line.
Jack Nowell is an excellent option off the bench. It is great to see Nowell back from injury and he must be a frontrunner to start. Most are going for an outside-back combination of power, flair, and aerial ability with Cokanasiga and Freeman well-placed to perform this Saturday night.
There may be a time for Courtney Lawes to revert back to the second row in the near future. But, not for this coming Saturday. So who is standing in the way of Lawes wearing the number five jersey? Jonny Hill is fit again and played well in a poor England pack performance against the Barbarians. He can provide some necessary grunt beside Maro Itoje in England’s second row. Courtney Lawes is at blindside along with Billy Vunipola and Tom Curry.
Of note, Lawes captained well in Farrell’s absence and deserves to retain the captaincy for the first test in Perth.
With no Kyle Sinckler, Will Stuart should get another opportunity to show what he can do at this level. My starting front row would be Will Stuart, Jamie George, and Ellis Genge. Mako Vunipola and Luke Cowan-Dickie can provide strong backup from the bench.
England’s experience can win the first test
The pressure on Eddie Jones continues to build after a disappointing Six Nations campaign. Win in Perth and England will make a significant step towards not only winning a tough series but reinstating some belief that this England rugby team can challenge for the 2023 World Cup. Jones must use this tour to Australia to finalize his World Cup plans and selections even if he does have a fair few potential regulars out injured.
In Danny Care and Billy Vunipola, there will be two experienced heads who will be champing at the bit to give Jones a selection headache. Add in the return of Owen Farrell whose leadership will complement Courtney Lawes’s influence on the team and England might just fire up.
It is a well-worn cliche on tours to the southern hemisphere. Whoever wins the first test will win the series. From an England perspective they can load up on experience and that may just allow Marcus Smith the breathing space to launch England’s backline. Combine that with the dependency of Owen Farrell’s boot then England may just shade a potentially rusty Wallabies outfit. England to win by no more than a score with the following team.
View our potential England XV below:
15. Freddie Steward
14. Tommy Freeman
13. Joe Marchant
12. Owen Farrell
11. Joe Cokanasiga
10. Marcus Smith
9. Danny Care
8. Billy Vunipola
7. Tom Curry
6. Courtney Lawes
5. Jonny Hill
4. Maro Itoje
3. Will Stuart
2. Jamie George
1. Ellis Genge
Reserves: Harry Randall, Jack Nowell, Jack Willis, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Joe Heyes, Ollie Chessum, Mako Vunipola, Lewis Ludlam
Australia v England – Saturday, July 2. Perth
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