England’s Pre-Season Training Squad 2018

Chris Ashton

England head coach Eddie Jones has named a 44-man pre-season training squad to convene at the Lensbury Hotel from Saturday 4 August until Monday 6 August.

A recall for Chris Ashton stands out immediately, and Danny Care has belatedly been added to the ‘Not considered’ list.

Which other names catch your eye?

Backs
Chris Ashton (Sale Sharks), Mike Brown (Harlequins), Danny Cipriani (Gloucester Rugby), Joe Cokanasiga (Bath Rugby), Elliot Daly (Wasps), Nathan Earle (Harlequins), Owen Farrell (Saracens), George Ford (Leicester Tigers), Piers Francis (Northampton Saints), Gabriel Ibitoye (Harlequins), Alex Lozowski (Saracens), Joe Marchant (Harlequins), Jonny May (Leicester Tigers), Jordan Olowofela (Leicester Tigers)
Dan Robson (Wasps), Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs), Ben Spencer (Saracens), Ben Te’o (Worcester Warriors), Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers).

Forwards
Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs), Tom Curry (Sale Sharks), Jamie George (Saracens), Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints), James Haskell (Northampton Saints), Alec Hepburn (Exeter Chiefs), Paul Hill (Northampton Saints), Nathan Hughes (Wasps), Nick Isiekwe (Saracens), Maro Itoje (Saracens)
Joel Kpoku (Saracens), Joe Launchbury (Wasps), Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints), Joe Marler (Harlequins), Michael Rhodes (Saracens), Chris Robshaw (Harlequins), Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs)
Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins), Jack Singleton (Worcester Warriors), Will Spencer (Leicester Tigers), Elliott Stooke (Bath Rugby), Sam Underhill (Bath Rugby), Mako Vunipola (Saracens), Harry Williams (Exeter Chiefs), Mark Wilson (Newcastle Falcons)

Not considered for selection due to injury/ fitness/ other:
Danny Care (Harlequins)
Jack Clifford (Harlequins)
Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers)
Charlie Ewels (Bath Rugby)
Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers)
Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby)
George Kruis (Saracens)
Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs)
Brad Shields (Wasps)
Denny Solomona (Sale Sharks)
Manu Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers)
Billy Vunipola (Saracens)
Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby)
Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens)

46 thoughts on “England’s Pre-Season Training Squad 2018

    1. I think that’s a more pertinant comment than you realise Geraint .Being the coach of England must be like a combination of being a kid in a sweet shop and having a constant nervous breakdown selection wise.
      Maybe it explains why even a force majeur like Mr Jones has gone a bit wobbly of late?




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    2. Geraint
      How can a country have too much talent? Surely supporters wouldn’t want England to have too little talent. With the former, the coach has choice, with the latter he doesn’t. Anyway, IMO it’s more about picking a playing style 1st, then picking players whom best suit this choice. Otherwise it’s down to choosing the ‘best’ stand alone players & having to potentially force some square pegs into round holes. More is better for me.. although not so sure about this in Eddie’s case?




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  1. Armand not fit? Weird tot drop Shields right after going through so much effort to get him on the squad for the SA-tour. Backline still seems shaky at best. Also curious as to who will replace Billy at eight, Hughes is roughly the same type of player but lacks the class of Billy, Simmonds would be my pick but then you’d have to play differently.

    Although Eddy still has some time left untill autumn.

    (This being my first post here, the name is in fact not a reference to Don Armand but family-related. Also English isn’t my native language so some spelling mistakes might still occur. And last note, it’s bloody difficult following the Aviva Premiership from the other side of the Canal, so I might miss a thing left or right).




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    1. I don’t think that Shields is dropped.

      he is in the “not considered” category, probably because he has only just finished the “Super” season, and possibly also as he is carrying a knock (from memory he got injured in the penultimate game didn’t he?).




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  2. Another curiously mixed bag from Ed.
    I share Armandus disappointment that neither Armand or Ewers get a look in.
    Surprised to see Hask back in the fold, though I imagine he’s just injury cover. good to see a big unit like Spencer in the mix. Pity no room could be found for Attwood though.

    I really don’t get the inclusion of Francis and for heavens sake Eddie, if you are going to select Robson GIVE HIM A GAME!




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  3. Brad shields is still in NZ playing in the latter stages of the super rugby campaign. Why are people surprised by Lazarus Hask ok still?

    Ewels injures. Armand not a test player




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    1. On what basis is Armand not a test player? On the evidence of a nothing test in Argentina and a cameo v Scotland? Brad Shields springs to mind, One rule for the not quite an All Black, one rule for everyone else?




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  4. Why pick players who went to SA and saw little, or no action at all? If they didnt feature then, why persists with them now?
    Also, why pick players who are extremely unlikely to get near the final WC squad? This is not the time to be casting an eye over a talented, but inexperienced player who had a decent JWC campaign.
    The focus now must be on working on a core group of players who will be in place until the RWC. The time for experimentation finished in SA. Jones must know at this stage who plays in his preferred XV, and must have most of the squad inked in. Right now, I reckon most of us could name at least 25 players who will go, with the remainder set to be decided between players who have had some exposure up until now.
    We have 4 autumn internationals and 5 games in the 6N’s. Add in 2 or 3 warm up games and thats it.
    No more sifting through options. Pick the best team and stick with them.




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    1. It seems to me Steve that Ed hasn’t got a clue exactly what his best team is. The SA tour served only to further the confusion thrown up by the shambolic 6N. Just for fun , you pick yours and i’ll pick mine and lets see how far apart we are.

      Brown, May, Watson, Teo, Daly, Williams, Hartley ( not the best hooker but probably still the best captain), Marler, Kvesic, Billy, Ewers, Itoje, Launchers,or Kruis, Robson Cips.

      Over to you.




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    2. “Why pick players who went to SA and saw little, or no action at all?”

      Well Steve, I am not sure the logic follows that if a squad player is not picked in the First XV then he is not good enough for the squad.

      Robson for example, if he was considered the 3rd best Scrum Half then, why not the third best Scrum Half now?

      Don’t forget that a 3 match tour to South Africa is far more than 3 x 80 min games. That is just what we see.




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      1. Robson didnt get a chance in SA and is very unlikely to do so when Care is available.
        You could argue that even Wigglesworth is ahead of him, so why pick him? If Eddie really rated him he would have had a go by now, surely? You could also say the same about Earle, Lozowski and probably Francis.
        Similarly Spencer and Stooke will not make the WC squad as there are too many better players ahead of them.
        Of the youngsters, Ibitoye, Cokanasiga and Olowofela are obviously very talented players, but they arent going to feature for England over the next 12 months.
        At this stage I think you need to trim down squads and work on those that will play over the coming season. Now is not the time to cast an eye to the post WC squad.




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        1. It’s a weird one Steve.
          One major concern about Ed’s tenure has been his reluctance to introduce new and potentially better players. This is where the winning run messed things up IMO. He didn’t (couldn’t) change a winning team as that would have drawn criticism. However,he has had plenty of opportunities to try out new faces/combinations since the run ended.

          Now ,as you rightly say , we are two years in and a year out and all seems to be confusion.




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        2. Steve, surely Robson absolutely got a chance in South Africa. He was there, training with the rest of them – every day (almost).

          I would suggest that he impressed sufficiently to stay on the squad (and we have seen plenty of players who have not managed this after touring and/or attending camps) but not enough to dislodge the other two in the match day 23.

          I understand the exciting “change for the sake of change” approach is good for us armchair experts, but its not particularly realistic for international rugby.




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  5. Further to my reply to Steve, surely Ben Morgan is a better eight than Hughes? He’s got international experience and is a real battering ram. He gets his body low and knows how to carry.

    How can we have an abundance and a famine at the same time? it’s beyond me.




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    1. Is there any coherence to Eddie’s selectoral policy? I don’t see it and have honestly kind of lost hope that anything good is going to happen now under his increasingly arbitrary and ramshackle tenure.
      Eddie is the albatross draped round the neck of English rugby and strangling it to death.
      I mean are we really better off than we were this time before the last world cup despite all the talent Eddie inherited with all the young players coming through from the junior world cup???!
      Sorry to be glum but can’t fake an optimism I don’t feel.




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      1. Bolter
        Understand some of yr pessimism as I agree that Eddie doesn’t know all of his best team, especially in the key areas areas of midfield & possibly open side (yet to be seen if Curry’s to get an extended run & if so, whether he will flourish). However, probably most of the rest of the team is inked in. With a fully fit squad, Jones will probably, barring the odd tweak, go with; Vunapola, Hartley, Cole, Itoje, Launchbury, Robshaw, Curry & Billy in the pack, then Youngs, Ford (Cipriani? For me, but I’m not picking the team), Farrell (mainly for his goal kicking, again IMO), Daly, Teo (more likely as a bosher?) May & Brown for the AI’s. Personally, I’d have Daly @ outside centre with Nowell on the wing. Jones needs a successful AI campaign to then solidly his team for the 6N. If it goes well & it could in 3 of 4 & also with a decent game v NZ, but if he has mixed results, it’ll put real pressure on for the 6N’s selection. By then the clock may well have already stopped ticking. If Jones keeps his head though & picks a team capable of & playing, an all round game, then the next 4 games present him with an opportunity. If not, then it could be desperation time.. but we’ll see.




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        1. Thanks Don…good to.read your thoughts. I really want to.see Daly given a run of games at 13. We have a !of of options on the wing in May Watson Nowell Ashton so let’s play our best back in his club position! Eddie really needs to try and play people in the correct positions and stop multitasking them imo. I think Cipriani should get some more games as well.
          And the whole scrum half mess really needs sorting out pronto! I think we have the players but not the coach. What do you think? Really hope Itoje comes good again this Autumn.
          And we have to stop basing our game plan around Billy !!




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          1. Bolter
            Agree about Daly, playing in his club position.. & Cipriani. Filling a problem for England position @ outside centre with the experienced Daly, is surely a logical selection. Can’t fathom why Jones doesn’t see this, especially as he plenty of wings available. Likewise with Ford, Jones seems oblivious that the former just doesn’t responds well to pressure, lacks variety & kicks meaninglessly @ times. What can he do better than Cipriani, who is more experienced & offers more creatively?

            Regrds the scurm 1/2, I prefer Care to Youngs as he seems to offer more options. If Care’s kicking needs attention, then address it! If Robson is to feature, he needs game time, by either starting or certainly through significant rotation. Personally, I liked Joe Simpson the best as he could also make breaks, run like the wind & keep the opposition guessing, but he’s ‘disappeared’.

            For me the press etc built Itoje up too much with all this WC stuff. When a team is winning, most tend to look good, however, it’s when they’re under the pump, as in the last 6N & SA, that the icons really need to stand up. Itoje just didn’t seem much better than the rest of the pack in these matches. Still, if he gets his head down & does his basics, with a clear, more innovative game plan from Eddie which might help, he could feature this Autumn.

            Also agree about basing England’s game plan around Billy. He appears injury prone these days & it could be that he’s taking on too much of the whole pack’s job of carrying? Also his carrying is predictable. This makes him ‘easier’ to defend against. Could do with more variety to his game, like offloading in the tackle instead of taking the ball into contact. A guy like Ben Morgan could be rotated with him. This would give England more options, not least @ lineout for e.g. & take some of the workload off Billy by giving him a bit of a breather.




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      1. Hughes’ problem is that he’s a stand-in for Billy in that they both have the same kind of playing style, yet Hughes misses a lot of the class that Vunipola obviously has. So when Hughes has to step in and England play the same game where they rely on a heavy nr.8 to make hard meters than the difference in class is obvious. Hughes’ is a good nr8, but he’s not Billy.

        You could use the pace of Simmonds tot play a different game in the last 30′ of a game but then you’d need flankers who know how to play that sort of game. And I’m guessing that if Billy isn’t fit Eddie wants what looks most like him …




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  6. Posted a really, IMO, pertinent comment here on the above via my mobile. Took 4 ever, but it didn’t take! Bollocks! Maybe it’s like that ‘Carry on’ film stated, they’ve got it ‘Infamy’!




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  7. Regarding names to names catch the eye, I agree with Ashton & Cipriani’s inclusion as the former is an experienced finisher wherever he’s been & Cip can change a game with his speed of though & deed, unlike the present, incumbent inside backs.

    EJ hasn’t succumbed to pressure to jettison Hartley either. Besides, isn’t a bit late to eject your captain a yr out from the WC? Who to replace him with? Did George do enough? And it means dumping the captain’s responsibility on to novice shoulders (unless Robshaw is considered?!).

    Curry is the 1st true open side to be given a run (presumably?) since Neil Back. IMO, England need a real fetcher & harrier to win quick & hinder opposition ball. The collective thing isn’t working. Has it ever really done so, or did it paper the cracks? Perhaps Kevesic could have also been included?

    No.8, with Billy out, it may not have been such an issue if Jones hadn’t gone for the obvious. Ben Morgan, as someone mentioned, is experienced (he was in the side which beat NZ in 2012) in this problem posi. Billy He can carry, (& unlike Billy) jump and is fairly athletic. Therefore, wouldn’t he be a sounder bet than the enigmatic, upright Hughes? Simmonds may be too lightweight @ International level.

    So, it’s not just a matter of names or numbers, but rather who can change a game by his actions, speed, ability & vision.

    Don’t know enough about guys like Ibitoye, Olowofela, Spencer, Hepburn, Isiekwe (raw deal in SA or what?), Kpoku, Singleton or Stooke to comment. Others here will know them better than me.




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    1. Kpoku is very impressive (at U20 level admittedly) but at Sarries he is battling against Kruis, Itoje, Skelton and Isiekwe to get game time.




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    2. Don P – Some info for you on some of the newer players in the squad. Ibitoye, Olowofela and Kpoku have been added after all performing exceptionally well in the U20s World Championship. Ibitoye and Olowofela are both very competent hard running wingers. Both good at breaking tackles and making tackles.

      Kpoku is another in the mould of Itoje. Big strong ball carrier, great in the line out and a monster in defence.
      Spencer didn’t get enough time to prove himself in SA but, he is a very good scrum half with a great left boot and good pace off the base of the ruck/maul. Also a good ball tracker who frequently scores tries from a position you would expect a centre or winger to be in.

      Singleton is a very reliable hooker who reminds me a bit of Tom Youngs. Good darts in the lineout and good around the park. Not sure about his scrummaging prowess, but he is young enough to learn the fine arts.

      Stooke is the one I know least about apart from that he is a second rower and again still young enough to hone his craft.

      Isiekwe is the pick of this bunch in my opinion and I think Eddie was wrong to take him off so early in SA. He has proved himself to be a very competent member of both the second and back row at Saracens (in the absence of injured players mostly). A very athletic second rower who has been inspired by the success of Itoje and is possibly as good as his team mate (in certain areas) if given the platform to perform.




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      1. Ibitoye has the the poorest basic catching skills of any player I’ve seen for a long time. Really needs some support in developing some coordination and conposure. Whilst he can be devastating when he secures the ball, every time the ball comes near (especially from an up and under) I expect a scrum to the opposition




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  8. I have to say there are some pleasant surprises in there. Also some omissions I’m glad to see have appeared. Some of those players on the omissions list (maybe injured?!) have had their chance and not performed well enough. I really hope Billy can get fit though as Hughes is nowhere near the player that Billy is. Saying that, Michael Rhodes has been included and he made a big difference to Sarries when he returned at the end of the season while Billy was still injured.

    Maybe with Rhodes at 6 and Cury or Underhill at 7, Simmonds could be the best choice for 8? Disappointed not to see Mercer as an option for the back row though?

    In the backs I, for one, am glad to see Ashton get a chance to prove himself. We haven’t had a back of Ashton’s ability for some while. Whilst Watson, May, Nowell and Daly have their own attributes I don’t think any of them have Ashton’s natural ability to track the ball and appear on the ball carriers shoulder at just the right time. A back line of Ford, May, Faz, Marchant, Ashton and Earle would be something to watch!! Hope Earle gets plenty of game time at 15 for Quins this season as I think he could be the answer for England when Brown is no longer an option.

    Who knows maybe Eddie is looking to play Ashton at 15 as he performed their very well for Toulon last season?




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    1. I reckon that if Ashton plays 15 then Brown absolutely continues as an option (on the wing).

      Tough ask to get into the team for Ashton though – ahead of Daly, May, Nowell and Watson (is Watson injured?).

      Olowofela for 13? very longshot, but he is very talented.




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      1. I though Olowofela was more of a winger? Sure I saw him playing 11 in the U20s?

        I would love to see Marchant in the 13 shirt. Been overlooked for too long after his U20s performances.

        I rate Ashton for his work off the ball. His ability to appear in exactly the right place to exploit space is excellent. I like May but, he still spends too much time running across the face of his own attack rather than running straight and taking the hit or offloading in the tackle. I think Watson will play 15 when he is fit and Brown is gone. Daly is better at 13. This leaves Nowell, who I think is ideal for the 23 shirt as he can cover centre, wing and full back.
        If they were all fit I would have Faz at 10, May at 11, Marchant at 12, Daly at 13, Ashton at 14 and Watson at 15.




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        1. If fit I would reckon Tuilagi would be an ideal 12 in between Farrell and Daly, although the ‘if’ is a big one here.
          But I do miss a hard-hitter in the centre of England’s play, like Aki for Ireland or Bastareaux for France. Although I’m not that familiar with Marchant to be honest.
          Do agree with the backline + 23-shirt




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        2. He has played 13 for England as well. From the little I have seen of him he is a very balanced runner, and ‘looks’ like a 13.




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  9. What do.people think about the appointment of Mitchell as defence coach?
    I have read a lot of negative comments about him on other sites.
    Don what is your view? As a kiwi you presumably know how he is regarded in New Zealand?




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    1. Hi Bolter
      Mitchell seems to have a rep being unpopular where ever he’s been. This is exacerbated by the media, esp in NZ perhaps, as he was the coach who took NZ OUT of the 03 WC? Don’t think NZ ever 4gave for that. I too was of the view that, although NZ were up agin v (eddie’s) Oz @ 1/2 time, it could have been turned around if Mitchell had changed or adapted his game plan. Ade tall NZ had put 30 odd v Oz a mth earlier on the v same WC ground. Oz kicked nothing away, so starved the AB’s of possession, their line out also faltered & Oz threw numbers into the breakdown. Mitchell changed nothing. IMO that was mainly his fault. He was & is seemingly pig headed & probably, in retro, got the AB job too young. Mitchell had got the Bulls playing an all round & more open game from what I’ve seen, but they didn’t WIN anything. Don’t think he’d been there that long (a yr?), but he doesn’t stay anywhere for long either. Also, he seems to have been ‘bought’ out @ N Transvaal, which may also raise concerns about his ability.. or loyalty? Obviously, Jones has been convinced by Mitchell to give him the the England ‘D’ job, but on what basis was it offered? Sound reasoning, or is Jones himself somewhat desperate? For me, like I suspect many disgruntled NZers, prefer that he coached outside NZ. OTOH, as there seems an element of bias against Mitchell, he ought to be given a clean state, but England will have win soon & consistently. Other the knives will be out pronto.. for him as well as EJ.. & the latter needs to get his breakdown, midfield (esp in attack) & pack sorted too.




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    1. I’m pretty sure he was around the England set up during SCW’s reign. I can’t recall exactly what happened to him but I remember his face well.




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    1. That bodes well! If he wasn’t good enough for SCW 15 yrs ago, what has changed to make him more attractive now I wonder? It feels increasingly like EJ is just making it up as he goes along.
      Thanks for the reply Bolter.




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  10. Acee i read that Mitchell has been booted out of several club gigs because his aggressive attitude towards the players was so extreme! How is that going to help!!?? Especially given Japan were so sick of Eddie they wanted him gone too!
    So we have no attack coach, a defence coach who isn’t a defence coach, a forwards coach who has left us with a maul that is so useless many clubs would make mincemeat of it and a scrumcoach who hasn’t improved our scrum!
    Don made reference to one of the Carry On films further up this thread….seems to be Carry on losing matches the way things are going!!




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    1. This autumn is going to be VERY interesting!
      Brendan Venter ,writing in the rugby paper , seems to think that Mitchell has curbed his harsh tendencies and is a bit more human than in the past and dear old Jezza thinks he will be a good foil for Mr Ed, having been in the set up when he was appointed by SCW in ’97.
      Time ,as ever , will tell.




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