Three players Eddie Jones should pick for England

Semesa Rokoduguni

Semesa Rokoduguni

Eddie Jones will announce his new England training squad this Friday. Jones has strongly indicated he will rest a number of those involved with the British and Irish Lions tour for the autumn test series (which is still a little way off, beginning against Argentina on 11 November), with an extensive list of Maro Itoje, Jamie George, Owen Farrell, Anthony Watson, Elliot Daly, Courtney Lawes, Be Te’o, Mako Vunipola, Kyle Sinckler and Jack Nowell all involved in the tests, not to mention the others in the wider squad.

Exactly who will be rested – and the criteria for deciding – is a bit less clear; it could be a blanket omission of all those involved in the tour; those involved with the tests; just those who look a bit burnt out; or maybe just those whose positions Jones wants to grow depth in.

Meanwhile, we have had three rounds of the new Premiership season and it’s safe to say there has been a real mix of results – reigning champions Exeter losing on the opening weekend, the likes of Northampton got smashed one game before roaring back with strong wins over Leicester and Bath.

But in amongst the chaos, a few players have given Jones massive nudges, and if they maintain this form should be in contention for to start for England come November.

Ellis Genge
I have not seen a loosehead prop carry with such unfettered aggression since Andrew Sheridan packed down for England. A number eight before making the switch to the front row, Ellis Genge is an absolute monster with ball in hand – have a look at what he did to his England captain (and several others in the Northampton team) the other weekend.

Genge is pretty solid in the scrum – if maybe not quite at the heights of his rivals for the England shirt, Mako Vunipola and Joe Marler, yet. However – he is only 22. With a couple of years to hone his technique, and coupled with his raw power, Genge should soon be chewing up and spitting out tightheads.

Jones is already blessed with two Lions in the loosehead position, however I think Genge has the raw potential to be better than either. After starting both tests in Argentina, the autumn series would be a perfect opportunity to continue his development.

Semesa Rokoduguni
Another winger left out in the cold by England who scores tries for fun but has be tarred with that ‘defensive problems’ brush. Like Christian Wade and Chris Ashton before him, Rokoduguni has supreme attacking abilities, but supposed weaknesses mean he is deemed surplus to requirements.

Although I am not suggesting an international winger can get away without any defensive nous (anyone who saw Raymond Rhule’s impression of a doormat on the wing for South Africa against New Zealand at the weekend will attest to that), Roko’s flaws really only amount to a few positional problems and a weak(ish) kicking game – hardly insurmountable, and, for me, don’t matter when you can do stuff like this:

Eddie Jones has been pretty open about his desire for more size and power in his backline; it is why he recalled Marland Yarde and tried out Nathan Earle, Joe Cokanasiga and Denny Solomona (hardly a defensive rock himself) while the Lions were away. Right now, Roko is in better form than all of them, and with his three first-choice wings involved in the Lions tour and candidates for a rest, this is the moment for Jones to give him another chance.

Henry Slade
Despite helping Exeter to their maiden Premiership title last season, Henry Slade’s form was a bit patchy and inconsistent. He toured Argentina with England in the summer and showed glimmers of his potential, but for such a talented player, more is needed and demanded – certainly if he is to force his way into the England midfield ahead of guys like Jonathan Joseph, Owen Farrell, George Ford or Ben Te’o.

Jones has called on Slade to make the number 13 shirt his own, rather than bouncing around the back line and becoming a victim of his versatility. He seems to have risen to the challenge and delivered some excellent performances in the first few rounds for Exeter – this deft chip for Olly Woodburn’s try against Worcester showed great vision:

It’s his moments of inspiration and deftly-executed skill that make Slade so valuable. With Owen Farrell one of the more likely Lions to be rested by England, there will be a spot in the England backline for Slade to claim. Jones also has the freshly-capped likes of Piers Francis and Alex Lozowski, so he is an England coach in the unusual and lucky position of not being short of ball-playing centres. Out of all of them, however, I feel Slade has the complete skillset and growing maturity to challenge for a regularly starting shirt.

Who has impressed you in the opening Premiership games and who deserve an international call-up?

By Henry Ker

34 thoughts on “Three players Eddie Jones should pick for England

  1. I thought Genge was a TH, not a LH, so up against clubmate Dan Cole, not Marler or Mako.
    Roko – maybe, especially if Jones gives Watson or Daly a crack at the 15 jersey (since Brown doesn’t have the distribution of either)
    Slade – no argument here
    But what about Dan Robson at 9 – can’t understand why he didn’t go to Argentina, given his skills and pace!

    1. Nope, Genge is a loosehead.
      Dan Robson is a good shout – and I would add Ben Spencer at Saracens to the list. Be interesting to see if Jones persists with Young and Care as behind them the cupboard is a little bare in terms of experience.

    2. Seem Jack Maunder is above Robson in the pecking order, and Jones insists on only taking two 9s each time. I expect to see the same come the RWC squad so I don’t think that’ll change.

      Genge definitely plays LH, he’s been playing week in week out in the same front row as Cole for some time now. He’ll definitely be in the mix as the third choice LH.

      Roko, I wouldn’t actually pick, which I realise puts me in the minority. Not because I don’t rate him, but because I’d have Watson, Daly, Nowell and May over him – 5 wingers seems excessive even when you consider Watson and Daly offer versatility.

  2. All three make sense to me.
    Genge has shown he can hold is own in the scrum (arguably better than Mako?) and is great in the loose (definitely more so than Marler). His carrying aggression coupled with Sinckler’s ability would be great for England and, these two along with Jamie Georege could forge a very strong front row.

    Roko is a no brainer to me, but then again so is Wade, whose defence has improved a lot in the last couple of seasons.
    Personally I wouldn’t say Yarde is great defensively and Solomona is pretty shocking. Earle is an interesting one, because he played so well in that first game for England in the summer and, of all of these is probably the most solid defensively.

    Slade should definitely be given a shot if Farrell is being rested. I think the main question is if both Farrell and T’eo are rested who plays 12?
    I would not want to play Ford, Lozowski and Slade as I think that would not be enough power through the middle of the field. I would like to see Marchant given a chance but he normally plays 13 for Quins (although I’m sure I’ve seen him playing 12 for England U20’s?).
    Outside of this Burrell is playing well for Saints but he has previously been found out in defence for England.

    1. With Roko, I agree that him and particularly Wade are great options. But would you include them in a 31 man squad when Watson, Nowell, May and Daly will all be in there?

      12 will be interesting. Personally I’d like to see Slade there as he is the most like for like for Lozowski. JJ should play in the Autumn and Ford will play 10 so it’s between those two and Francis to take the opportunity covering Farrell in the playmaking 12 role.

      1. Thats an interesting point Jacob – currently England have some great wingers so it is not an area which needs much greater depth (unlike, say, hooker or at scrum half). However, my thinking behind Roko (and actually ignoring his current excellent form and if he warrants a space just on merit) is for two reasons. One, I agree with Jones that the backline needs some power. Without a big centre like other countries, we are lacking some physicality at times. I would like a winger who can come off his wing and exploit route one ball from set piece down the 9/10 channel – exactly as Roko did in that clip to score his try. Watson/Daly/May/Nowell for all their abilities are more effective when given space, and struggle comparatively in the tight.

        Secondly, I see a couple of those guys taking different positions long term. I think Daly will always be a better centre than back-three player, and personally would pick him over JJ at 13. I think with Daly it is a case of ‘he’s good so we play him, wherever the alternatives are weakest’. Could also play at 15, but I would see Watson as the long-term answer to fullback, especially if age catches up with Brown. For me, (and injury/form permitting) in two years I would potentially be looking at a World Cup backline of Youngs, Ford, Nowell, Farrell, Daly, Rokoduguni, Watson – with Care/Other, Te’o and JJ on the bench.

        1. I would be great to have a bigger winger, but I think with a pack full of good carries, particularly off the bench and JJ doing his far share there is enough power there. I like Roko but I’d always want to pick the best wings and for me he is currently 5th in the pecking order.

    2. Dazza,

      “I would not want to play Ford, Lozowski and Slade as I think that would not be enough power through the middle of the field. ”

      Thats not so different from Ford, Farrell and Joseph is it? Since Burrell was ditched, it is only brief cameos by Te’o that has given the backline any power.

      It seems that England have developed a game that does not use heavy runners in the backs, aprt from Lineouts when we usually see the 8 out there (Vunipola/Hughes).

      1. I also wouldn’t play Ford, Lozowski and Slade but it isn’t so much to do with power necessarily but carrying ability.

        The danger with those three is all of them are more likely to put other people in gaps than go though a gap. With JJ there is someone to carry, straighten the line and run intelligently to challenge the defence in a different way. He’s also deceptively powerful too, but it is certainly more his pace and the quality of his lines that stand him out.

      2. I used the wrong word in power, so I will borrow Jacob’s phrase of “carrying ability”. By this I mean the ability to get the ball through the tackle and potentially offload (something that T’eo does so well). Whilst the combination of Ford, Lozowski and Slade is not so different from the current line-up, none of them are at the same level of Farrell in terms of his organisation of the back line, and his passing and handling ability.
        Personally if players were not being rested I would start with Farrell and T’eo at 10/12. With Daly at 13, Nowell and Roko on the wings and Watson at 15. Ford and May on the bench as cover.

        1. Its a useful problem to have though isn’t it; too many decent players, with varying strengths, to fit into one team.

          “Power” is the word i would certainly use for Te’o and Tuilagi. Burrell too. It is not to demean any of them, as clearly they are more than the old fashioned one-dimensional “boshers” (Jamie Roberts?!?), it is simply the ability that distinguishes them from the likes of JJ, Daly and (imho) Nowell who excel with their “carrying ability”.

          Personally, I believe that a team only needs the power runners when ball is slow/poor, and the backline is struggling to get onto the front foot. A team doesn’t necessarily need them in every game. Having Te’o on the bench (if you start with two “ball-players”) is for this reason, very useful.

  3. I think the most important thing is to test the strength in depth. EJ keeps mentioning having 3 players in every position.

    I reckon 90% of Eng fans would agree on their 1st choice and 2nd choice XV’s, with the problem positions being 6,7 and 15.

    On this basis, I’d like to see the following players get game time over the AI’s (probably not all at once) to see if they can take the 3rd place spots.

    Genge, Harry Williams, Ewels, Isiekwe, Clifford, Underhill, the Curry’s, Simmonds, Robson, Spencer, Lozowski, Slade, Marchant, Roko, Solomona, Earle

    1. That is a nice crop of players there. I would not play Lozowksi at 12 though. I would have him as a back up for Ford.
      I would love to see Simmonds given some time as I think he has real potential to provide power and pace to the back row.
      I would not have Solomona in the mix though.

      1. Dazza,

        I also really like the look of Simmonds. I wonder though whether he is more of the “next Teimana Harrison” who impressed all and sundry with his ferocious ball carrying, but seemed to find the step up a little too much.

        I hope not.

  4. Agree about Genge but think there are several wingers as good as Roko, including Yarde on current form. Definitely would not have Slade. Highly talented but always inclined to drop a major clanger. I also think he would be better off playing consistently at 10 rather than 13. I would like to see Marchant get a run out. He appears to have stepped up from U20’s effortlessly and has good pace and awareness. Spencer has potential but is not even the best 9 at Saracens. Not sure why EJ was so quick to consign Wigglesworth to the scrap heap. He has an excellent pass, a good boot and a tactical brain that helps his forwards to win ball.

    1. I like Marchant – and Jones is a fan too – could definitely see him getting a call up.

      The problem with Wigglesworth is he is 34 and will be 36 come the World Cup. Likely he may even have retired by then, so a risky pick to invest more caps in.

      1. True Henry, but he is still in the top 3 in the Premiership in my view, shows no sign of slowing down and is in as good form as he ever has been. Athletes in many sports last a lot longer nowadays, and although I don’t see him as a starter, having all that experience on the bench to close out the last twenty minutes of a tight game could be very useful. Stringer is still doing it at club level at about sixty!

        1. Whilst Wrigglesworth is clearly playing well at Sarries, I’m not sure even if he was younger that EJ would see him as the type of 9 he wants. He has always had teams that have upped the tempo often from the 9 and that doesn’t necessarily suit Wrigglesworth at all.

          1. I accept that you are right Jacob, EJ has made it quite clear that Wrigglesworth is not his type of player by never giving him a run out. He is not that dynamic, but if that is what you want I think Care is a better 9 than Youngs, whose pass is slow and who takes a stride sideways before he releases, frequently causing the whole back line to crab sideways. Care´s kicking has always been against him but has improved hugely in the past year. Can anyone tell me what has happened to Chudley, who looked like being really good and seems to have suddenly disappeared?

            1. I always find this crabbing criticism odd – it’s completely intentional and invaluable? It may create slight lateral movement but only if the 10 is doing so to gain space for himself. What it is designed to do, and the reason all top coaches want their 9s to do it regularly, is that it interests fringe defenders and gives carriers more time. It gets used often you’ll notice if England plan to carry in the tight either off Youngs or Ford. That step from Youngs can turn an England carry directly into an opposition forward into a carry into an arm.

              On Youngs vs Ford – I’d agree edges on the sniping front, but the decision making, game management and kicking of Youngs far outweighs that. I think Maunder is probably the closest to being as well rounded as Youngs, however raw.

              Chudley – he’s good player however currently injured. He’s also in his late 20’s (maybe even 30 actually) and uncapped, so probably not worth putting over others.

              1. I think you are being generous to Youngs here. Yes he crabs to create gaps but he also takes a two step wind up before passing. It makes his passing slow. Watch the Kiwi scrum halves. Yes they crab sometimes. But if the situation needs speed they get in and whip the ball out smartly with no delay or step. Aaron Smith does it brilliantly

                1. I agree Aaron Smith does it brilliantly, but so does Youngs.

                  I find it odd, whenever I speak to Aussies to Kiwis they rate Youngs as one of the best 9s in the world and we seem to continually want to tear him down. His movement around the base is brilliant, there’s a reason he’s been England first choice 9 for most of the last 7 years

  5. Re having 3 players in each position, I don’t remember England having such strength in depth. Many years ago there used to be an early season game of “Possibles” against “”Probables” which was frequently a proper war and threw up some surprises. It would be great to see EJ given enough space on the fixture calendar to reintroduce it before the start of next season’s internationals.

      1. I really rate Collins as he has a fantastic skill set but it he has a perceived weakness it is that he is quite small and occasionally finds himself isolated under the high ball and turned over on kick chase

        1. Leon
          You’re right about the size thing. He is in the Wade category. I’m still a firm believer in rugby being a sport for all sizes. It didn’t hold J. Robinson back or the welsh wizard whose name i can’t remember! (Apologies!)
          Its also why kiwi white kids are migrating to League from union as the PI’s have out-muscled them literally (ref the kiwi newspaper article i linked on here months ago)

          1. Shane Williams……that was the one. Both him and Robinson were two of the highest try scorers and all time greats (both on the wee side). Apart from May i can’t think of any speedsters at 11 or 14. They’re all bruisers now with a bit of gas at international level.
            Personally EJ should play Earle sooner rather than later. He impressed me against Argentina and seems like he could run over people like Ione and Savea. Our own version of a PI tank.

            1. Thanks Acee. Euan Evans was another and both Underwoods were on the small size
              Both the latter two would struggle in the modern game, accepted! Think Wade would surprise most nay sayers for England. I Would only worry about him under the cross-kick against a tall winger but then i’d like to think he’d have scored two tries already in the game and his pluses would outweigh the minuses. I’d love to see him out stepping the ABs.

  6. Never particularly saw why Roko was ever dropped. Mind you, I never saw why Strettle or even Ashton, the swan diving (uuggh!) aside, were dropped either. But England seem to have had & still have their favourites. EJ’s seems little different in this respect. If Roko has a perceived ‘weakness’, in his ‘D’, then work on it, until he gets it.. or gets discarded if he can’t cut it. Never know until he gets a consistent run. Same with Christian Wade BTW, who else has his jet shoes & mile wide side steps? But he, like Danny Cip, doesn’t & Cip didn’t fit the backs to the wall, Dunkirk Farrell like spirit did/do they? Mind you the ‘infallible’ Farrell got shown up a bit on the Lions tour didn’t he? And anyway, is that tattoed love boy Jack Nowell really all that? Got exposed a couple of times on ‘D’ himself on tour didn’t he ? As for poor Arthur Daley, is he a wing is he a bird? What actually is he? Rgrds Slade, dunno. Had the perception, as the author alludes to, that he ran a hot & cold, but without a proper run in the England side, we’ll never know. Might it be not be useful to rotate players like him as, if for no other reason than as insurance cover against injuries for 2019? He might rise & thrive? Dunno about Genge either. Not seen enough of him. Keep hearing about the proliferation of English props, but again, until Genge gets regular starts or @ least rotation, who’ll know? Also, EJ can’t live on that Japan or Oz series results forever can he? If he wants to be No.1, instead of , in the words of that erudite sage AlexD, ‘bigging it up’, he might want to get weaving, integrate his squad & esp his ‘attack’, in time for the not so slowly looming WC! Let these players see some meaningful action innit!


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