After Eddie Jones’ controversial squad announcement for his training camp in Oxford later this month to prepare for the autumn internationals, Matt Horsman takes a look at those players overlooked, and the depth in English rugby.
Eddie’s Exiled XV
1. Alex Waller, 27, uncapped
I am a huge fan of Waller. He might not have Vunipola’s skills with ball in hand or Marler’s scrummaging ability but he may well be the most consistent sportsman in the world. He set the record last season for consecutive Premiership appearances to 140. For a front row, it is a ludicrous number in an age where injuries are part and parcel of the game. If a propping crisis were to hit England’s camp Jones could do a lot worse than the Saints man.
2. Luke Cowan-Dickie, 24, 2 caps
The young Exeter hooker has seemingly been leapfrogged by Bath’s Tom Dunn as England’s third choice. There is a clear gulf between Jamie George and Dylan Hartley and whoever fills the third spot in the squad. Having said that Cowan-Dickie will be disappointed not to be involved.
3. Kyle Sinckler, 24, 8 caps
The first of the high-profile omissions. The young Quin rose to prominence in dramatic fashion as one of the best performing Lions this summer, earning himself three Test caps off the bench. He only has eight England caps and all the money in the world would have gone on him adding to them this summer. Perhaps Jones wants to send a message about Sinckler’s alleged off-field antics on the Lions tour.
4. George Kruis, 27, 20 caps
Another surprising omission, with his place going to his Saracens apprentice Nick Isiekwe. This one is perhaps less of a shock than Sinckler’s due to Kruis’ torrid Test experience with the Lions and recent return from injury. It could be that Jones wants Kruis to recover emotionally and physically before bringing him back into the fold.
5. Dave Attwood, 30, 24 caps
Attwood, who did such an admirable job filling in during England’s injury crisis at lock during the 2015 season, finds himself in the unfortunate position of competing for one of the most hotly contested positions in the side. Lawes, Launchbury, Itoje and the exiled Kruis have been preferred in the past and the less experienced Charlie Ewels and Nick Isiekwe seem to be favoured by Eddie Jones for the future. A quality operator.
6. Don Armand, 28, 1 cap
The native Zimbabwean has been a revelation in the past couple of years, playing a crucial role in Exeter’s rise to English Champions. He capped an excellent season by winning man-of-the-match in the Premiership final against Wasps and was rewarded with his first England cap on the summer tour of Argentina. A very competent carrier and a real nuisance at the breakdown, he cannot be far from Jones’ thoughts.
7. James Haskell, 32, 75 caps
The most capped man in this XV but also the oldest. Haskell was a late call up to this year’s Lions tour and did his chances no harm with his performances. Like Kruis, he has only recently recovered from injury, but perhaps due to his advancing years, he has been left out in favour of younger alternatives like Sale’s Tom Curry.
8. Sam Simmonds, 22, uncapped
The youngster has been the breakthrough player of the Premiership season so far. The number eight has thrived in the absence of Thomas Waldrom to excel at the base of the Exeter scrum. England appearances surely beckon for the converted winger, and with Billy Vunipola’s injury confirmed today, perhaps they could come sooner than expected.
9. Dan Robson, 25, uncapped
Dan Robson is the in-form scrum-half in the country at the moment and his continued exclusion becomes more and more baffling. His four try performance against Sale earlier in the season was a masterful performance. The Wasps man already has two Saxons caps and was included in Jones’ preliminary squad for the 2016 autumn internationals where perhaps Jones saw something there that he didn’t like. He is currently struggling for fitness but should be fit soon, fingers crossed Eddie changes his mind and we finally see Robson in a full England jersey.
10. Danny Cipriani, 29, 14 caps
Where to start with Danny Cipriani. The man is a maverick and an incredible rugby player and, since his reintroduction to English rugby, he has been in scintillating form for both Sale and his boyhood club, Wasps. So much so that rugby purists have been hoping that Jones’ own reputation as a bit of a loose cannon would see him reintroduce Cipriani into the fold. No luck so far, and with Marcus Smith’s arrival on the scene it would seem as though Jones has made his mind up about the maverick fly-half.
11. Christian Wade, 26, 1 cap
Wade’s statistics are bizarre. He scores tries for fun at Premiership level, yet has only earned a solitary England cap, but he has also been called up as an injury replacement for the British and Irish Lions and so can claim to be a Lion. There isn’t much more he can do going forward to stake his claim. Eddie Jones has a couple of concerns about his defence which seem to outweigh his scintillating attacking play. Perhaps the Australian is more English than he lets on!
12. Luther Burrell, 29, 15 caps
Burrell may have thought that his international career was on the verge of resurrection after being drafted into the England squad for the summer tour of Australia in 2016. He gave a good account of himself down under and will have been very disappointed to miss out on the summer tour to Argentina. At 29, and with an embarrassment of riches in the English midfield, I can’t see Burrell forcing his way back into the fold, though he has started well for Northampton this season.
13. Jonathan Joseph, 26, 33 caps
Joseph’s England career has been a real topsy-turvy affair. He was the 2015 RPA and England Player of the Year after an incredible campaign for club and country. He scored a Six Nations hat-trick in both the 2016 and 2017 Six Nations but still his place has been under constant threat from young guns Elliot Daly and Henry Slade. Joseph is a man with a big fight ahead of him to win his jersey back despite touring with the British Lions this summer.
14. Semesa Rokodoguni, 30, 2 caps
The Fijian born army-man affectionately named ‘RokoHoudini’ by the Bath faithful is probably the most electrifying player in the Premiership with ball in hand. His two tries against Saracens earlier this season showed just how valuable he can be to a side. Rokodoguni is tarred with the same brush as Christian Wade of being a defensive liability. If it’s such an issue for Jones then perhaps they could be taught?! One thing is for sure; you can’t teach good defenders how to manufacture tries from nothing the way this Fijian flyer does.
15. Nick Abendanon, 31, 2 caps
A rogue addition to this list, but Abendanon still remains one of the best players with ball in hand anywhere in the world. His move to Clermont ended any hopes he had of a recall – especially with the large amount of depth that England have in the back three. That said, I would not be against seeing the former Bath flyer back in an England shirt.
There are not many sides in the world who could post such a strong XV from outside of an extended 33-man squad. With just shy of 200 caps and over 30 tries between them, it is safe to say that even if Eddie Jones has an injury crisis of biblical proportions there are plenty of talented replacements able to join the cause.
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