In Eddie Jones’s 35-man England squad for the upcoming uncapped match against the world famous Barbarians team, the Australian head coach has picked a group of largely young, exciting talents.
With his player pool drained due to an inability to pick from the four Premiership sides who are in this weekend’s semi-finals, Jones has had to diversify his selection and, as a result, has picked a promising group of players.
Wasps duo Biyi Alo and Charlie Atkinson, Bristol Bears’ Sam Jeffries, Exeter Chiefs’ Patrick Schickerling and Gloucester’s Freddie Clarke are included in England camps for the first time, while the training group comprises a further 11 uncapped players.
Back in the fold, too, are the likes of Cherry and White winger Jonny May and Chiefs hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie.
The front row is joining the squad despite still recovering from a knee injury.
The squad therefore is imbued with a sense of freshness, a mix of youthful willingness and trusted stalwarts.
England pace and power
London Irish trio Henry Arundell, Will Joseph and Ollie Hassell-Collins bring with them a philosophy of keeping the ball alive and finding an offload, 32-year-old Mark Atkinson remains the closest English centre to Marcus Smith’s No12 at Harlequins, Andre Esterhuizen, and the likes of Joe Cokanasiga and Adam Radwan add to the range of skills wingers demand of themselves – pace, power and precision.
Jones has picked form players in the Premiership from the nine clubs available to him. And with the Barbarians match on 19 June a free hit, there’s opportunity to experiment ahead of the summer tour to Australia.
“With a number of players unavailable because of the Premiership semi-finals, we’ve got the opportunity to call up some new players,” Jones said.
“It’s a great opportunity to learn about them and see what potential they have to play a part in the Australia tour.”
That said, the squad isn’t without its forced inclusions. Bristol’s Kyle Sinckler is set to join Henry Slade and Manu Tuilagi in missing England’s three-Test series due to injury.
The addition of two new tighthead props in Alo and Schickerling allows Jones to test out who could not only be a short-term fix at No3 but a long-term option in the position.
England threw in loosehead Bevan Rodd and hooker Jamie Blamire – both of whom are in the 35-man squad – against the Springboks last autumn when injury and illness hit their front three options and the duo performed.
Jones has long had impressive front-three options and the inclusion of the pair of tightheads marks an attempt to diversify options and skill sets in the position.
The three-day camp in Teddington will be an opportunity not only for Jones to see his players up close, but to assess them outside of their game, too. Do they fit in well with the team? Are they keeping up with the fitness intensity required? Have they added to the side?
These are questions that international head coaches must ponder. They do not get the face-to-face time that club coaches do and must therefore make the most of every opportunity.
It seems as though England are looking to the future, sampling those who could become the next 100-cap player. And when an opportunity arises whereby some of the best internationals in the country are unable for selection, it offers a fresh outlook on where the status quo needs shifting.