England’s training camp earlier this week in Brighton has given Eddie Jones some serious selection headaches.
Three players from three leading clubs have suffered injuries, Sam Jones (broken leg), Anthony Watson (broken jaw) and Jack Nowell (ankle) will be sidelined for some time.
It seems all three will miss England’s opening test against South Africa, a team Stuart Lancaster never defeated.
Add to this list the fact Owen Farrell, Dylan Hartley and Ben Te’o have not proved their fitness, Farrell and Hartley are yet to play this season.
Long term injuries to Manu Tuilagi and James Haskell must also be a worry for Eddie Jones.
England have now lost both first choice wingers from the tour to Australia in the shape of Nowell and Watson, discussion turns to replacements, Only two other names were named in the 45-man August squad (Semesa Rokoduguni and Jonny May).
Rokoduguni has to play, he has been sensational for Bath again this season, his raw power and undoubted pace make him a real threat which Todd Blackadder seems to be getting the best out of.
Jonny May, not exactly setting the world alight at Gloucester this season, and although he is frighteningly quick, he can tend to run away from support and get isolated. He also is not the best at creating space something Watson especially is a genius at.
One man that has been in impressive scoring form is Wasps’ Christian Wade. Wade is undeniably quick and he beats defenders at will, his defence though, satisfactory at best. My concern is if he has to face up to a South African running at him would he make the tackle? Maybe.
That once again may force Jones to look at Marland Yarde, quick and powerful, he seemed to do a good job against Australia in the first test.
The back row is another conundrum, following Jones’ injury and the lengthy lay-off for Man of the Series James Haskell it may force Jones to experiment.
Maro Itoje could be a key part of this, his athletic ability means he could well be moved the back row, and take up the blindside role. This would also allow Jones to bring in Courtney Lawes or Joe Launchbury to partner George Kruis.
My England 23 to face South Africa (assuming Hartley and Farrell recover):
15 Mike Brown (Harlequins) 14 Semesa Rokoduguni 13 Jonathan Joseph (both Bath) 12 Owen Farrell (Saracens) 11 Marland Yarde (Harlequins) 10 George Ford (Bath) 9 Ben Youngs (Leicester)
1 Mako Vunipola (Saracens) 2 Dylan Hartley (Captain, Northampton) 3 Dan Cole (Leicester) 4 Courtney Lawes (Northampton) 5 George Kruis 6 Maro Itoje (both Saracens) 7 Chris Robshaw (Harlequins) 8 Billy Vunipola (Saracens)
16 Jamie George (Saracens) 17 Joe Marler (Harlequins) 18 Paul Hill (Northampton) 19 Joe Launchbury 20 Nathan Hughes (both Wasps) 21 Danny Care (Harlequins) 22 Henry Slade (Exeter) 23 Alex Goode (Saracens)