Eddie Jones sprang one or two surprises on Thursday morning with the announcement of his England squad for the summer tour of Argentina.
With sixteen of his England regulars on Lions duty in New Zealand this summer, Jones will be bringing a vastly inexperienced side to face the Barbarians in May and the Pumas in June, with a total of fifteen uncapped players on the plane.
Among those called up was Saracens second row Nick Isiekwe, to whom Jones has been particular attention. The 19-year-old has made a handful of appearances for the England under-20s and the Red Rose head coach has already seen enough to predict big things for the young lock – and feels that he can be the next Maro Itoje:
“Lock is a focus for us – we want to increase more depth in locks.
“We have the young guy from Sarries coming in [Isiekwe] who is potentially a very good player. When you look at where he is now compared to where Maro [Itoje] was when he came into the Six Nations, he is going to be a really good player this boy, a really good player. So he is exciting.
“I can’t compare as I didn’t see Maro at that age. What I know is that he can be a very good player if he works hard enough. He is obsessed to want to be great, he has the potential to be a very good player.”
With second row options Itoje, George Kruis and Courtney Lawes all selected by Gatland for the Lions squad, new recruits such as Isiekwe can almost certainly expect to see some game time over the course of the two tests against Argentina, and having the experienced Joe Lauchbury in the squad with him (who himself could count himself slightly unlucky not to get a Lions call-up) can of a major benefit to his international experience.