Autumn Internationals 2018: England Squad to Play South Africa

Chris Ashton

Eddie Jones has retained 25 players to prepare for the opening match of the Autumn Internationals, against South Africa at Twickenham.

Courtney Lawes has been ruled out and Ben Morgan has been released, whilst Chris Ashton looks set to feature in the matchday squad.

Tom Curry (Sale Sharks), Charlie Ewels (Bath Rugby), Jamie George (Saracens), Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints) co-captain, Alec Hepburn (Exeter Chiefs), Maro Itoje (Saracens), George Kruis (Saracens), Zach Mercer (Bath Rugby), Ben Moon (Exeter Chiefs), Brad Shields (Wasps), Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins), Elliott Stooke (Bath Rugby), Harry Williams (Exeter Chiefs), Mark Wilson (Newcastle Falcons)

Chris Ashton (Sale Sharks), Danny Care (Harlequins), Elliot Daly (Wasps), Owen Farrell (Saracens) co-captain, George Ford (Leicester Tigers), Jonny May (Leicester Tigers), Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs), Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs), Ben Te’o (Worcester Warriors), Manu Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers), Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers).

How do you think England will line up on Saturday?

54 thoughts on “Autumn Internationals 2018: England Squad to Play South Africa

  1. Ben Morgan discarded indeed.

    Here’s the team I think we’ll see:

    1. Hepburn
    2. Hartley
    3. Sinckler
    4. Itoje
    5. Kruis
    6. Shields
    7. Curry
    8. Mercer

    9. Youngs
    10. Ford
    11. May
    12. Farrell
    13. Te’o
    14. Nowell
    15. Daly

    16. George
    17. Moon
    18. Wiliams
    19. Ewels
    20. Wilson
    21. Care
    22. Slade
    23. Ashton

    Stooke and Tuilagi discarded from the 25. Everyone wants to see Tuilagi back in an England jersey, so it would be very Eddie to leave him out.

  2. Heard rumours that Itoje will start at 6 with Ewels & Kruis in the row which I think everyone can agree isn’t his best position. Would rather Rhodes there or at least on the bench so I’m a bit baffled by him being dropped as 4,5,6 from Saracens could work well in the lineout.

    In the backs I’m hoping Farrell starts at 10 with 12 Tuilagi and 13 Slade as the midfield combination. People have said Slade hasn’t repeated his club form for England but he isn’t used properly when outside Ford & Farrell so it will be a good opportunity for him to lock in that 13 shirt. Daly at 15 with 11 May and 14 Ashton/Nowell is very exciting and will be lethal if we can get some decent ball.

  3. Bit surprised about Ben Morgan being omitted also Sam Underhill so there is no backup 7.One would imagine that Ewels will be on the bench as he can cover second row/6&8.
    No doubt we will be able to guess the game plan on Thurs but to be honest the backs worry me particularly with the absence of JJ and Watson.
    To put Farrell to 10 would be retrograde to the attack and would push the problems further out namely who to play 12,Teo has had no game time so cant be match fit Tuilagi cant play 12, & to play Slade would be a gamble at 12.Defensively Slade would be much better than Tuilagi at 13 but he had a lot of problems in the 13 channel in SA.If this problem persists then EJ may have to consider Daly at 13 until JJ is fit again.
    Im a bit disappointed that Cockasinga hasn’t been retained as he could be very effective from the bench.

    1. Tuilagi can’t play 12?! He played at 12 inside BOD on a lions tour game and did pretty well! Ma Nonu did pretty well at 12 and I’d say it’s his game that Tuilagi’s is most similar to.

      1. Tuilagi is not in the same class as Nonu, and I think will be shown up for having lost that half yard of pace that is the difference between club and International rugby.

  4. Agreed Pablito. Not sure why he wouldn’t feature at some point against a heavy, hard carrying team… I just never understand EJ selections..

    1. Well, the RFU have recently affirmed again that they are looking to replace Jones after his stint runs out FOLLOWING the WC. Stable doors & all that?

        1. Pablito, the RFU ought to either stay silent about a new coach until AFTER the WC & as they didn’t sack Jones after SA, then they could give him til the end of Nov max & then sack him if results are even mediocre & get someone in pronto. Maybe Baxter or McCall if the want a Prem guy? Personally think they’ll sit on their hands until after the WC no matter what though.

  5. I would go for:

    1. A. Hepburn
    2. D. Hartley
    3. H. Williams
    4. G. Kruis
    5. M. Itoje
    6. B. Shields
    7. T. Curry
    8. Z. Mercer

    9. B. Youngs
    10. G. Ford
    11. J. May
    12. O. Farrell
    13. M. Tuilagi
    14. J. Nowell
    15. E. Daly

    16. G. George
    17. B. Moon
    18. K. Sinckler
    19. C. Ewels
    20. M. Wilson
    21. D. Care
    22. H. Slide
    23. C. Ashton

    1. Seems a decent selection Paulo. However, I’m interested to know why you choose Williams over the Lion Sinckler. I’m not well versed on either’s credentials, although Sinckler can seem somewhat headstrong. Also, why Tui over Teo or Slade, as his pick leaves a skill gap for me. Likewise with Teo I suppose, although maybe less so with Slade?

      1. They are both are 50/50 calls to be honest. I would start Williams over Sinckler because I see him as a slightly better scrummager and the set piece will be important against the boks. Also, Sinckler brings a better carrying game so is well suited for a 25 minute rampage off the bench. Tuilagi has short comings, particularly in defence, but I think we lack a bit of bulk and carrying in the backs so that’s why I’ve pencilled him for the outside centre birth. Teo can obviously fill that role but he’s been out for a while whereas Manu has managed (finally) to string a few decent games together for Leicester so I think he deserves his spot. I wouldn’t necessarily sub him off for Slade either. I would probably make the change to see Ford come off, Farrell move to Fly and then see what the Slade / Tuilagi combo can do in the centres. Who would you go for?

        1. Paulo, thanks for yr reasons for yr prop, midfield selections. Don ‘t know the props’ credentials well enough to state a preference, so yr reasoning helpfully makes some sense for me. Knew of Marler, Mako, Cole a bit better. Regds midfield, I’ve mentioned elsewhere that I’d have Farrell, Daly. OF mainly to kick pts, ED for creativity, skills which are otherwise lacking IMO.

  6. I’ve just realised that he has sent Brown home as well. Now I know many here don’t like Brown, but his experience in a side like this would seem to me to be pretty much invaluable – and certainly more useful to the team than having Te’o there.
    As for the pack, the omission of Morgan is inexplicable. Shields hasn’t shown any kind of form that would lead me to think he’s an international quality player – and yet I think we’re going to see him at 8.
    In fact I think we’ll see:
    6. Itoje
    7. Curry
    8. Shields
    So a lock at 6 and a 6 at 8
    This is not the back row of a team vying to be number 1 in the world.
    Perhaps EJ will surprise me and we’ll see:
    6. Wilson
    7. Curry
    8. Mercer
    Which looks a little lightweight but at least has the benefit of getting Mercer out there to see what he can do at this level. But I can’t imagine EJ will go for something like this
    I hope we win on Saturday but my head says we’ll lose by 10-15 points

    1. Blimey Pablito, so have I (just realised about Brown)! I’ve been blathering on about the importance of his inclusion & he ain’t even there! Others have been too polite to point this out. Or maybe they didn’t notice that I didn’t notice? Or something like that. Anyway, agree with you about Jones’s omissions & picks therefore enforcing inexplicable, detriMENTAL changes. This is England’s most important game that they & Jones have faced since the slide & he eschews experience & balance. I wouldn’t normally see Shields being seen as an 8, because he’s a 6 who can jump, so can understand his perhaps being considered, but with EJ!? Surely this is not rational behaviour from a national coach?

  7. I’m a bit stunned by EJ’s final squad and I can’t really see anything but 3 defeats for England in these Autumn Internationals (ignoring the Japan game). I don’t want to see the RFU rip things up and start again so close to the World Cup but I think that Jones has completely lost the plot. You can debate the back three or whether to retain the 10/12 Ford/ Farrell axis but the back row selection beggars belief. I just can’t see who plays where with any sort of confidence that they can do anything against the likes of South Africa, New Zealand or Australia. I think Itoje will start in the back row to help sort this out but with Launchbury and Lawes out, this just makes a bad situation in the second row worse. I hope I’m wrong but this could be a humbling and possible humiliating month for England. And, less than a year out from the World Cup, this is really not good!

  8. Hartley is the only forward to have more than 30 caps. George has 28 caps but only 5 starts.
    Neither Sinckler or Williams has started an international at Twickenham. Moon is a new cap and Hepburn has 2 as a replacement.
    Itoje and Kruis can be considered established internationals but Stooke is a new cap and Ewels has won 6 (4 at home with 1 start).
    In the back row, Wilson and Curry have 4 each, Shields 2 and Mercer 0. None of the back row has even played a test at home.
    That is frighteningly raw at this level.
    The backs fare a bit better with Youngs and Farrell lifting up the average, but Daly is starting at FB for only the 4th time, while Ashton and Tuilagi havent played for years. Centres and back 3 will be new combinations with a number of players having little or no familiarity with their team mates – a situation throughout the side.
    To say we go in as something of a makeshift side isnt too wide of the mark.
    We’re up against it.

    1. Steve Makeshift sums it all up in one word.Raw ,inexperienced ,never played together as a team.
      Less than year to rwc and this is the best Jones can come up with is frankly laughable.
      Rfu won’t bin him till post Japan and even if they did who is available at short notice who is any good?Mallinder?

  9. Is it wrong of me to feel like i want us to get boshed on saturday?
    It seems to me that Jones is becoming the ultimate contrarian. I’ve never coached a rugby team, I never will but so much of what he’s doing is starting to smack of sheer bloody mindedness. If i’m wrong then will someone please tell me?

  10. Whilst, in my humble opinion, the selection decisions seem baffling, we don’t know what’s happening within camp. Sure, we could list a group of superstar individuals and it would make for a fantastic looking team on paper, but that counts for nought if they can’t play well together and gel as a team. It’s another dimension to team selection and one only the coaching staff are privy to.

    It wasn’t so long ago England equalled the All Blacks winning streak, but that seems to have been forgotten with people calling for Jones’ head. I can’t see the RFU ditching him when they stuck with Lancaster for so long with a lower winning percentage and a mere one year out from a World Cup, the latter of which supersedes any perceived idiocy implied for Jones’ selection choices.

    I, for one, shall be keeping the faith; albeit sat on the edge of my seat.

    1. EC, I wouldn’t be so sure about this privy thing. Notwithstanding that, the dropping, or releasing of, the experienced Brown & Morgan have ramifications for the whole team & how England play in a match they CAN’T afford to lose! With Brown out, for likely Daly, Jones has NO creator in midfield. To compound this he will have a novice @ 8 v a seasoned SA back row whom recently dominated England! Also, sacking Jones now doesn’t nec supersede his ‘idiotic’ selections. Oz did just that with their coach a yr prior to the last Cup & they got to the final! Of course I could be wrong. I agree though, that the (ultra conservative) RFU won’t bin Jones.

    2. Tbh Egg, the winning streak is irrelevant. It’s over and should be forgotten. Elite sport is not about sentiment. We English have a tendency to look at things nostalgically and it’s a major factor in our relatively modest sporting triumphs.
      Jones has been taking us down blind alleys for over a year now.
      I agree with you about needing to build a cohesive unit and yes, the injury list is a nightmare. Having said that, it’s not just case of dropping in the next newbie and that seems to exactly what Jones is doing. For example, Mercer has yet to face a back row that plays with the sheer ferocity of the Saffers,. Ok, he has to start somewhere but not in such parlous circumstances. Dropping Morgan baffles me and many others as he has the nous heft and experience to know what to expect and deal with it. I’m not singling you out for criticism, just asking you to consider the bigger picture.

      1. The lack of experienced heads is concerning, but the other side of the coin is that it’s better this is happening now than at the World Cup. If England have this same sort of nightmare situation in a year’s time, these players will be less of an unknown quantity.

        I don’t feel it is irrelevant. Case in point would be Warren Gatland’s Wales, who have had stunning highs, but equally catastrophic lows…but there was no talk of casting him aside and Wales now look to be peaking at just the right time. Indeed, he will probably be remembered as one of the great Wales coaches. This football mentality of casting off a coach because he is having a bad run should be discouraged from the sport.

        As for his selections, let’s take the omission of Cipriani as an example: is it merely a coincidence that EVERY England coach has passed him up for continued selection? Something doesn’t sit right there, which leads me back to the original point that we do not know what happens behind closed doors at the RFU.

        I’m excited to see what happens and im ever the optimist, however foolish that may make me.

        1. Hey, I never said you were a fool mate. I wouldn’t. As Voltaire said I may not agree with what you say but i will defend your right to say it
          Actually, I take your point about the association Football culture, I just keep remembering a lot of SH pundits and ex players said that EJ has a history of being good for two years than dropping off in the third.

          At the end of the day, we want a successful England team. Let’s hope EJ can give us that.

        2. EC, the lack of exp is Jones’s fault. For all his talking a good game, an issue in itself, he doesn’t have x3 for each position as was HIS intention. All teams have injuries , so giving other players meaningful, rotational game time is part of forward planning; or it should be. Jones has talked about having the No.1 team, but has fallen short in constructing it … due to HIS lack of prep. Comparing Gatland with Jones is tenuous. I don’t think Gatland ever lost 6 on the bounce & certainly not recently. Also, BTW, describing WG as a potentially ‘great’ Wales coach is somewhat over egging his tenure. He’s not won a WC (yet) & his teams haven’t beaten Oz since the days of Owen Glendower. Jones has no substantial record of success either, so this brings into ? his being engaged in the 1st place. He’d been available since 03 & seems to have got the job on the basis of Japsn’s win over SA in 2015 (according to Mike Lynagh @ least). I agree that coaches shouldn’t be discarded like soccer, but this isn’t actually the case in rugby. However, with Jones though, he’s surely reached his level, or sell by date. His omissions are erratic & illogical, as even you acknowledge, but it’s the utter lack of innovation in, for instance & once again, midfield. Surely, Daly’s the obvious pick here for his quick mind & skill set & temperament, but he’s never even been given a run here, in a problem position for England & one in which he IS experienced @ Wasps! He’s also frigged around @ loose forward. Just like Lancaster previously did & in the former area too, so what’s changed? In respect of Cipriani, possibly not the wisest off field @ times (like Dany Care with his gargling habit?), just because, mainly Lancaster, didn’t like him, that’s insufficient reason for Jones to have become ‘English’ in this (& other) respect(s) too. Wasps had little problem with Cipriani, who also put in EXTRA speed training with Margot Wells whilst there. Like 1 or 2 others, whom are current form players, Cipriani has been, not just sidelined by Jones, but blindly discriminated against for me. I mean. Whom are the other ‘3 or 4’ other fly 1/2’s in the country ‘ahead of him’ right now? For some of these reasons, I believe the job is too big for Jones. He simply can’t cope. He won’t be ejected I fear prior to 2019, but he ought to be. I believe he’ll drag England further down. Of course I may be wrong, but I wouldn’t bet my next pint on it! Finally, your being an optimist doesn’t necessarily make you foolish. Notwithstanding, I enjoy(ed) a band called Blind Faith from the past. Maybe you could check them out.

  11. How about Teo at 12 and Tuilagi at 13, with a lighter back row (Mercer vs Morgan, Curry vs Underhill) plus Ashton from full-back, to follow them through the wider channels?

    Just a thought…

      1. Acee, Voltaire is actually supposed to have said “I disapprove of what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it”, but close enough. Greatly admire your optimism EC, but don´t share it. So depressed by this squad that I can hardly be bothered to comment on it. Everybody seems to be rightly worried about the back row, but if it is wet and there are lots of scrums I think we will get absolutely hammered in the front five as well. Sinkler is fine for galloping around the paddock on the high veldt, but is no way a scrummaging tight head. Williams has promise but is short of experience. Why suddenly drop Cole when the rest of your pack is so short of nous and grunt? Marx is probably the best hooker in the world, and hopefully will make Hartley look so second rate that we have to find an alternative. I reserve judgement on Hepburn, but if this pack has to spend too much time on tight work it will get crucified. Kruis is a lightweight who is a good lineout jumper but no sort of carrier. As far as the back row is concerned, sending Morgan home is fairly inexplicable, but less so than leaving Ewers, Almand and Kvesic out of the squad in the first place. This squad is so far from what I would like to see playing in the world cup that I have almost given up hope already. One comment I would disagree with though is that Itoje is out of position at 6. He is playing there more and more often for Sarries, and looks comfortable. If all were available I would have Launch and Lawes in the second row, with Itoje at 6. And can anyone tell me what Shields has done to justify a place?

        1. Andy L. Shields has English parents & has done a bit on TV with the Canes. They won the S Rugby title & he captained them last yr. Apart from that, I don’t know. BTW, although I tend to agree with rumour that EJ is an Ozzie ‘mole’, England are @ home, will likely win the ‘ping ‘ count which OF should take advantage of & SA are missing their 2 main play makers. Just need to get their own ball away from the set piece fast & get those losdies to the breakdown 1st! Oh & get it into Daly’s as much as possible. So, in with a chance. Fingers XXed!

          1. I know he has English parents Don but he is in the UK because NZ don’t need him and has done nothing of note in th Prem. England haven’t won the penalty count home or away for the past two years. No idea who the ref is, but if it is Poite or Garces we are doomed. I think we will get beaten by 15 points even though SA are missing de Klerk and Le Roux.

            1. Andy. Well he’s hardly been here for 5 minutes so we’ll see.. if he gets a run. How the heck do you know the prev penalty count? My perception is that the home team has the advantage here. I don ‘t nec think it’ll be a SA walk on the park. Should be competitive, which ever team the gnome puts out.

              1. Hope you are right Don. I only know the penalty count because I have spent much of the past two seasons seething at the stupidity of Cole, Itoje, Haskell, Mako et al conceding them unnecessarily and consistently getting on the wrong side of referees, particularly French ones.

  12. I am definitely with the doubters ie Andy, Don and Acee. I have zero faith in Jones and everything that was said about him as a 2 year coach with a crash and burn sell by date seems to me to be amply borne out by his mishmash incoherent selections and then self-contradictory justifications for said selections. I have no idea why Morgan who is a proven performer at international level isn’t being given a chance…I know Eddie will have some fancy reason but that’s probably cover for innate prejudice. Why no Armand either and the fact that we have no back up scrum halves except wiggles!?
    It isn’t even down to these individual decisions more an underlying sense that there is no structural coherence in them….I thought it might have been something we lived to regret when we won the last test against a depleted South Africa and Eddie kept his job. Still think if we don’t perform this Autumn he should go.

  13. It’s always easy to agree with people who share your sentiments about a subject. However , the fact that at least three regular and knowledgeable posters ( I’m not including myself in there) all have the same misgivings speaks volumes for me.
    i dearly, dearly want to be proven wrong. i would love England to play with conviction, aggression, skill and nous on saturday,even if they lose.
    Maybe I am a pessimist and will get egg on my face . If so , then GOOD! I just can’t make myself feel what seems unlikely given recent events.

    1. Acee, although I think Jones is something of a charlatan, the team he puts out will give it a real go, for themselves, as much as their coach’s reputation. I don’t see it as SA walkover as England won’t roll over, so it should be competitive. It may even be quite a close game & SA will have to earn a potential result without their 2 playmakers. Also, OF may kick all his pen shots, whose count could favour England @ home. Will also depend on which team EJ finally puts out, what type of game it’ll play & whom is where in its composition?!? So, we’ll see.

  14. Fellas,Read your comments. As a Saffer I sympathize with you. We are blessed in SA with 2 of the best No 2’s in world rugby. Our second hooker would walk into any national team, including the AB’s. Akker vd Merwe does not make the travelling team. We have a youngster, who as a school boy ran 10.2 for the 100m sprint. Tackles like a demon, give him half a yard, his acceleration gets him thru’ the smallest gap. His place is filled by a 36 yo, good player, there to mentor the youngsters. difficult to understand.

    1. Phil M. 2 of the best hookers? Marx does indeed make yards & wins his share @ the breakdown, but he nevertheless didn’t stop the AB’s last up. And besides can he, or the other one you mention, pass like a 1/2back or run the wing like Codie Taylor, or the returning Dane Coles ,for that matter? Perhaps not. Maybe you need to redefine what constitutes the ‘best’. I shall now re-read my comment.

  15. To throw one as the devils advocate…
    Quite a lot of the forwards selected are current form players in the prem. There are obvious and inexplicable exceptions of course: the Exeter back row, Shields, Hartley?
    Morgan has had a few good games following a few average years, and would not be first choice if Ackerman were fit. Shields has only had a couple of games post injury, but was very recently one of the form sixes in super rugby and captain of the current champs. Football his experience, Cole had been very average the last 6/12 months and Williams Hepburn and moon are the pillars in one of the best scrums in the prem.

    We all complain when players are not picked in form. Now there is a form selection…

    That said, EJ has significant responsibility for lack of caps. Don, you mentioned 3in each position, but we are missing two or three first choice players in several positions: mako/markler/genge, billy/Hughes/Simmonds, launch/Lawes

    P.S. I am somwhete between EC and Acre. I am desperate to be optimistic, but can’t see anything but the bok forwards rolling over us.

    1. Can’t disagree too much Mike. My concern in the front row is not that they are the best available but that they are all lacking international experience compared to SA. Moon has been around a long time without looking international class. Is he any better than Barrington or Bateman? Sinkler is a good loose forward but nothing to write home about in the tight. I quite like the look of Williams, but Cole, having looked out of sorts for some time seems to have been rejuvenated by the new management at Leicester and I would have stuck with him to bolster such an inexperienced pack. I take your point about form, but the form back rowers include Ewers, Armand and Morgan. Similarly, the form 15 is Goode and the form 10 is clearly Cipriani. Totally inconsistent criteria for selection. From my perspective this squad lacks power, experience and creativity and is further away from being a settled side than we were two years ago.

      1. Can’t disagree too much Andy. You seem to know many of the forwards better than me, particularly @ prop & Exeter’s back, 2nd rows. There may well be some form players in this team & also certainly those whom have been omitted, some of whom you’ve highlighted. However, with the central heating turned up, Jones has gone conservative with some of his selections. Conversely, he’s also picked some novices; front & back rows e.g., which you acknowledge. He has also & maybe most tellingly, left out skilled, experienced or even pivotal players & played some in inappropriate positions. You have also mentioned some of these. Morgan, Kvesic, Cole(?), Cipriani, Daly (13), Brown/Goode @ fullback. Therefore, yr last 2 sentences, about inconsistent selection, lack of power, exp & creativity with the side being less settled than 2 yrs ago, make logical sense to me. EJ has got much of it all arse about face. He needs a good birching IMO!

    2. Mike L. If Jones had rotated more players & given them mesningful game time, then he should have had sufficient cover for the injured, retired players you name. After all, England do have the biggest playing pool in world rugby. Also, all teams have injuries. The AB’s, for instance, have had 5 of their pack out during the yr. More forethought, forward (& back) planning required.

  16. Eddies hand has been forced in a few areas such as loosehead, lock and no.8. Hepburn and Williams are in great club form and I hope they can translate that to international level. We do not have another Mako and no-one else has anyone like him either!!
    Itoje and Kruis are getting back to their best and although Itoje has been moved from 4/5 to 6 quite a bit recently for Sarries, I would start him in the second row with Kruis. I would start Wilson at 6 with Curry and Mercer.
    Whilst we are all assuming Eddie will play Daly at 15, it would be a real twist if he played Daly at 13 outside Tuilagi and Asthon at 15!!!!

    1. Daz, don’t see Mako getting much change out of the AB or SA props. Lack of cover in such positions as No. 8 is partly self inflicted. The seasoned Morgan, for example, isn’t injured. Neither is Cipriani @ fly1/2!


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