With England’s 34-man squad named for the upcoming Old Mutual Wealth Series against Argentina, Australia and Samoa, there are a number of key questions which Eddie Jones will have to answer ahead of these fixtures.
Jones will have to juggle such tasks like developing squad depth, introducing younger players further to the rigours of international Test match rugby, all the while ensuring that the matchday squads he chooses remain competitive enough to ensure victories over the coming weeks.
With a number of injuries and suspensions wreaking havoc on his original squad selection, this just raises further questions for Jones which we take a look at here.
Where to play Maro Itoje?
Itoje is undoubtedly one of the best players in world rugby at the moment but Jones will have to figure out where best to utilise him. Will it be in the second-row or at six? Last season, Jones was clearly of the opinion that he sees the 23-year-old as a six, he played in that position for every one of England Six Nations fixtures at the beginning of the year. This is also where he has predominantly played for Saracens since the beginning of the new Premiership season.
However, Itoje flourished along side Alun Wyn Jones in the second-row in the second and third Tests against the All Blacks for the British and Irish Lions during the summer.
If Itoje is picked at six, then that likely means Chris Robshaw will miss out on starting place in the Autumn. What also needs to be taken into account is the durability of Itoje, after a gruelling season, Itoje has played a lot of rugby for Saracens since things got underway in September so that may also play on Jones’ mind when he makes his decision for the Argentina fixture.
Continue With Mike Brown At Full-Back?
Jones has a lot of faith in Mike Brown which is clear when you see that he has started the Harlequins man in the 15 shirt for every one of England’s fixtures thus far in 2017. Brown, however, is 32 and will be 34 by the time the 2019 World Cup rolls around. So Jones needs to figure out if Brown is the man to start in the pivotal position in the World Cup.
Brown will be under pressure from the likes Elliot Daly, Jack Nowell and Anthony Watson who can all play in that position but due to Daly’s and Nowell’s injury absences, we will probably see Brown in the November internationals. Unless, of course, Jones decides to see who else could potentially fit in there with perhaps Watson getting the nod at full-back if Jones decides he wants to see other players take up the wing positions (Denny Solomona).
Jonathan Joseph Or Henry Slade?
Jonathan Josephs started at thirteen in all but one of England’s five Six Nations games at the beginning of the year but a disappointing Lions tour has potentially seen him fall down the pecking order when it comes to the outside centre slot for England.
This has coincided with Henry Slade’s incredible form for the Exeter Chiefs. Jones would have liked what he saw of Slade when he started him in both of England’s two fixtures against Argentina during the summer so it will certainly be interesting to see who Jones puts his faith in when Argentina come calling once again on November 11.