England’s Rugby World Cup squad contenders

England's Rugby World Cup

England’s Rugby World Cup squad will be shaped in the coming weeks as the Gallagher Premiership season prepares to get underway. Who will lead the list of contenders for England’s Rugby World Cup squad? There will be a number of established players with work to do and some promising talent that might just break into Eddie Jones’ plans. There are definitely places up for grabs led by the exciting Henry Arundell.  Charlie Inglefield looks through each position and identifies the contenders to go alongside the probable incumbents.

England’s Rugby World Cup squad


New Leicester signing, Anthony Watson will be desperate to get back into the England set-up. Watson’s pace and finishing ability would be a valuable asset for Jones if he remains injury free. Freddie Steward is deservedly the incumbent but Watson’s versatility in the back three would be a major asset to England’s Rugby World Cup squad. Anthony Watson to overtake Northampton’s George Furbank as England’s cover at full-back.


Rather like Watson, Jonny May will hope to be injury-free this season and needs a strong start to the season with Gloucester. At his best, he is still England’s premier winger with his pace and finishing ability. Joe Cokanasiga was dropped for the second Test against Australia and needs to increase his work rate if he is to make the squad. Henry Arundell is a wonderful talent and he is among the contenders for England’s 2023 Rugby World Cup squad. Arundell could be a bolter like Ruaridh McConnochie was in the 2019 Rugby World Cup squad. The big prospect for England over the next twelve months.


The most challenging position in England’s team right now. They miss Manu Tuilagi and everyone will be hoping that the Sale man gets through the season without injury. If he is fit then he should start alongside Henry Slade, with Marcus Smith at fly-half. Slade is by no means guaranteed and must step up over the next few months.

The combination of Marcus Smith and Owen Farrell remains a work in progress. It is an all too familiar scenario that Eddie Jones had with George Ford and Owen Farrell. Farrell was back to his pugnacious best down under but can he get England’s backline purring? One has to go – Marcus Smith or Owen Farrell if Tuilagi is fit. If not, then Jones will likely persist with the Farrell and Smith partnership.

However, who completes the line-up at number 13? Joe Marchant has been consistent but was dropped after the first test against the Wallabies. Gary Porter struggled with his defence in the third test against Australia. Rather like David Beckham’s metatarsal in 2002, England rugby fans should be praying that Tuilagi gets through in 2023.


Marcus Smith. Jones must persist with the Harlequins pivot. Smith’s star waned slightly in Australia after a long season but he has the ability to direct England over the next ten years. George Ford could come into the equation as long as he recovers from an achilles injury in time. As per the argument in the centres, the alternation between Owen Farrell and Marcus Smith needs a lot of work but Jones will persist with it.


Ben Youngs is now behind ‘the man of tour’ Jack van Poortvliet and such is the rise of van Poortvliet this may well be the beginning of the end for the Leicester and England legend. Youngs has to start the season off with a bang and hope that Eddie Jones wants to utilise his experience. Danny Care had the ignominy of being hooked early in the third test against the Wallabies and must be on the outer with Jones.

Raffi Quirke must come into consideration if he regains his fitness at Sale. He is a world-class scrum-half in the making and could be the back up to Jack van Poortvliet.


Ellis Genge, Kyle Sinckler and Will Stuart are certainties to go leaving three more spots available. Joe Heyes capped a strong season for the Tigers by getting his chance in Australia. Mako Vunipola is back and is likely to join his brother in France. This spells bad news for Joe Marler who is now probably behind Sale’s rapidly improving Bevan Rodd.


Jamie George and Luke Cowan-Dickie are a shoo-in to the World Cup squad which leaves three likely contenders fighting for the last spot. Newcastle’s Jamie Blamire is a great prospect but needs to start more regularly at Newcastle. Leicester’s Nic Dolly is recovering from a serious knee injury and will hope to get back as soon as possible. Harlequins’ captain Jack Walker showed up well on the summer tour to Australia and his experience of captaining his club may just keep Eddie Jones interested. Walker to shade Blamire on the list of contenders for England’s Rugby World Cup squad.


Maro Itoje and Courtney Lawes are among the first names on the team-sheet. But it is their versatility that opens up a few more contenders for the second row. Bath’s Charlie Ewels is a major doubt with an ACL injury and was struggling to break through for England before his injury. Therefore Joe Launchbury and Nick Iswieke could be competing for one remaining spot. Because the other must be reserved for Ollie Chessum, who underlined his massive potential in Australia

Iswieke is such a gifted athlete but has not made the most of his opportunities playing for England. If he can break through on the international stage then England will benefit greatly. For his sheer potential, he just shades it over Launchbury.


Tom Curry is nailed on with Billy Vunipola and Sam Underhill pretty close to joining him in France. However, there is a long list of Rugby World Cup squad contenders behind them. Perhaps the most contentious will be whether Alex Dombrandt and Sam Simmonds both go. We all know how talented they are but with ‘Big’ Billy rediscovering his England form, it is likely only one will make the cut. The versatility of  Maro Itoje, Ollie Chessum and Courtney Lawes further complicates the balance of the backrow.

Then there is Lewis Ludlam and Wasp Jack Willis. Ludlam should get one of the backrow places as his physical side appeals to Jones and the way England plays. Jack Willis and Sam Simmonds may be the unlucky ones to miss out.

What do you think – who else may make the list of contenders for England’s 2023 Rugby World Cup squad?

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