As Jim Mallinder gets set to take charge of an England XV this weekend against the Barbarians, which is deemed an uncapped test, suggestions are that the team will lean heavily on players not likely to be involved in the upcoming Rugby World Cup.
The annual fixture with the Barbarians is often a platform for emerging players to put down a marker in the white jersey and there will almost certainly be plenty of uncapped players selected by Mallinder on Sunday.
With an envious player pool and productive age-grade pathway, English rugby is never short of talent to call upon, but just how impressive a XV would those yet to receive their country’s call make? We have compiled a standout uncapped XV in English rugby, a number of whom should see the Twickenham pitch on Sunday.
Malins role in north London may still be a bit-part one, filling in when injuries strike and during the international windows, but the former England U20 has shown himself to be a devastating attacking talent, whether at full-back or fly-half. He encompasses some of the best attributes of teammates Owen Farrell and Alex Goode and you get the feeling that if he doesn’t get more opportunities next season, which he should due to the impact of the Rugby World Cup, he will need to leave in order to reach his considerable potential.
Speaking of leaving Saracens in order to reach your potential, that’s exactly the move Earle made last summer, and it has worked out superbly for the wing. He grabbed nine tries in the Gallagher Premiership for Quins this season as he nailed down the 14 jersey, and it’s a tally that could have been even higher had he not ruptured his ACL back in April. England aren’t short of wing options, but a cap feels just a matter of time for Earle, if he can get back to top form after this injury.
- Joe Marchant, Harlequins
Even discounting the likes of Henry Slade and Jonathan Joseph who are already capped, the options are still overflowing for England at outside centre. Sam James and Piers O’Conor have both had excellent seasons and Henry Trinder is another candidate if he can stay fit, but Marchant feels like the next man up. He has been in scintillating form for Quins and, alongside Malins and Earle, shows that the levels of talent in and around London are a golden ticket for any club willing to invest in and manage it properly.
For all the troubles England have had at 12, with the plan always having seemed to be to eventually move Farrell back to 10 under Eddie Jones, you wouldn’t have thought they’d have had the luxury of being able to sit on players like Johnny Williams, Nick Tompkins and Ryan Mills. Atkinson separated himself from the pack this season with his ultra-consistent displays for Gloucester and the effective partnerships he struck up with Danny Cipriani and Billy Twelvetrees. Johan Ackermann will want all his players to achieve their international ambitions, but he probably won’t fret too much when he has a player of Atkinson’s quality available all season long.
- Ollie Thorley, Gloucester
Olly Woodburn has been knocking on the door for a while, whilst Ruaridh McConnochie is coming on rapidly at Bath, but it’s hard to look beyond what Thorley has done over the last 12 or so months. His attacking excellence and relentless work rate has seen him rewarded with call ups to England training squads, but he is yet to win his first cap, with Joe Cokanasiga the man that Jones has opted to blood this season. There is still a chance that Thorley could find himself on the plane to Japan this year, although given England’s stocks in the back three, it could well require an injury or two. Nevertheless, the future looks bright for the 22-year-old at international level.
Marcus Smith may very well be the future of the England 10 jersey and he will have another opportunity to showcase that talent in Argentina next month at the World Rugby U20 Championship, but the man arguably leading the charge for inclusion right now is Simmonds. A multi-faceted display in Exeter’s semi-final win over Northampton Saints reinforced the ability the fly-half has now, at just 22, and if he can improve his consistency and churn out more performances like that, there’s no reason why he can’t challenge George Ford and maybe even Farrell for their spots in the coming seasons.
Chudley is a nine that just does everything well and there’s not an area of his game you would look at and be particularly critical of. For one reason or another, he seems to have missed the boat with England, with Ben Youngs and Danny Care having dominated the jersey over the last decade and now the likes of Ben Spencer and Jack Maunder putting down claims to be the men to don it moving forward. Although an England cap may now not come, with the scrum-half set to turn 32 next season, he is someone who would not have let England down, had the call ever come.
- Beno Obano, Bath
If Bath and England can unlock Obano’s full potential, the prospects are scary. Since being called up and name-checked by Jones, the loosehead’s scrummaging and conditioning have both improved, as he looks to develop into a player that can stay the course at a high intensity in international rugby. Had he not spent the best part of a year out with ligament and hamstring tendon damage, Obano could and likely would have thrown his hat into the mix with Ben Moon and Ellis Genge to be Mako Vunipola’s deputy later this year.
Mentions are due for Tom Dunn and Jack Singleton, two players who have been involved with England without winning a cap, although Thacker’s biggest competition came from Exeter’s epitome of consistency, Jack Yeandle. Thacker’s work for Bristol this season has been exemplary, though, and his accuracy at the lineout has been critical, as well as potentially surprising a few people who didn’t consider the 25-year-old to be a set-piece hooker. Debate will rage on as to whether or not he can replicate what he has shown this season in the Premiership in international rugby, but until those dice get rolled, we’ll never know.
Ehren Painter was unlucky to miss out and is surely someone on the trajectory to win plenty of caps at tighthead, but in terms of a more complete product who is ready for the rigours of international rugby right now, Schonert has quietly been knocking on the door for a couple of years now. The Durban-born prop doesn’t always get the accolades he deserves in a pack that can struggle for parity with some of the teams in the top half of the Premiership, but his individual work is very impressive. He is another who would not let England down, should they come calling.
- Ed Slater, Gloucester
How has Slater not got a cap? The answer is due to the quality that is around at the moment in English second rows, but the fact the 30-year-old isn’t an international player may be one of the most misleading facts in rugby. His work at Leicester and now with Gloucester has been consistently effective and the way he has moulded his playing style as he has got older, dropping weight and becoming more mobile to suit the modern game, has kept his name in the frame, despite the emergence of a number of talented youngsters.
- Matt Symons, Harlequins
Similar to Slater, Symons’ hopes of representing England have taken a blow due to the previous incumbent pairing of Joe Launchbury and Courtney Lawes, and the now seemingly unsurpassable Maro Itoje and George Kruis. He left New Zealand in 2015 to return to his native England and push for international recognition, but injury-plagued spells at London Irish and Wasps didn’t help his case. He has been integral for Quins this season, though, and although England honours seem unlikely at this point, he certainly brings plenty to the mix for the other Twickenham-based team.
- Dave Ewers, Exeter Chiefs
The competition between Bath pair Elliott Stooke and Tom Ellis for this spot was so close and hard to assess, we decided to cop out and go for Ewers. Jokes aside, Ewers adds plenty to Exeter’s game through his sheer physicality and what probably gets lost amidst that imposing physical presence is that he is actually a technically-refined player, too. We’re not talking David Pocock levels at the breakdown or Zach Mercer’s frisson as a ball-handler, but he chips in valuably in both of those areas, as well as helping Exeter win the gain-line in both attack and defence.
- Jackson Wray, Saracens
It almost defies belief that England were so recently plagued by issues at this position, with the likes of Lewis Ludlam, Ben Curry, Ben Earl and Jack Willis all waiting in the wings as currently uncapped options. Wray’s all-round game still separates him from that impressive young quartet, although anyone of them would also be very valid calls here. This time of the season – the European and domestic finals – are a potent reminder as to what Wray offers in a club of superstars, many of whom receive international recognition, and that is a similar level of play and consistency as his teammates.
- Alex Dombrandt, Harlequins
The versatile James Chisholm is in the mix here or at six, but it’s his teammate who steals the spotlight. Dombrandt has been a revelation since returning to the club whose junior academy he previously graduated from, with his powerful carrying and offloading setting up so much of the success that Quins’ high-octane back line have enjoyed this season. Don’t be surprised if a debut cap comes next season, as England’s Rugby World Cup contingent, hopefully, see their minutes managed in a long campaign.
Watch: The Academy – Part Six
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