My Ideal England Squad for the South African tour

Joe Launchbury

Joe Launchbury wins the lineout against South Africa

Following a fairly abysmal Six Nations defence, it’s time for Eddie Jones to go back to the drawing board. His Lions players need a complete rest and so do some of the stalwarts. South Africa is a great opportunity to pick players on form and this would be my Matchday squad for the 1st test against the Springboks in June.

1 – Ellis Genge (Leicester)
Vunipola has been overplayed therefore his loose contribution can’t make up his weaknesses at the set piece. Genge on the other hand is a completely new breed of prop who under the tutelage of Boris Stankovich has become a sublime scrum operator whilst still being a devastating ball carrier in the loose.

2 – Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter)
Jamie George has been given two golden chances to impress Eddie Jones in the starting position at hooker and did he take either of them? No. In my opinion, when fit, Cowan-Dickie is such a powerful hooker in the loose and forms part of a strong Exeter Chiefs pack in the set-piece too.

3 – Harry Williams (Exeter)
Kyle Sinckler started England’s last fixture but showed he still has some way to go in terms of scrummaging and Williams is a more complete player. A guy who can hold his own in the scrum and can carry the ball too, in my opinion Williams has the calibre to handle the notoriously difficult Tendai Beast Mtawarira at scrumtime.

4 – Joe Launchbury (Wasps)
He would be my captain of this team as he is a proven leader for Wasps and gives everything on the pitch. England need to go back to the drawing board but there still needs to be a familiar backbone. One major criticism of England during the Six Nations was the lack of leadership therefore I think South Africa is a great opportunity to develop England’s options and specifically Launchbury’s credibility as a potential future captain.

5 – Will Spencer (Worcester)
David Flatman won’t shut up about him and rightly so. The giant lock is an enforcer on the pitch and very difficult to stop. Spencer has been involved in the set-up before winning a unofficial cap off the bench against the Barbarians. With Lawes injured and Itoje hopefully rested, this a chance for Spencer to prove that he is a viable 4th option as a lock-forward as Nick Isiekwe and Charlie Ewels haven’t convinced so far.

6 – Mark Wilson (Newcastle)
Had a great debut versus Argentina but hasn’t even been in an EPS squad since which I think is criminal – he is the perfect player to fill the void of Chris Robshaw but is no mimic. Wilson is quicker in open field and is probably slightly better over the ball. Robshaw deserves a rest and Wilson deserves a recall.

7 – Don Armand (Exeter)
Got his debut last year against Argentina and has been raved and raved about but again, like other players in this theoretical squad, has simply been underused by England. Through injury he returned to the English lineup against Ireland in the final match of Six Nations, and with Eddie Jones promising to rest players, this a great chance for Armand to cement his place in the England side with his ball-carrying ruthlessness and his lineout prowess.

8 – Sam Simmonds (Exeter)
I’m giving Simmonds another shot here. In the Six Nations I felt that Jones’ fears were realised that Simmonds is maybe just too small for international rugby. Or at least he was played wrongly, the England forwards should have binded in when he was carrying as he was shunted back by two or more players each time he carried the ball on his own. Against South Africa, I think the majority of the carrying in the tight should be delegated to Armand and Spencer while Simmonds can be left to blitz the defenders out wide, which could be a nightmare for the wingers especially if Rassie Erasmus picks wingers such as Raymond Rhule or Aphiwe Dyantyi who are quite weak defensively.

9 – Ben Youngs (Leicester)
When Ben Youngs went off injured against Italy we feared the worst, however his knee injury didn’t require surgery and he has worked his way back to fitness and is expected to play against Newcastle at the end of this month. Youngs needs to go to South Africa as Danny Care proves he isn’t a starting scrum-half unless England change their style of play which I doubt they will.

10 – George Ford (Leicester)
Ford had an outstanding tour against Argentina that proved he could do the job well without Farrell, and South Africa is another opportunity to do that. Moving to Leicester has been really fruitful for the [still] young flyhalf as his place-kicking has come along considerably and has built a potentially salivating partnership with Matt Toomua. His defence has also improved significantly and is one of the stalwarts that still deserves their place in the starting XV.

11 – Jonny May (Leicester)
The left wing is May’s best position and while footwork is often found wanting, his tryscoring form has been scintillating this season since his move to Leicester. He was also England’s best tryscorer in the Six Nations, crossing the whitewash 4 times. He will be crucial to England’s cause in the coming tour.

12 – Henry Slade (Exeter)
This is the puzzling question: I believe Slade deserves to be in the England starting XV but where? His best position is arguably at 13 but will England change their tactics to have a playmaker, crash-baller such as Te’o or Tuilagi (although the latter is widely speculated to be rested this summer) and then a playmaker? Or could Slade be switched to inside centre.

13 – Elliot Daly (Wasps)
When he came back from injury in the Six Nations he was arguably one of England’s few good players. He has never been tried at outside centre at international level (at least not starting anyway) and many England fans have cried for it for a long time. This is a perfect opportunity to see where Daly’s actual best position is. Left Winger, outside centre or fullback?

14 – Joe Cokanasiga (London Irish)
Eddie Jones has long commented on the need to bulk up his backline and Cokanasiga is the perfect player in my opinion for that role. He has been one of London Irish’s few form players and his try against Gloucester showed that he could be a very good England winger with his combination of power, pace and finishing capability.

15 – Jason Woodward (Gloucester)
Anthony Watson needs a rest after the Lions tour and didn’t really prove his worth at fullback during the Six Nations. Jason Woodward has already been on Eddie Jones radar and has been magnificent for the Cherry and Whites this season. He has excellent control in the air whilst also possessing a potent attacking threat.

16 – Jamie George (Saracens)
I’m really annoyed with George, England fans have wasted a lot of their breath to try to get George a start – he is given opportunities against Samoa and France and absolutely blunders both. He might have been the starting hooker in New Zealand for the Lions but that was a year ago and a lot has happened since, and George was anonymous against Leinster in the European quarterfinal as he has been for too long. It’s the bench or nothing for the Saracens hooker I’m afraid.

17 – Alec Hepburn (Exeter)
Mako deserves a rest and Marler has become a bit of gamble with his disciplinary record. Hepburn is now a test international, coming off the bench against Italy & Wales, not putting a foot wrong. He was absolutely fantastic for Exeter against Gloucester in Round 19 in a man-of-the-match performance right in front of the Head Coach so he couldn’t have done any more to impress.

18 – Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins)
Against Ireland some fears about the youngster were realised. First of all he’s not a 1st class scrummager yet and his impact isn’t as significant as it is off the bench. Against Tendai Mtawarira I’m sorry the Harlequin will have no chance, therefore Sinckler will be confined as a finisher for the foreseeable future.

19 – Calum Green (Newcastle)
Consistently excellent for Newcastle this season with unprecedented dominance in the lineout, I believe his form should be rewarded with a cap this summer. His lineout skills will make up for the loss of Courtney Lawes to injury and his tackling is top-notch too.

20 – Ben Curry (Sale)
Although twin brother Tom stole the headlines on his debut against Argentina, he has been frustratingly injured and Ben has regained some of the limelight. He has been in excellent form for the Sharks, destructive at the breakdown and has the pace to finish tries. After the Six Nations, there were one or two articles written expressing their dismay that Curry was not called up when Underhill was injured and I hope that Jones has learnt his lesson.

21 – Dan Robson (Wasps)
One of Eddie Jones’ largest failures of the Six Nations was the use of only two scrum-halves and when Ben Youngs did get injured, he called up Richard Wigglesworth on the bench which is pointless as he isn’t an impact player. Dan Robson has been involved in a couple of EPS squads but my guess is that either there was no displacing Youngs and Care or Jones didn’t like the Wasps scrum-half, which is fair enough really. I hope that he does get the call to South Africa because the time is now to develop options for the World Cup and I don’t want to see relics of previous eras (ie Wigglesworth) being relied upon to fill the gaps.

22 – Billy Twelvetrees (Gloucester)
Twelvetrees has been in the international wilderness for a while now but since Johan Ackermann has joined Gloucester, Twelvetrees has become rejuvenated. Plus, an excellent substitute for Farrell, he is an inside centre but can kick for the sticks himself and has become a more capable back up inside centre option than Alex Lozowski.

23 – Henry Trinder (Gloucester)
We, especially Cherry and Whites fans, have always known of the incredible talent that Trinder possesses. He has been on the Premiership scene since 2007 and won an unofficial cap against the Barbarians in 2014. But he has been injured so often that it has denied him any chance of proper recognition but this season he has been undeniably excellent for Gloucester scoring some wonder tries and setting up one of the tries of the season for Twelvetrees.

All of this would be with a 32 man squad of:

Looseheads: Genge, Hepburn and Beno Obano (Bath)
Hookers: Cowan-dickie, George & Jack Singleton (Worcester)
Tightheads: Williams, Sinckler & Jake Cooper-Woolley (Wasps)
Locks: Launchbury, Spencer, Green & Jonny Hill (Exeter)
Flankers: Wilson, Armand, B Curry & Jack Willis (Wasps)
No8s: Simmonds & Ben Morgan (Gloucester)
Scrumhalves: Youngs, Robson & Ben Vellacott (Gloucester)
Flyhalves: Ford & Marcus Smith (Harlequins)
Centres: Slade, Daly, Twelvetrees, Trinder
Wingers: May, Cokanasiga, Olly Woodburn (Exeter) & Gabriel Ibitoye (Harlequins)
Fullbacks: Woodward & Chris Pennell (Worcester)

Bath (2), Exeter (8), Gloucester (5), Harlequins (2), Leicester (4), London Irish (1), Sale (1), Wasps (4) & Worcester (3)

Players rested/dropped:
Mike Brown, Danny Care, Jack Clifford, Dan Cole, Charlie Ewels, Owen Farrell, Dylan Hartley, James Haskell, Nathan Hughes, Nick Isiekwe, Maro Itoje, Jonathan Joseph, George Kruis, Alex Lozowski, Joe Marler, Jack Nowell, Chris Robshaw, Denny Solomona, Ben Te’o, Manu Tuilagi, Billy Vunipola, Mako Vunipola, Anthony Watson & Richard Wigglesworth.

Who do you think I have left out? There are of course other options: Danny Cipriani, Will Evans, Brendan O’Connor, Lewis Boyce, Ed Slater, Joe Marchant, Zach Mercer, Adam Radwan even some people have called Toby Flood to be recalled to the international scene.

48 thoughts on “My Ideal England Squad for the South African tour

  1. Would be useful to see a list of players that you have “rested” as opposed to dropped.

    With my Glos hat on Trinder really deserves a chance, particularly as he offers something most of the other centres don’t. Woodward is very good if he can stay injury free. 36 has been playing much better this season, but not sure about a recall to the England squad. I think that Morgan is worth a place on the tour too.

    Regarding scrum halves, I hope EJ doesn’t take either Youngs or Care. We know what they can do. Let three new players have a go at staking their claim. Robson, Vellacott and another. Need to have a think about who the England qualified younger scrum halves are.

      1. Thankyou!

        As to third scrum half, I’m not sure that Jack is getting enough rugby at Exeter at the moment. I was mulling Spencer but wasn’t sure how old he was. Only 26 I gather so he would go and possibly be favourite to start the first test.

      2. I would have Harrison in front of Robson or Vellacot. IMO Robson showed why EJ has not picked him when played off the park by Faff du Klerk last weekend.

  2. Lots of choice at LH; Obano, Hepburn and Genge all put in strong performances at the weekend, giving Eddie options for SA. All scrummage well but offer so much in the loose. Genge genuinely scares me, and I’m not even playing against him. At TH, I feel the pickings are a little less bountiful. Behind Cole, who turns 31 this year, only Williams and Sinkler and the Sink doesn’t have the scrummaging to back up his barnstorming runs.
    Armand and Simmonds are two I’m not so sure about. They’re known quantities in a way, and I would much rather use this opportunity to test Ben Curry (or Tom), the Pale Orc and even Mercer at 8. The starting XV above still doesnt address the back-row balance, imo, and sending a Curry and Underhill down to SA would be a good test for the young 7s, in the land of the jackal.
    Likewise Youngs shouldnt be 9. The other major takeaway from the 6N was that we need more cover at 9. Robson, though found wanting v Sale, and Spencer should be given a chance on the tour, and not just as bench cover.
    As Staggy says, Trinder seems to have that je ne sais quo about him, capable of nice touches, skillfull with pace and speed. Cokanasiga is a monster and would also like to see him tried out; if Watson is to continue playing FB, I think we need more options at wing.

      1. Including summer tour or just domestic season? Think its another 4-6 weeks based on the initial estimates, so probably too soon for him to tour. The defiler would have been useful….shame.

  3. Start with:
    Genge; George; Cole; Kruis; Launchbury; Robshaw; Curry; Vunipola; Youngs; Ford; Daly; Te’o; Slade; Nowell; Woodward

    Rep: Hepburn; Cowan Dickie; Sinkler; Spencer; Armand; Robson; Lozowski; May

    Touring: Obano, Dunn, Williams, Ewels, Underhill, Clifford, Wilson, Simmons, Spencer, Tuilagi, Trinder, Yarde, Earle, Cokanasiga, Brown

    Rest: Mako, Marler, Hartley, Itoje, Lawes, Haskell, Hughes, Care, Farrell, Joseph, Watson

    1. Genge and Cole are dominating for Leicester and will be needed against the Bok pack. Give George a proper run. Kruis for the all-important lineout against Etzebeth, De Jager and Du Toit. Robshaw needed for experience in his proper position, curry for some new blood and vunipola for some mileage.

      Youngs to come straight back in, Daly and Nowell looking strong on the wings. Te’o can have a run at his best position with Slade in his best position. Woodward a bit of an experiment in the absence of Watson.

        1. I am a fan of LCD but his line-out throwing is pretty poor still; the one area Exeter struggled v Gloucester was the lineout and a lot of this was down to inaccuracy on LCD’s part. Tommy Taylor is coming back from injury and so is Dunn. Would consider testing out one of these players on tour.

          1. Not convinced Taylor is good enough in the tight Jake. Definitely agree that Cole and Robshaw need a summer off. Both have a lot of miles on the clock.

  4. The Daily Mail think Tuilagi is going to be rested this summer, normally you would never trust the Daily Mail but I’ve been assured that their sports column is usually quite accurate

  5. Start
    Genge, Cowan-Dickie, Williams, Launchbury, Kruis, Wilson, Simmonds, Vunipola, Spencer, Ford, May, Teo, Slade, Nowell, Woodward

    Obano, Hartley, Sinkler, Spencer, Armand, Robson, Lozowski, Trinder

    Tour (35 man)
    Hepburn, Taylor, Cooper-Wooley, Isekwe, Ewels, Curry, Mercer, Vellacott, Smith, Marchant , Woodburn, Brown

    Sunbathing (recovering and getting their head in the right place after too much rugby)
    Mako, George, Cole, Itoje, Lawes, Robshaw, Youngs, Care, Farrell, JJ, Daly, Watson

    1. Trying to balance between:
      Trying new players in key positions (SH,OC,OSF),
      Resting lions tourers (who look a bit jaded),
      Keeping some experience (and balance) and
      Keeping the team competative

      1. I like it Leon,

        I like the thinking in the article, chucking around some ideas, fresh faces and returns to form (seriously Twelvetrees?). But realistically, there has to be a balance of stability and experience to bring on new players. Otherwise we might as well send an England Barbarians team.

        It would be nice to see a realistic team with maybe 5 to 7 changes. I can accept that Williams can be seen as bringing more continuity, he is pretty much second tight head. But a front five in SA with only 2 points of continuity… Fine for identifying talent 3/4 years out from a WC, but not much use in developing a squad one year out.

        1. I admit the front 5 looks a bit green and is an area i am concerned about but Genge is the form loosehead and is tearing it up in the prem and Williams has looked solid whenever he has played for England. There is an argument for starting Hartley over LCD but I am worried about his form

          1. There is no argument at all for picking Hartley at present. He has shown no sort of form this season and is not even the best hooker at Saints. His much vaunted leadership skills have been shown to be a myth. Time to get rid.

    1. same. since when have we seen Eddie introduce a player randomly like that? if he has no intention of allowing cipriani in then i see no way of him including twelvetrees.

  6. I would never be resting that many. I don’t think know they all need that rest unless they went on a Lions tour? Otherwise last summer they played two tests and then got a rest? I also think this tour is too important to just be experimental. Blood some players definitely, but not wholesale changes.

    Rested list for me: Itoje, George, Mako, Farrell, Lawes, Watson, Cole. I can’t see a good reason for another player? Nowell and Daly are the only other two that played a lot on that Lions tour and they have both spent time rested up this reason in the injury table.

    Firstly two notes: Why is George slated for performance but the other Lions excused? Can’t work that out. Second, I’m almost sure that Daly started against Argentina at 13 in the AIs 2016 but someone should fact check that!

    For the tour then:
    Genge, George, Sinkler, Launchbury, Ewels, Robshaw, T. Curry, Vunipola, Youngs, Ford, May, Te’o, Slade, Nowell, Daly
    LCD, Marler, Williams, Isiekwe, Simmonds, Care, Lozowski, Solomona

    Rest of the 32: Dunn, Hepburn, Cooper-Woolley, Will Spencer, Hughes, Robson, JJ, Solomona, Ibitoye

    1. Other Lions players aren’t necessarily excused as they have been dropped from my theoretical squad. George is singled out because he’s wasted a lot of England’s fans breath, and I mean a lot. Also I believe Hartley is currently injured?

    2. I don’t know why fans calling for George makes any difference? He was average when given a chance, but he’s just as shattered as Mako or Itoje. Give him the summer off and he deserves the 2 jersey come the AIs.

      I didn’t list Hartley so not sure why you’re mentioning him?

      1. It’s because Hartley’s injured, if George doesn’t go to South Africa, who else? Tommy Taylor is distinctly overrated and is just coming back from a long-term injury. Who else is there, Tom Youngs? Looked better under new forwards coach at Leicester, not sure though that he merits a recall though

        1. With LCD and George, Dunn would also go. Personally think Taylor is a very good player too as a 4th choice. How many hookers do we need?

        2. With LCD and George, Dunn would also go. Personally think Taylor is a very good player too as a 4th choice. How many hookers do we need?

  7. I like the pack you’ve chosen, a front three including Genge and LCD is exciting. I would try out Simmonds at 7 and I think Billy needs playing time with England so definitely would have him involved. If you have Youngs & Ford as the halfback pairing along with Billy at 8 that gives experience in key positions which allows for experimenting in other areas. For example – I wouldn’t pick Woodward as I don’t think he’s international class (watched him all last season at my club Bristol and while he was their best player he didn’t stand out like a Daly or a Watson would). Give Daly a run at 15 with Slade & Tuilagi as alternating centres as both can do either role, this gives England flexibility and different options in how they play. Cokanasiga is an exciting option that should be given the chance and with him and Tuilagi along with Billy, Genge, Simmonds etc the varying prospects would be mouth watering. Although we had a poor Six Nations we can definitely redeem ourselves on the this tour with exciting fringe players given a chance against a legit side.

  8. I wouldn’t have Vunipola he hasn’t built a run of games yet something which Tuilagi has managed to do (except for two minor niggles that means he has missed 3 games in 2018) but I think Tuilagi is being rested again. If he get’s selected then great (he was excellent against Worcester)

    1. Vunipola hasn’t played much over the past 12 months so I’d be given him game time. He can be a leader in that England side so he’d add real value going down there.

      Manu is a different situation completely.

      I’d actually be tempted to add Willis to the squad too. 33 man squad with him thrown in! I wouldn’t be surprised to see him sneak in as a WC starter…

  9. Does Yarde merit a recall? Kruis for me needs a rest, Spencer is a good lineout operator and offers so much more around the pitch than Kruis who for me frankly, bar ONE good try against Clermont, has been absolutely nonexistent this season

  10. I agree with most of the squad selections except I would include Danny Cipriani in place of Marcus Smith, Christian Wade in place of Ibitoye and Alex Goode in place of Chris Pennel

  11. Seems pretty lightweight on exp to me & mainly due to the poor old players being ‘tired’. SA have been pretty erratic over the last 2 or so, but
    @ home & with some of their S franchises, like the Bulls & maybe the Sharks, have had their moments, so a poss revival looming? This tiredness bizzo is best banished as if England go out thinking they’re knackered & take a novice team, they invite being smashed. Mental fatigue maybe, but tiredness.. ? Take a team to win!

  12. I would definitely include Billy in the squad. Set to make his comeback in the next couple of weeks and needs to get back in the game.
    I would not have Youngs or Care in the sqaud but give some other scrum halves a go. Spencer, Robson, Harrison, Velacott etc etc. There are plenty of good choices and I’m sure one of them could make the step up given a chance.
    I would also like to see Nathan Earle given another chance. He is a big solid winger/full back who is much better defensively than most of the other choices.
    I also think Marchant should be given some time in the midfield. T’eo has had a few chances and not really produced too much but, a combo of Ford, Lozowski/Slade and Marchant could be interesting.

  13. I woudlnt take any of the England that have played in the 6N (or Lions players) with the exception of Launchberry who would be my captain.Results would not matter as much as performances on this tour so for the first match I would go with

    1 Ellis Genge
    2 LCD
    3 Harry Williams
    4 Launchberry
    5 Will Spencer
    6 Michael Rhodes
    7 Gary Graham
    8 Sam Simpson
    9 Dan Robson
    10 Danny Cipriani
    11 Gabriel Ibitoye
    12 Twelvetrees
    13 Slade
    14 Wade
    15 Alex Goode

    16 Tommy Taylor
    17 Alec Hepburn
    18 Sinckler
    19 Callum Green
    19 Tom Curry
    20 Vellacot
    21 Cokanasiga
    22 Woodward

  14. Cipriani is leaving this year, which proves he’s given up on England and left for the money. No is Wade going to be in the tour. Alex Goode won’t be an option either I don’t think.

    1. they are simply my own preferences.EJ will have his own so it doesn’t really matter what any of us opine.I included those three because I think they deserve another opportunity.Goode hasd excellent feet and great passing game, better than Browns that’s for sure. Cips for me is the second best FH and if EJ had only included him in the squad for the 6n he might have stayed at Wasps. Wade has shown repeatedly that given a sniff of a chance he will score and I don’t regard his odd defensive lapse here or there as a reason not to include him

  15. We have already seen and will continue to see Eddie never practically introducing a new squad!
    He sticks to his usually reliable and often experienced players, and although I like some of the fresh faces, there is no way this squad is realistic. Firstly there is hardly clear leadership – Joe Launchbury has a long way to go before he can seriously be considered England’s captain, and Eddie is more likely to give Farrell the captaincy for the tour if anyone. Secondly, Eddie included many new caps in the Argentinian tour in view of creating squad depth, so rather than unlikely (virtually impossible considering Eddie’s staunch ways) inclusion of Wade, Morgan, Woodward and Pennell.
    I believe Eddie is going to stick (annoyingly in my opinion!) to his normal squad, with a few inclusions from the Argentinian tour to solve our breakdown issues and mix up the mid-field.

  16. I think England’s weakest area is the back row. Our only world class player there is Vunipola and the only bright spot this season has been Simmons, so I think it would be great to try and work them into the same back row and see where we can go from there. Maybe try adding one of the Currys to that combination as a fetcher could be pretty effective. Power, pace and guile could be a decent formula

  17. Very interesting to read about Brad Shields and his eligibility for England. I know he hasnt played for Wasps yet, and it would be flouting the RFU selection policy, but considering the lack of options at 6 I think it would be good to see him in S.A..
    I am all for maintaining the overseas exclusion policy, but when it comes to the WC I don’t think England can be picky. Certainly limiting in WC 2015 with Armitage and Abendannon.

    1. It’s not flouting the rules it has been standard practice.
      Piers Francis was given the same treatment two years ago, playing for England in Argentina before joining up with Saints

      1. Dispensation can be granted but doesn’t change the fact that neither plays/played professional rugby in England at time of selection. I’m not criticising this btw, I hope it will improve the competition for places in the back-row.

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