England will play four Internationals during the Old Mutual Wealth Autumn International Series in November and December, and the flood of talent knocking on Eddie Jones’ door is amazing.
Good job then that with a one-a-week programme a large squad will be needed given the mental and physical demands of such a schedule.
First up will be South Africa (November 12) followed by Fiji (November 19) and Argentina (November 26). With England’s fourth and final contest against Australia (December 3).
South Africans live for rugby and are always tough, Fiji will want to show they are better than coming bottom of their World Cup group seemed to indicate, Argentina’s scrum is formidable and the Australians will be wanting to get some measure of revenge for the 3-0 summer thumping on their own patch.
Premiership Stars Pushing for England Autumn International spots
The question for Jones is how best to address an embarrassment of riches?
Let’s take fly half – George Ford played a key role in that historic Australia tour triumph, the tough, reliable Owen Farrell is making his way back from injury and Danny Cipriani seems to be revelling in his return to Wasps.
Jones has so far chosen to pick from Ford and Farrell, seemingly preferring their teamwork to the more individual brilliance of Cipriani. “I want to have two options there in the back line so we can go with two 10s at 10 and 12 or a 10 and a more combative 12. I always want to have that armoury set-up.”
So Ford and Farrell at 10 and 12 or one of them at 10, the other on the bench and Manu Tuilagi in the centre. No place for Cipriani and perhaps no place for Tuilagi whose injury record continues to trouble.
— Wasps (@WaspsRugby) September 24, 2016
Dylan Hartley has proved a revelation as captain but is facing an increased challenge for his place from Exeter’s Luke Cowan-Dickie.
Cowan-Dickie recently became only the third hooker in Premiership history to score a hat-trick, his carrying in the loose is increasingly impressive and his solidity in the tight is improving. He is the heir apparent but may have to be content for the moment with a continuing impact substitute role.
— Exeter Chiefs (@ExeterChiefs) September 19, 2016
Cowan-Dickie was a part of England’s winning Under 20 World Cup team in 2013 alongside Exeter team-mates Jack Nowell, Henry Slade and Sam Hill, with Harlequins’ Jack Clifford as captain and Bath’s Anthony Watson on the wing.
Surely Jones is sooner rather than later going to have to find a place for the brilliant Slade – others challenging include Alec Hepburn and Ollie Devoto.
And England have pace to burn on the wing such that the likes of will o’ the wisp Christian Wade can’t get a look in.
It is going to be a brilliant Autumn International year … everyone will be playing for a Lions place next summer … and looking further forward the possibility mooted by New Zealand coach Steve Hansen of an annual match between the Six Nations and Rugby Championship winners as part of a global shake-up.
Officials have held talks about the scheduling of the sport after the next World Cup.
Wow! How exciting.
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