England head coach Eddie Jones seems to have developed a clear strategy as he continues to build his team towards the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan. Jones has seen many teams over the years fail to deliver on the big stage due to key players either being injured or dropping their form at the worst possible time.
The Australian seems determined to not let this happen to England and as such he has developed these training camps in the middle of the season to evaluate and bring players into the system. This September 2017 camp – as with all the others – features shocks as to who is in and who is out. Here is a look at three who made the grade and three who might be wondering why they did not.
Marcus Smith: Harlequins – Fly-half
The saying states that if you are good enough, you are old enough and that is clearly the theory here as Smith finds his way into his second England camp at the tender age of 18. Smith has played just three games with the Quins first team, as his path to the top has been opened up by a number of injuries within the club. Jones has long been an admirer of the player who was born in the Philippines and sees him as the sort of creative and attacking talent he can mould for the future.
It is clear that Jones wants ballplayers at both 10 and 12 in his England team. With George Ford as the starting 10 and Owen Farrell seeming entrenched at the 12 spot because of his passing and creativity. Jones needs another ballplayer who can step in if either one of the architects of his attack goes down. Smith – touted as the next Jonny Wilkinson, looks to be closing in on Saracens’ Alex Lozowski as the backup option.
Denny Solomona: Sale – Wing
There is no doubting the ability of Sale wing Denny Solomona. The league convert has taken to rugby union like a duck to water and he has picked up this campaign right where he left off last year in terms of scoring tries out wide. Solomona has scored three tries in as many games for the Sharks this term, but he has missed out on the camp as Jones has not yet forgiven the New Zealand born winger for the incident in August which saw him sent home from that training camp.
The good news for Solomona is that he is still young, and he has plenty of time ahead of him to force his way back into contention. The 23-year-old is an instinctive try scorer and if he continues to dot down for the Sharks, then Jones – who has shown that he does not hold grudges long term if he believes a player has changed – will be forced to think long and hard about when to bring Solomona back into the fold.
11 of 15 British Lions
There was a school of thought that most of the players that toured with the British and Irish Lions this summer would be given a break from attending this camp. Those players have been playing rugby for over a year although many of their clubs have been easing their stars slowly back into the swing of things over the first few rounds of the Aviva Premiership season.
It was a catch-22 situation here for Jones as while he probably wants to ease the demands on these players, he also needs them at this camp to help work on the continuity and cohesiveness that will be important this autumn. An England camp without 11 stars – the likes of Farrell and Maro Itoje among them – wouldn’t have the same feel and intensity as the one he has put together. It makes sense for them to be there, just as long as they aren’t worked too hard.
Four of 15 British Lions
There are, however, four Lions who did not make the grade for this camp. The quartet of Jonathan Joseph, James Haskell, George Kruis, and Kyle Sinckler, will not be meeting up with the rest of their touring counterparts in Oxford this weekend.
Two of the Lions’ omissions can be explained pretty easily. Kruis suffered an ankle injury in Saracens’ first game of the season, while Haskell seems to have been punished for poor discipline involving an altercation on the field with Joe Marler in his first appearance of the season last weekend. With the exciting Sam Underhill replacing the 32-year-old Haskell it might be a battle for him to get back into the side.
The other two players not in the squad can feel a little hard done by. Joseph has started the season in fine form for Bath, but he is pushed out by a numbers crunch at centre. Sinckler was a huge impact sub on the tour – a role he has filled for England too – so maybe Jones just knows what he is getting from the big prop forward.
Marland Yarde: Harlequins – Wing
The biggest beneficiary of Solomona and his issues is Quins’ winger Marland Yarde. Yarde is another winger who has started this season on fire – like the Sale Shark, he has three tries in as many games – and Jones has picked the speedster, as he looks to add depth to his options out wide.
Yarde being included means that there is no place for Bath freak of nature Semesa Rokoduguni, a player who will be compared with Yarde weekly as the two look to do battle for this spot. One line of thinking is that for all his offensive spark, Rokoduguni is a liability defensively and that he may struggle to fit into the tight framework that Jones dictates for his wingers. This is because much of what the Bath winger does is off the cuff and from broken play. Presumably, Yarde is seen as a safer and potentially more coachable player.
Sam Simmonds: Exeter – Back Row
It is not clear just how much more Exeter back-rower Simmonds could have done to push his way into Jones’ thinking. Three weeks into this young season, Simmonds already has four tries for the Exeter Chiefs and is a one-man forward motion machine every time he touches the ball.
Simmonds is one of those back rowers who instinctively has a knack of finding himself in a matchup advantage on the field. The 22-year-old is another with plenty of time on his side, but his early season form is exactly what Jones should be looking for when finding players to promote through to the international ranks. Playing to your strengths is key and Simmonds knows exactly how to maximise what he is good at while minimising his mistakes.
What do you think of the squad? Comment below!
Want to share your opinion? Why not Write For Us?