England depart for their final overseas summer tour ahead of next year’s World Cup this week off the back of another mediocre Six Nations performance and Sunday’s record loss under head coach Eddie Jones to the Barbarians.
Yesterday, Jones named his 32-man squad for the three-Test series in Australia, starting in Perth on 2 July.
Here are the talking points from his selection.
Care to listen?
After a four-year expulsion from the England set-up, Harlequins scrum half Danny Care has earned a recall into the Jones fold.
The 35-year-old was selected for England against the Barbarians on Sunday – where they lost 52-21 – in a move some suggested was in part to stop him playing the opposition.
Arguably the form No9 in the Premiership, Care deserves his place on the plane to Australia, though some would argue it would be a better proving ground for a younger player with a decade in front of him.
But he’s in, and England remain in desperate need of leaders on the pitch who have been there, done it and can still perform.
Care can be that for England Down Under, amid the feeling that they’ll need all the help they can get.
Big Billy’s back
Ahead of the weekend’s Premiership final and Barbarians exhibition match, it was confirmed that current back row starter Alex Dombrandt had suffered a knee injury – ruling another key player out of the tour.
However, Saracens’ Billy Vunipola continued his fine form this season despite being on the losing end of the Premiership final and has earned himself a recall.
Despite Jones saying on Sunday that he had a “mandatory stand down” due to a small injury he picked up, Vunipola was still named in the squad 24 hours later.
“Billy needed to find his best,” Jones said of the back row.
“I asked him to go away and find his best and I think consistently for Saracens he’s been close to that.
“I thought in the final he looked absolutely exceptional, he looked like a Test No8.”
It appears Jones has resorted to key players who have performed for him in the past.
If they can deliver a 3-0 whitewash against Australia like the one seen in 2016, it’ll have been a stroke of genius.
Jones’ new Blood
While Jones has returned to some familiar faces, there’s also a wave of new, youthful talent who will be looking to impress on the tour.
Last year France’s youngsters took Australia all the way but their tenacity in defeat has since been described by French coaches as a critical experience.
Scottish qualified Henry Arundell and fellow London Irish player Will Joseph go as apprentices – much like Marcus Smith once did – though some suggest the inclusion of Arundell is solely to keep him away from Scotland’s grasp.
Jack van Poortvliet is a surprise inclusion given the exclusion of fellow scrum-half Alex Mitchell, who has been superb all year. Ben Youngs has not been included, though it follows personal tragedy in his wider family.
Guy Porter makes the squad, too, as the search for a suitable centre option continues.
Mark Atkinson potentially played himself out of a spot in the Barbarians match while Manu Tuilagi and Henry Slade remain injured. Owen Farrell is included.
Uncapped front row duo Patrick Schnickerling and Jack Walker impressed on Sunday and have been called up amid a front row shortage. Kyle Sinckler is injured and Joe Marler are omitted.
A stalwart of Jones’ era, Jonny May, makes a return to the international squad having impressed Sunday.
The likes of George Ford, Joe Launchbury, Louis Lynagh, Sam Simonds and Anthony Watson are among those not considered due to injury.
As Jones prepares for his first tour to Australia since his 2016, nine of the players that toured then tour now.
And though there remains a youthful look to this latest side, with just over a year until the World Cup, it reflects the fact that results still matter.