Jordan Olowofela and Gabriel Ibitoye were among three England U20s players to be included Eddie Jones 44 man pre-season training camp squad.
Along with giant Saracens lock Joel Kpoku (6’5, 126kg), the pair have impressed with ball in hand for England U20s, and the pre-season camp at the Lensbury Hotel will give them an opportunity to, if not push for selection, at least make a case for further involvement in Jones’ plans.
“It is an opportunity for them to show us what they have got,” Jones stated. “We have identified those guys who can potentially play for England in the future so this is a great opportunity for them.”
Both featured in the recent World Rugby U20 Championship in France and – as pointed out by Opta Stats – their metre per carry statistics stood out.
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Of the 68 players to make 30 plus carries at the 2018 World Rugby U20 Championship, Olowofela (9.9m per carry) and Ibitoye (9.4m per carry) ranked 1st and 3rd for average gain respectively.
68 – Of the 68 players to make 30+ carries at the 2018 World Rugby U20 Championship, Jordan Olowofela (9.9m per carry) and Gabriel Ibitoye (9.4m per carry) ranked 1st and 3rd for average gain respectively (Argentina's Mateo Carreras also 9.9m). Selected. pic.twitter.com/ZKtkq4UfpO
— OptaJonny (@OptaJonny) August 2, 2018
This of course is not Ibitoye’s first involvement with the England EPS, having appeared in a number of Jones’ Six Nations squads earlier this year.
Leaving aside his exploits in this year’s U20s Championship, he was England’s leading try scorer in the 2017 edition of the tournament in Georgia.
If nothing else the inclusion of Ibitoye could signal the ship having sailed on the involvement of either Wasps’ Christian Wade or Sale’s Marland Yarde in Jones’ Rugby World Cup plans.
While Yarde’s troubled exit from Harlequins last season might still linger in Jones’ thoughts, the argument that Wade’s lack of size continues to play against him is hard to ignore.
While Jones has publicly lamented the apparent of emphasis on size and not skill in English rugby, his choice of wingers suggests he has a preference for larger players in the position.
Rookie wings Nathan Earl (6’1, 99kg) and Joe Cokaninasiga (6’4, 112kg) standout, but no wing under 90kg has started during Jones’ tenure.
Leaving the size issue aside, along with the inclusion of Olowofela and Ibitoye, the return to form of Chris Ashton may well sound a death knell for any chances Wade might have of adding to his 7 England caps.
Meanwhile Olowofela has already earned 3 caps for Leicester Tigers, having come through the Midland’s clubs academy system with his twin brother Ryan.
He’s added considerable mass to a once willowy frame since making his official senior bow at the Premiership 7s in 2015.
Both Olowofela and Ibitoye might be outside bets for England’s 2019 Rugby World Cup squad, but if they can bring their explosive carrying game to the fore over the next 14 months, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility.
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