With Billy Vunipola’s knee injury expected to keep him out for three to four months, Eddie Jones’ England side will be beginning to consider options to replace the powerhouse No.8 during next year’s Six Nations.
The powerhouse back-rower, who was nominated for World Player of the Year, has been one of the players to most benefit most from Jones’ tenure as England coach and his absence will be undoubtedly missed by England, as well as his club Saracens.
Here are three possibilities that may well be on the radar for Eddie Jones in the coming weeks:
1. Nathan Hughes (Wasps)
Although Nathan Hughes made his international debut at flanker, the Fijian back-rower has made his name as an abrasive No.8 for Wasps.
Partnering Hughes alongside Haskell and Robshaw would compliment the high octane game employed by Jones, and would allow England launch even more blistering attacks in the wider channels, as long as they continue to generate quick ball at the breakdown in Vunipola’s absence.
The 25-year-old has so far failed to impress during the Autumn internationals. However, anyone who has seen him ripping the Premiership up with his rampant running and lavish one-handed ball skills knows he is an exciting player.
If fit, a start against the Aussies on Saturday at Twickenham in his favoured position presents the perfect opportunity for him to cement himself in the No.8 shirt ahead of the Six Nations.
2. Ben Morgan (Gloucester)
With 41 caps, Morgan is the most experienced of the four contenders. His CV includes scoring tries at Twickenham and the Millennium Stadium
3. Josh Beaumont (Sale Sharks)
Beaumont, whose only international appearance was in a non-cap match with the Barbarians, is one of a number of uncapped players who could get the chance to impress Jones in 2017.
The son of former England and British Lions legend Bill Beaumont , the now Sale captain only made his debut for Sharks four years ago.
But since then Beaumont’s progress has been astounding and he has become one of the most talented and destructive back-row operators in the country. If he can stay fit, which has been a struggle over the last 12 months, he could very well emerge as Jones’ saving grace.
4. Thomas Waldrom (Exeter Chiefs)
The Kiwi-born No.8 probably doesn’t fit the mould of what Jones is looking for but his prolific try-scoring record cannot be ignored.
Finishing top scorer in the Aviva Premiership the last two seasons, Thomas ‘the Tank’ Waldrom has become a more potent finisher than even England wingers Marland Yarde and Jonny May.
So, if Rob Baxter can build a gameplan around him then why not Jones? Surely what has worked so well for the Chiefs at Sandy Park could be equally effective for England at Twickenham and further afield.
Stuart Lancaster turned to the 37-year-old Nick Easter to shore up his back row in an emergency at the 2015 Rugby World Cup but will his successor turn to the 33-year-old Thomas Waldrom at No8? Probably not.