Despite enduring the toughest week of his time as Head Coach of the England Rugby team, Eddie Jones will not be pushing the panic button. The Australia has lost some key players to injury for the Autumn Internationals. But as always injury creates opportunity and we take a look at some players who could capitalise at Twickenham in November.
The 37-man squad for the Old Mutual Wealth Internationals assembled in Brighton for a training camp last week, but disaster struck as Jack Nowell, Anthony Watson, Sam Jones and Mike Williams all suffered injuries during a judo session – designed to improve technique at the breakdown.
The elusive Watson has been an ever-present for Jones and was in lethal form during the Six Nations scoring against Ireland, Wales and France. While Nowell started all five games during the Six Nations, before scoring from the bench in the opening Test against Australia in the summer.
But both are set to miss the Autumn Internationals at Twickenham.
Who can fill the wing void as the Autumn Internationals draw closer?
Jones will now be searching for the men to step-up to the plate for the opening game against South Africa (Saturday 12th November). Marland Yarde has performed extremely well for England under Jones, scoring in both of his starts in the summer.
The Harlequins flyer was name dropped by the Head Coach as a player who could be a game-changer, with his combination of raw power, pace and finishing ability enough to rattle any defence. Now he is finally fulfilling that potential and he could be in pole position to replace Nowell in the left wing role.
Jonny May could be considered the forgotten man of English Rugby, but the Gloucester flyer has recently returned to fitness after 10-months out. His strike rate for England reads 7 tries in 19 tests, including that unforgettable score against New Zealand in 2014.
May is a born finisher and a man who can break the line from any position and his elusive running style would fill the hole left by Watson, but can he be ready for such a quick return to the Test Match arena after so long out?
One man who must be in with a chance of adding to his solitary cap is Bath star Semesa Rokoduguni. The Fijian born winger featured just once for England under Stuart Lancaster against New Zealand before being criminally overlooked.
But that has never affected his ability to score tries and after a couple of fabulous performances against South Africa ‘A’ during the summer he is firmly in the plans of Jones. Power, pace and that innate ability to find space makes him a dangerous prospect.
Selections: Marland Yarde and Semesa Rokoduguni
Back-Row problems linger for England ahead of Twickenham return
The area that will give Jones the most concern is the number seven jersey. The talismanic James Haskell is already out and with the injuries to Sam Jones and Mike Williams have put another spanner in the works.
Eddie Jones has already stated he is looking outside the traditional openside, instead opting for a big defensive hitter to put the opposition on the back-foot; complimenting the work-rate of Chris Robshaw and the carrying of Billy Vunipola.
Teimana Harrison made his debut against Wales in the Old Mutual Wealth Cup, but was hauled off after 30 minutes against Australia in the final game of the summer. But his tenacity, power and carrying are hard to ignore – Jones rates him highly and he will be close to the matchday 23.
A very ‘left-field’ call would be to move superstar lock Maro Itoje to the number seven jersey, but it’s not as crazy as it sounds. Itoje is a masterful defender, commands the breakdown and has an exceptional work-rate.
While he isn’t built like the traditional flanker, adding the 21-year-old into the seven shirt could fr
ee-up his game – also allowing Jones to add more grunt into the second-row in the shape of Joe Launchbury or Courtney Lawes.
Selection: Maro Itoje
Potential England Starting XV v South Africa: 15. Mike Brown; 14. Marland Yarde; 13. Jonathan Jospeh; 12; Owen Farrell; 11. Semesa Rokoduguni; 10. George Ford; 9. Ben Youngs; 8. Billy Vunipola; 7. Maro Itoje; 6. Chris Robshaw; 5. George Kruis; 4. Joe Launchbury; 3. Dan Cole; 2, Dylan Hartley (c); 1. Mako Vunipola
England Autumn International Corporate Hospitality Packages now on sale!
England will be looking to maintain their perfect record under Eddie Jones in the Twickenham Autumn Internationals 2016. Eventmasters are delighted to offer official Twickenham corporate hospitality packages for these four superb games – allowing you to see all the action in VIP style.
Please follow the links below for more information:
England v South Africa – Saturday 12th November 2016
England v Fiji – Saturday 19th November 2016
England v Argentina – Saturday 26th November 2016
England v Australia – Saturday 3rd December 2016