There were some notable omissions and inclusions from Eddie Jones’ Autumn Squad announcement on Monday. It was a clear statement of intent by England coach Eddie Jones that age is not a factor anymore. If you are young enough, you are old enough philosophy. The retention of Henry Arundell and Tommy Freeman after a successful summer tour of Australia are cases in point. Arundell and Freeman can reignite England’s attack in particular.
Will Joseph and Jack van Poortvliet and Hugh Tizard can also be added to this talent list. England’s faltering attack continues to be a major concern twelve months out from the Rugby World Cup – perhaps these exciting youngsters can turn it around? Charlie Inglefield looks at England’s potential attacking options with the November internationals fast approaching.
Arundell and Freeman can reignite England’s attack
Another statement of intent from Eddie Jones is the backing of the Owen Farrell and Marcus Smith partnership. It is here to stay. Particularly as George Ford is out until the end of the year with an Achilles injury. In Australia, it was clear to see that Farrell and Smith are still trying to work out their synergy. England fans must remember that these two have barely played together. Twelve months out from the World Cup they need to gel quickly. Arundell and Freeman can reignite England’s attack in tandem with Farrell and Smith.
Arundell and Freeman were the two shining lights in England’s backline over the summer. It started with Freeman being the one back who seemed to be on the same wavelength as Marcus Smith during that horribly disjointed defeat to the Barbarians in June. Freeman broke Australia’s defence on a number of occasions in the third Test and he looks like he can play anywhere in the backline. He has power, pace, and a feel for the game that few players at his age have.
Arundell is a unique beast. It is difficult to remember a more spectacular England introduction on the international stage than Arundell’s cameo in the first Test against Australia in Brisbane. It is too early for comparisons but Henry Arundell could be as good as Jason Robinson was in Sir Clive Woodward’s era.
The context of Arundell’s debut is important for two reasons. England were 30-14 down against a 14-man Wallaby outfit with the knives being sharpened for Eddie Jones’ job. Ten minutes later, England had regained some respectability but also hope that they could turn around the series.
They still lost 30-28 but Arundell’s magic conjured two tries and an injection of inspiration for a beleaguered England outfit. England then went on to win the next two Test matches to secure the series. Secondly, was Arundell’s first touch in international rugby. Arundell’s explosive power and leg speed punched through three Wallaby defenders who were left sprawled on the ground as Arundell scooted over unopposed.
There is an argument to let him in gently with cameos off the bench. However, England’s attack does not have the luxury of time. Smith and Farrell will need all the help they can get to bed in as a partnership. Freeman and Arundell showed in Australia that they can cause havoc with a yard of space to work in.
The Tuilagi Factor
As has been previously mentioned, if Manu Tuilagi is fit then he should be one of the first names in Eddie Jones’ team. Tuilagi provides that power game that Jones so favours. He is also a security blanket in defence and attack that will help Smith and Farrell get England’s backline moving.
Inevitably Tuilagi gets over the gain line once or twice in a game that subsequently creates opportunities for England’s back three to turn promising line-breaks into tries. That is what England has been missing consistently since the 2019 World Cup. Tuilagi will need to be carefully managed at club and international levels over the next 12 months.
The concern is that Monday’s squad announcement has not given much cover in the centres. There is no Henry Slade or Joe Marchant with Leicester’s Guy Porter covering in the centres. Rumours are that Jack Nowell and Tommy Freeman could also cover in these positions. Jones will hope that Slade gets back to his best quickly for Exeter because at his best Slade is a must for England’s rugby squad.
Arundell and Freeman in the back three alongside the ever-improving Freddie Steward gives England’s backline real bite and threat. The likes of Jonny May, and Anthony Watson can come back if they are finally free of injury. Arundell and Freeman can reignite England’s attack but will Eddie Jones risk their inexperience at this level? It will be fascinating to see what he does with these two supremely talented youngsters when the November internationals kick off.
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