England coach Eddie Jones says he will make the new 33-man squad feel “a little bit uncomfortable” as he targets the development of five world-class players by the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Here are the five players we think could star for England in four years time.
Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs)
Few players score a hat-trick of tries on their RWC debut, but Nowell did just that when helping England to a 60-3 win over Uruguay at the Manchester City Stadium last October. The utility back, who can play on the wing or in the centre, is an outstanding talent with an element of predictability about the way he plays. There is a lot of hype about his teammate Henry Slade, but Nowell himself has the potential to become one of the best backs in world rugby.
Joe Launchbury (Wasps)
Wasps boss Dai Young has tipped lock Launchbury as the ideal candidate to replace Chris Robshaw as the build up starts towards World Cup 2019. The former Sainsbury’s shelf-stacker has in a few years gone from National League 2 star to potential international hero. His work ethic combined with his natural ability and instincts could make him one of the next iconic leaders in world rugby.
Jack Clifford (Harlequins)
Jones knew nothing about Clifford when he took the England head coach’s job last at the start of December, but he does now. Having caught up with every Premiership and European Champions Cup match this season on video, he believes he has the potential to become an England great in the mould of New Zealand hero Rodney So’oialo. Australia-born Clifford cleaned up at last year’s end of season awards picking up the supporters’ player, players’ player and young player of the year awards and he is likely to go from strength-to-strength with international experience.
Maro Itoje (Saracens)
Imposing lock Itoje, who has already captained England to the world Under-20 crown, will win his first, of what will be many, caps during the upcoming Six Nations. The 21-year-old Saracens lock has been in superb form this season and was named Aviva Premiership Player of the Month for his performances in December, pipping Elliot Daly, Owen Farrell and Thomas Waldrom to the award. He is being tipped as a future England captain while his potential at this moment is unlimited. A likely superstar.
Manu Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers)
Tuilagi is expected to make his first Test appearance in more than 18 months in the final two rounds of the RBS 6 Nations against Wales and France once he has built up match fitness after being stricken by a long-term groin injury. The 24-year-old, who has just been handed a bumper new contract by the Tigers, is now expected to go onto bigger and better things and will have a degree of pressure on his shoulders once he is back to full fitness.