Danny Cipriani’s omission seems unfair following fantastic tour with the Saxons
Wasps’ Nathan Hughes will add further quality to England’s flourishing back-row
Tom Youngs has proved a lot of people wrong following his return to the international scene
Eddie Jones has named his provisional 45-man elite playing squad for the autumn internationals – and his selection offers a great look at the future of English rugby while maintaining the strong core of players that have guided the Aussie to nine straight wins as boss.
Following their Grand Slam triumph in the Six Nations, England sealed a 3-0 whitewash of Australia in June and are now the second-ranked team in world rugby. However, Jones will be in store for a range of fresh challenges as he endeavors to make Twickenham a feared destination for the Southern Hemisphere nations once again.
Overall, I am very pleased with the squad. A large chunk of the squad picked itself but the possible debutants deserve their place with Josh Beaumont and Nathan Hughes adding further technical ability and power to England’s already impressive back-row with fan favourite James Haskell currently sidelined.
There were however still a number of talking points, starting as normal with Danny Cipriani…
THE CIPRIANI CONUNDRUM
Previously I thought the omission of Danny Cipriani had been justified. Nevertheless, the Wasps man demonstrated his ability to lead a team with his communication and organisation during the Saxons series victory against South Africa A, I thought the fly-half may have finally done enough fto make a return to the international scene.
Jones has in fact opted to select only two out-and-out fly-halves (Owen Farrell & George Ford) in his squad although he does have specialist kickers available in Wasps centre Elliot Daly, Exeter superstar Henry Slade and Saracens stalwart Alex Goode. Meanwhile, interestingly he has named four scrum-halves with Wasps’ Dan Robson (big fan) and Joe Simpson attempting to displace regulars Danny Care and Ben Youngs.
There is also no room for Chris Ashton and his swan dive. Despite the winger turning down the opportunity to tour with the Saxons, which was an interestingly obscene decision, this is definitely a harsh call with the winger ending the season in phenomenal try-scoring form. Jones has instead gone with Jack Nowell, Anthony Watson, Marland Yarde, Jonny May and Semesa Rokoduguni.
Jones has named a number of uncapped players to attend the camp. Mike Williams (Leicester Tigers) and Nathan Hughes (Wasps) are included for the first time while Josh Beaumont (Sale Sharks), Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins) and Ben Te’o (Worcester Warriors) have all previously spent time with England
Hughes has been an immense presence in the Aviva Premiership since his arrival at Wasps in 2013, scoring 20 tries in 74 appearances. The huge back-rower however will have a real challenge if he is to displace Billy Vunipola, who has established himself is one of the finest number 8’s in Test rugby over the last 12 months, even during England’s failings at the Rugby World Cup.
YOUNGS RETURNS TO THE FOLD
When I reported a few weeks ago that Tom Youngs was still hoping to return to Test rugby, people pretty much laughed off the Leicester hookers chances. Fast forward a few weeks and the 29-year-old, 28-cap man is back in amoing it,
I still doubt the British and Irish Lion will actually start a game but he brings to the table a wealth of experience that will hopefully benefit up and coming hookers Jamie George and Luke Cowan-Dickie for the trials and tribulations of Test rugby. This also gives skipper Dylan Hartley a free pass from ttutoring with him instead able to concentrate 100% on his captaincy. From the bench, his calming presence could also be useful.