Seven England over-30s whose Test careers might cycle out by 2023
It’s approaching midway between Rugby World Cup cycles, a critical time for squad selection. National team coaches have to assemble squads not just according to the next tournament, but with one eye to developing talent ahead of the sport’s showpiece tournament.
According to World Rugby, prior to the 2019 tournament, the average age of a winning World Cup squad has an age of 27 years and 258 days. While coaches can’t select on age, it’s a statistic that will not be lost on the game’s strategists. Balancing grizzled veterans, players in their prime and emerging talent is very much part of the selection puzzle for all elite coaches.
England head coach Eddie Jones has made no bones about the need to cull ahead of 2023. Speaking in March of this year the Australian said that they are expecting to cycle out roughly 30 per cent of their Six Nations squad.
“We are definitely going through a transition period now and had a fairly settled team from 2019 to now and like most teams when you have had a settled period there needs to be a little bit of a revision of your members and to freshen it up and we are going through that at the moment,” said Jones. “I would say anywhere up to 70 per cent of this squad will go through to the World Cup but it will be dependent on their desire, form, fitness and so we take all those things into consideration and make the final decision.”
From an age point of view, Jones’ current squad doesn’t appear to have an age problem, with just seven members of his 2021 Six Nations squad (as named on January 22nd) over the age of 30.
JOE LAUNCHBURY – 30
Has been bedeviled by injury in recent seasons and us facing stiff opposition in the engine room department but you can’t rule out him.
JONNY MAY – 31
Although capped 70 times by England, it doesn’t feel like the lightning-quick May is a player in the Autumn of his career. Thirty-three, which May will be the next RWC, is semi-geriatric in winger years though. Form says yes but logic suggests it’s an uphill battle for the Gloucester man.
JOE MARLER – 31
In his prime as a loosehead, Marler will be 33 by the time France comes around. He’s missed out on tours for families reasons in the past and is getting far more involved in the media of late. Still, his involvement is still very much possible.
BEN YOUNGS – 32
Youngs, who withdrew his name for selection for the 2021 Lions, will have just turned 35 in October 2023. Jones still relies heavily on the Leicester Tigers stalwart but the next World Cup may be a tournament too far.
COURTNEY LAWES – 32
An Eddie Jones’ favourite, his fine Lions’ form belies the utility forwards’ advancing years. He won’t be far off his 35th birthday in late 2023 and with 87 Test caps currently to his name, he’s certainly got the mileage.
JAMIE GEORGE – 30
32 is no age for a hooker and you fancy George will be continuing to fight for the England starting spot with young lion Luke Cowan-Dickie by the time the Rugby World Cup comes around.
MARK WILSON – 31
A late bloomer on the international stage, Wilson may well have already played his last time for England. Will turn 33 during the tournament.
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