Looking at the names listed in the squad to tour South Africa this summer, Eddie Jones has set his stall out and England are going to try and run the Springboks off the park; there is so much pace, creativity and footballing ability in that backline.
I love some of Jones’s choices. Danny Cipriani has orchestrated Wasps’ attack all season and has been the best fly-half in the Premiership. He should have been in the England set-up a while ago and his recall is fully deserved.
Scrum-half Danny Care has been rested but I’d be slightly worried if I was him given two of the travelling No9s – Dan Robson and Ben Spencer – have been in outstanding form this term and will pose a real selection threat going forward.
Jones has opted for eight uncapped players and there is plenty of youthful exuberance. One curveball which leaps out immediately is 18-year-old Cameron Redpath, who only made his Sale debut in November.
He has a reputation for being phenomenal, although I do feel a little sorry for Harlequins fly-half Marcus Smith and worry what message Redpath’s inclusion sends out in that regard.
Smith has been a shining light in a struggling Harlequins team this year and has been involved in England squads previously, so I’m not sure why he is not touring given there is clearly scope for an upcoming midfield playmaker.
Nevertheless, I will be excited to see Redpath and also Nathan Earle and Denny Solomona getting some game time, and I’m pleased that Jones has reverted to picking form players, something which I felt he veered away from during the Six Nations.
That said, I still believe there are some in that squad who are fortunate to be there, although I do accept that a tour of South Africa, despite their indifferent form, is no picnic and you need a core of players who have been there, done it and got the T-shirt.
There are a couple of top performers, however, that I will be disappointed not to see on the plane. I think Gloucester pair Henry Trinder and Jason Woodward can count themselves unfortunate to miss out.
I just love Woodward; he is menace, powerful and difficult to stop. He’s been outstanding for the Cherry and Whites and while Mike Brown is a good friend of mine, he has struggled for form this year and is perhaps lucky to be selected.
Lock George Kruis might also feel aggrieved. He has been in and out for Saracens but, for me, their revival has a lot to do with his return to form. Hooker Tom Dunn is another – I don’t know what he has to do for Bath to get in an England jersey.
The inclusion of New Zealand-born flanker Brad Shields has caused a stir and Sir Clive Woodward said his selection would be a slap in the face for those in the English system given he has been fast-tracked into the squad straight from Super Rugby.
Sir Clive has a point and I can understand why some players might be annoyed. In terms of Wasps-bound Shields as a performer, though, he is the type of player that Jones loves and his work-rate is fantastic.
Despite some frustrations, this is a very positive squad selection and it again demonstrates England’s strength in depth given a very good world XV could be named from those either injured or rested.
Ollie Phillips is leading a group of inspiring individuals to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro this October. To join him visit https://www.360-expeditions.com/expeditions/ollie-phillips-kilimanjaro/