England’s three test run against Australia kicks off on Saturday, with Eddie Jones’s team desperately in need of some boost as the World Cup approaches.
After a poor Six Nations campaign, several familiar faces were recalled to the wider roster. But will they have a chance to prove their worth in Perth?
Our writers choose their casts for the show’s opening…
This is a tour Eddie Jones should use to finalize his World Cup plans and selections, but it will be critically important to do so from a winning opening to ease the pressure of the disappointing Six Nations campaign.
Tommy Freeman’s time will come, but for the opening test, Jack Nowell’s big game experience and fierce competitiveness will be important, while Joe Cokanasiga will give Marcus Smith a powerful target to hit in midfield as well as comeback. by Billy Vunipola in 8th place.
Danny Care deserves the chance to showcase his innate partnership with Smith at Quins and he can bring out the best in the range of ball carriers including Ellis Genge and Courtney Lawes.
Jonny Hill’s return will bolster scrummaging power, while the bench will provide mobility and power and Freeman’s potential last-quarter dexterity.
The big bet here is the combination of the wings. I’m always reluctant to omit Jack Nowell, but Tommy Freeman and Joe Cokanasiga’s combination of pace and power feels too good to pass up.
If the unfortunate defeat to the Barbarians served any purpose, it was to provide Marcus Smith with as many opportunities as possible to bring Cokanasiga into the game. They play different roles, but if they can build on that understanding, the Bath wing could provide a route safety net similar to what Andre Esterhuizen does for Smith in Harlequins.
I suspect he will be on the bench, but Danny Care is the form of choice in the scrum-half. In the pack, Will Stuart and Billy Vunipola are the obvious replacements.
That would be erring on the side of caution with Jonny May, but not with Luke Cowan-Dickie. Jack Walker would be the next cab in line if the next Saturday came too early for the last one.
Courtney Lawes remaining on the blindside flanker, with Jonny Hill alongside Maro Itoje, gives England a heavy scrum to pressure Australia and an additional jumper to interrupt what could be a dubious Wallabies line.
Ollie Chessum deserves a seat on the bench, with Tom Curry’s versatility offering multiple combinations. Lewis Ludlam and Jack Willis are unlucky here and will certainly appear at some point in the series.
Elsewhere, Tommy Freeman is featured in a balanced defense of three. Jack Nowell could trade with Joe Cokanasiga, but Danny Care feels right because Harry Randall looked out of shape against the Barbarians. Guy Porter, the second rookie, lets Eddie Jones turn things around if the Smith-Farrell axis fails.
There’s not as much room in the first test to experiment with starting with Guy Porter or Tommy Freeman, which is a shame, but your chances are sure to come. Freeman’s ability to beat defenders one by one drew attention.
Joe Cokanasiga might use 14, but expect him to appear everywhere as one of England’s top ball carriers alongside the resurgent Billy Vunipola. It’s a big tour for Will Stuart at tighthead, but if he falters then Joe Heyes is ready and waiting after another good season with Leicester.
Starter Danny Care can give England the brisk pace their offense has lost at times recently, and we’ve seen how his quick ruck speed can help Marcus Smith attack straight down the line. Can this be replicated in Australia?
Gain line loads were there from Ellis Genge, Courtney Lawes and the rest of the Six Nations, but England never capitalized on them. Time to deliver.
England’s lively defense desperately needs a fastball to succeed and this package, with Courtney Lawes and Billy Vunipola forming two-thirds of a sizable defensive line, should provide just that.
Danny Care is the best nine of the tour to provide crisp service for his teammate Marcus Smith, who has an exciting duo of Joe Cokanasiga and Tommy Freeman wingers with no cap to release.
Jack Willis outperforms Sam Underhill on the bench due to the added dimension of carrying the explosive ball alongside his excellent breakdown job. Fraser Dingwall provides central coverage and wouldn’t let anyone down if he delivered a debut.
Nobody really knows what to expect from England; and nobody really knows what to expect from Australia.
For that, with some veterans returning and 18 months to go until the World Cup, this is the time to unleash a real New England – not the pseudo-clumsy version Eddie Jones promised us at the Six Nations.
Annoyed with some seasoned and fit heads – like Billy Vunipola, Owen Farrell, Danny Care and Jack Nowell – Jones must begin to deduce which of these shots are palliatives and which are real World Cup contenders.
Guy Porter and Joe Heyes are rewarded for the club’s excellent form with Leicester; so, too, Tommy Freeman in Northampton. Farrell’s pragmatism can get the job done, while Smith’s poetry can put the icing on the cake.
With just over a year to go until the World Cup and against potential opponents in the quarterfinals, it’s not a time for full experimentation, but it’s definitely time to test some combinations and give opportunities to players like Joe Cokanasiga.
Freddie Steward has never toured the Southern Hemisphere before, so he needs to gain that experience in the last three. Jack Nowell starts over Tommy Freeman, who is on the bench.
Owen Farrell’s lead was desperately lost during the Six Nations and he re-starts at fly-half with Marcus Smith out of it at 12.
Not the positions most would choose for the pair, but having Farrell running the show, with Smith having the opportunity to provide creativity outside of it, gives the Harlequins man a new experience and the opportunity to be a double ace and be surrounded by familiar faces with clubmate Joe Marchant at 13 and Danny Care at 9.
Give your opinion
Our team of writers has selected their favorite teams from England. What did you think of the selections? Choose your own England XV and have your say in the comments section below…