Who should start England’s opening Rugby World Cup match? Our XV revealed - Ruck

Who should start England’s opening Rugby World Cup match? Our XV revealed

By Charlie Morgan

England have one of the largest player pools to choose from, so why does it always feel like ‘Eddie’s Boys’? It feels that for some of the players who played in the Autumn that they need to play themselves out of the team, rather than fresh, young talent playing their way in.

Owen Farrell of England takes a penalty kick during the Autumn International Series match between England and New Zealand at Twickenham, London on 19 November 2022 (Photo: Micah Crook/PPAUK)

You know there is a systemic problem when the form players of the premiership are being omitted from even training squads. Eddie Jones has capped over 50 new players and only a handful have received more than 1 cap. What does this tell you, other than Jones consistently goes for his tried and tested.

It is easy to say that Jones is picking his favourites from afar, as Jones will be balancing characters in camp, as opposed to picking an English qualified fantasy team, which is every coaches dream. But on the face of it, it feels as though the players selected have not warranted their position. Jones has his criteria, but as far as the Autumn Nations Series team was concerned, the universal feel is that form is not on the criteria. 

I believe this is the best team to take on the Puma’s in the first World Cup game next September:

  • Ellis Genge

Ellis Genge has been one of the best individual players in the world this year, walking into any World XV. Captaining Leicester Tigers to a Premiership Title in the Summer before making an impressive two time try scoring-debut for Bristol in September. Genge has to start, he is the best loose-head prop at the moment, and England need his strength and technique to dismantle the Pumas.

Ellis Genge of England is tackled by Damian de Allende of South Africa during the Autumn Nations International Series match between England and South Africa at Twickenham, London on 26 November 2022 (Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK)
  • Luke Cowan-Dickie

Cowan-Dickie’s lineout throwing has raised some questions, but it is his play in the loose which is why he should start against Argentina. While George is perhaps more mobile, often finding himself on the wing during open play, Cowan-Dickie’s defence sets him apart, Lewis Moody-esque throwing himself into tackles seemingly inches off the ground will be imperative for stopping Argentina’s powerful ball carriers.

  • Will Stuart

For me, Will Stuart is a shoe in. Recently touted as part of Eddie Jones’ South African inspired bomb squad, his power game around the park and his improved scrummaging are needed against the famous pack of Argentina. Sinckler has ball skills that can change a game, but I just feel as though this is more easily dealt with than Stuart’s power, as the game unfolds, Sickler’s deft hands can help open it up.

  • Maro Itoje 

Itoje is perhaps the best player to come out of the Jones’ regime. Making his debut in 2016, Itoje has galvanised England performances and become a regular starter, either at second row or flanker. Itoje is one of the best in his position resulting him to become a member of England’s leadership group and was thought of to be captain when Owen Farrell was injured last Autumn. Maro is one of the best lineout operators in the world and his athletic ability round the pitch makes him a nuisance for any opposition. 

Maro Itoje of England relies the ball from a line out during the Autumn International Series match between England and New Zealand at Twickenham, London on 19 November 2022 (Photo: Micah Crook/PPAUK)
  • David Ribbans

Whilst only showing glimpses of his vast skillset, his offloading game and operating in the lineout has caught the eye of many fans who had not heard of Ribbans before, whereas those who have seen him do this week in week out for Northampton are now sitting with smug grins. Ribbans also has the grit in him which is what is needed in a dominant England pack.

  • Tom Curry

Jones’ once said Tom Curry could be as good as arguably the greatest rugby player ever, Richie McCaw, which is a statement as to just how good Curry is. While usually an openside flanker, Curry is equally as comfortable on the blindside. While not always doing the flashy work which gets the headlines, Curry is England’s most consistent performer. You will struggle to find a player as hard working as Tom Curry.

  • Ben Earl

Earl is the form player in the premiership so far this season. His pace and ability to turnover sets him apart of any other flanker in England’s arsenal.  Already capped by Eddie Jones, Earl has fallen out of favour but if he keeps his form, he will become irresistible. Argentina have a very mobile pack and Earl will need to be at his best to counter act this. Sam Underhill is unlucky to be injured, he along with the injured Courtney Lawes, are England’s best defenders.

  • Zach Mercer

Mercer has to play. Out of the England set up following his two caps in 2018, Mercer went to Montpellier in the Top 14 to develop as a player. Following his first season overseas, where he was voted by his playing peers as Top 14 player of the year, Mercer has signed a deal to come back to England, for Gloucester, in time to be selected for the Rugby World Cup. Mercer is the player England have been crying out for. Billy Vunipola had briefly found his form in the Summer but this Autumn has presented him to be a shadow of his Summer-self, Simmonds has been trialled at 8 but is out of favour by Jones who famously prefers a bigger ball carrier. Dombrandt has been injured, but I feel as though even if everyone is fit, Jones will look to Mercer to carry England from the base of the scrum.