Eddie Jones has often showed loyalty or even favouritism in his selections, but with four years until the next Rugby World Cup, now is the time to try his hand. Several players have put themselves on the radar by performing well for their clubs in the domestic and European competitions and will be waiting anxiously by their phones.
Here are threee players who will be hoping that they have done enough to force themselves into contention. Do you agree with this list?
Willis was supposed to tour South Africa in 2018 after a stellar breakthrough season with Wasps, but a ruptured ACL cut his season short before he could step foot on the plane. Tom Curry and Sam Underhill have seized the opportunity in his absence and have become two of the world’s premier flankers. Lewis Ludlam and Mark Wilson have provided solid backup to the ‘Kamikaze Kids,’ but 2019 proved that Willis is back.
England have an embarrassment of riches in the backrow. Ben Earl, Ben Curry, Alex Dombrandt and Sam Simmonds are adding to their stock every week, but Jack Willis has the calibre and turnover nous to force his way into the reckoning.
With an ability to play 6, 7 or 8, Willis is a breakdown predator with defensive stubbornness. He worked hard on his handling during his rehab and his try-scoring instinct has seen him cross the whitewash five times during this campaign.
Critics were forecasting Thorley as a World Cup bolter in September, but he missed out to Bath’s Ruaridh Mcconnochie. Since then, Thorley has picked up exactly where he left off, lighting up the turf at Kingsholm with his searing pace and direct running. Although Jones has had his eye on Thorley’s partner in crime, Louis Rees-Zammit, he has pledged allegiance to Wales and Thorley is ready to take his chance.
Wing is another position that is well-stocked for England, but Thorley’s highlight reel shows exactly why he should be wearing the red rose this winter. His ability to find space, beat defenders and score five pointers make him a must-pick for Jones.
He was called into last-minute action for the World Cup final but didn’t get much of a chance to prove himself on the big stage. Ben Youngs has had a vice like grip on the nine shirt for the past decade, but 2020 is the right time to try someone new. Youngs spends too much time at the breakdown and can be caught in two minds.
Spencer has developed into a classy operator under the prolonged stewardship of Richard Wigglesworth at Saracens. He has an astute kicking game, he knows when to release his backline and is a box of tricks with the ball in hand.
Dan Robson can feel hard done by if he is excluded but Spencer’s position within a dominant Saracens side has seem him become one of Europe’s leading scrum-halves.
Who else do you think should be getting the call when Eddie Jones announces his squad for the 6 Nations? Would you stick with the current faces or twist with new blood?
By Josh Cousens