England are looking ahead to the Autumn Internationals but Jones will have one eye on 2019
With the British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand now finished and the dust finally settled after a thrilling summer of rugby, attention will now be turning to the Autumn Internationals, with England in particular looking to lay down a marker for the 2019 Rugby Union World Cup when they face the likes of Argentina, Australia, and Samoa.
Jones will face a number of selection headaches heading into the autumn, with members of his squad impressing in New Zealand, whilst those who did not make the Lions tour also impressed for England, who were victorious twice over the summer against Argentina.
The majority of Jones’ squad takes care of itself, with England using a select group of players over the last two years, who have been hugely successful on the international scene, helping the Red Rose recover from the disappointment of the 2015 World Cup with back-to-back Six Nations triumphs and a whitewash victory over Australia.
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Jones’ forwards more or less pick themselves for the Autumn, with the England head-coach only challenged with two or three selection dilemmas heading into the international period. However, England have a number of options across the backline, with Jones able to call on numerous combinations.
Ben Youngs will be expected to continue as England’s scrum-half, with Danny Care providing cover, whilst Youngs’ half-back partner will cause the biggest debate heading into the Autumn. Jones has used a 10-12 axis of George Ford and Owen Farrell for the majority of his England reign, which has worked well, with Warren Gatland following his lead and using Farrell as a second pivot in the on the British and Irish Lions tour.
However, there are calls for Farrell to move back to his favoured role at outside-half, where he has helped his club, Saracens, rule European rugby over the last two years.
New Zealand are currently the heavy favourites for the 2019 World Cup, with bookmakers including bet365 offering odds of 11/10 on their rugby betting pages for the All Blacks to win a third consecutive Webb Ellis trophy – but there is a feeling that England could be the team to stop that happening, if Farrell is moved to fly-half.
It is likely that Jones will continue with his Ford and Farrell axis for now, with the duo serving England so well over the last two years. Farrell’s likely partner in the centre will be Jonathan Joseph, who is almost a shoo-in for the number 13 jersey during the Autumn Internationals following Manu Tuilagi’s recent injury setback.
Jones faces another selection dilemma within his back-three, with Lions wingers, Elliott Daly and Anthony Watson, favourites to continue for England but under pressure from the ever improving Jack Nowell – who also impressed in New Zealand during the summer. Mike Brown will be looking to hang onto his place at full-back but, with the Lions trio in exceptional form heading out of the summer, Jones could turn to one of them to wear the number 15 shirt, with all three capable of playing as the last line of defence.
England have some promising selection headaches, and Jones would rather be in the position he currently finds himself in, rather than scratching around on the floor looking to pull together a competitive squad. Of course, the 2019 World Cup seems a long way away as we move away from the summer of 2017 but Jones will already have one eye on glory in Japan and will be looking within his squad for the formula to beat New Zealand between now and then, starting with the Autumn internationals.