Steven Smith: England Squad Strong but Rokoduguni Release Ridiculous
Eddie Jones has announced his 25-man squad that will prepare for Saturday’s Test against South Africa at Twickenham.
Despite the bus-load of injuries, which includes the likes of Maro Itoje, George Kruis and James Haskell, the Aussie still has an embarrassment of riches at his disposal with quality across the board.
Rokoduguni Release ‘Ridiculous’
The biggest surprise for me, other than Donald Trump being elected president of the United States, was Jones’ emission of Semesa Rokodugini from the group.
A quick survey of England’s wing options makes it an even bigger shock as first choice Jack Nowell (thigh) and Anthony Watson (jaw) are currently ruled out through injury. Jonny May has had a serious lack of playing time since recovering from his injury while Marland Yarde’s form at Harlequins has of late has been sporadic.
The Bath winger, on the other hand, has been in electric form and is one of my players of the season thus far in the Aviva Premiership, probably only second behind Wasps Jimmy Gopperth.
The 29-year-old is the joint top try-scorer with five but what’s even more impressive is his metres made, 541, which is over 80 metres better than second place Tim Visser. He also leads the way in terms of clean breaks with 12 and defenders beaten with 26.
The choice probably demonstrates Jones’ intentions on developing an experienced squad for the 2019 Rugby World Cup as by then Rokodugini’s career would be almost over at 32 while Yarde, who would be 27 and May, who would by 29, would still be playing at the peak of their powers.
I wasn’t the only person who was confused by the decision…
Just seen at England’s squad update… personally didn’t expect to be seeing Semesa Rokoduguni heading back to Bath
— Emma Thurston (@EmmaThurston23) November 8, 2016
“Roko released by England is ridiculous…”https://t.co/5n6wYV5eCl
— Bath Chronicle Sport (@bathsport) November 9, 2016
Irrespective, although I’m disappointed by this selection, it doesn’t make me doubt England’s chances of ending their losing run against the Boks, who they haven’t beaten since 2006. Hopefully, Roko will get his chance to force his way into the team later in the month, potentially against Fiji or Argentina.
As for the ongoing back-row saga, I’m led to believe Tom Wood, Chris Robshaw and Billy Vunipola will line up together for the first time since they failed to deliver at the Rugby World Cup. We can look in detail at that and the rest of England’s selection in my next column.