England named their World Cup training squad last week and attention now turns to their upcoming warm-up games, as they finalise their depth chart ahead of flying out to Japan.
Home and away matches against Wales loom, while they will also host Ireland and Italy in a four-match series that Eddie Jones will hope is enough to blow away the cobwebs and get his side firing ahead of their tournament opener against Tonga on September 22.
With established players such as Chris Robshaw, Nathan Hughes and Danny Care not included in the 38-man squad consisting of 35 fit players and three rehabilitating from injury, there are positions up for grabs even at this late in the cycle.
That said, a number of players have cemented themselves into their positions over the last few years and there is a fairly familiar look to the squad depth chart below.
Up front, Joe Marler’s return from international retirement changes the complexion among the looseheads where one of Ellis Genge and Ben Moon could now miss out, while Jack Singleton has seemingly catapulted himself ahead of Tom Dunn in Dylan Hartley’s absence.
Charlie Ewels will have his work cut out trying to break into the established locking quartet that England have leaned on under Jones, with George Kruis and Maro Itoje the starting pair and Courtney Lawes and Joe Launchbury offering enviable depth.
The lack of Bristol No8 Hughes in the squad has raised eyebrows, although starting blindside Mark Wilson has shown he is more than capable of picking up the slack at the base of the scrum if required.
Ben Spencer pips Willi Heinz to the role of Ben Youngs’ deputy thanks to his previous inclusions and strong finish to the season with Saracens. Jones hasn’t been afraid to take just two scrum-halves to World Cups or on tours previously, so there is plenty of motivation for those two to put their best feet forward in the upcoming games.
England’s hard-hitting pair of Manu Tuilagi and Ben Te’o slot in ahead of Piers Francis at inside centre, while Henry Slade’s international form this past season is just enough to keep him in front of Jonathan Joseph at 13.
Chris Ashton’s withdrawal doesn’t help England, but they have strong depth across the back three, so much so that Mike Brown has been sacrificed. Anthony Watson is capable of playing at 15 should Elliot Daly suffer an injury.
Ruaridh McConnochie slips in behind his Bath team-mate on the wing, although there is potential for an all-Bath back three between the former sevens player, Watson and Joe Cokanasiga.
(Graphic Credit: Sam Stevens, Reddit. Depth chart republished with permission of the author)
WATCH: Part one of the two-part RugbyPass documentary on the many adventures that fans experience in Japan at this year’s World Cup
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