After an impressive Autumn Cup series, rugby correspondent Josh Green looks ahead to the Six Nations by looking at the strongest squad for the opening tie versus Scotland.
England won all three of their Autumn Nations Cup games with wins over Tonga, Australia and most impressively, the world champions South Africa. Looking ahead to England’s first game of the Six Nations versus Scotland on February fifth, rugby correspondent Josh Green picks the strongest squad to start the competition.
1 - Ellis Genge: The now Leicester Tigers captain has really grown into the England team over the last few years. His powerful presence across the pitch explains why he should be a nailed on starter.
2 - Jamie Blamire: Another player that impressed over the Autumn and has emerged as a try scoring threat. With only 5 caps to his name, the Newcastle number two has crossed the whitewash six times already.
3 - Kyle Sinckler: Not only is Sinckler a powerful scrummager, but his deft hands improves England’s attack. This was proven in the 2019 World Cup final when he went off injured early on and England seemed to fall apart.
4 - Maro Itoje: Itoje has now played 50 games for his nation and is one of the first names on the team sheet. His passion for the game is clearly visible on the pitch; along with his power, eye for a turnover and general all round ability on the field.
5 - Jonny Hill: Hill has only played 9 games for England, but it feels like he has been a regular in the side for a lot longer. A very reliable player especially at the lineout.
6 - Courtney Lawes: Captaining England in two of the three games in the Autumn and arguably the player of the series, Lawes is a must for a starting spot.
7 - Tom Curry: Eddie Jones was recently asked who his first name on the team sheet would be. Tom Curry was his answer, so he has to start. A dynamic flanker who also has an eye for a turnover at rucks.
8 - Alex Dombrandt: Probably the most competitive position in the England team is at number 8. With the likes of Simmonds, Vunipola and Dombrandt all in the mix for a starting spot. But it is Dombrandt who fills the starting spot. A monumental figure in Harlequins historic Premiership title win last season and an all-round good rugby player. Dombrandt is a powerful number 8 with pace and also able to offload well.
9 - Ben Youngs: One of the more senior players in the team as he has had a foothold amongst the England squad for many years. With more than 100 caps for his nation, Youngs brings experience to a somewhat younger England team, along with the skill to snipe around rucks and able to steer the England ship from scrum half.
10 - Marcus Smith: The hottest prospect in England rugby at the moment. Smith, like Dombrandt, was a driving force in Quin’s premiership winning season. The 22-year-old is electric across the field, turning defenders inside out with his feet and a goal kicking accuracy of 88%. Smith looks set to usurp Owen Farrell and grow to become England’s number 10 over the next decade.
11 - Jonny May: Pace and tries are two main components that you want in a winger, and that’s exactly what Jonny May brings. A clinical eye for the try line and not afraid of an acrobatic dive to score.
12 - Henry Slade: England have started to play a more attacking style of rugby lately and Henry Slade fits into this perfectly. Not afraid to take the ball to the line and make the defensive line think, even in his own half. Slade can also kick well both from hand and off the tee.
13 - Manu Tuilagi: If fit, a centre partnership of Slade and Tuilagi could be a lethal duo and trouble any defence. The Sale centre went off injured against Australia in the Autumn tests, but he has a good chance of being fit again for the first game of the 6 nations.
14 - Adam Radwan: Radwan only played once in the Autumn against Tonga, but he would have counted himself unlucky not to be in the team against either Australia or South Africa. A very powerful winger along with blistering pace, he could be a good asset for England to have on the wing.
15 - Freddie Steward: Another standout performer of the Autumn Internationals. Steward looked comfortable under the high ball and is a powerful runner with ball in hand. George Furbank was another option at full back, but Steward poses himself as a more astute fullback.
16 - Jamie George: Similar to Tuilagi, if Jamie George is fit, he would get the spot on the bench over other options including Nic Dolly. The only reason George would be on the bench and not starting would be because of his lack of game time before the tournament due to the injury.
17 - Joe Marler: A character on and off the field, Joe Marler brings experience to the team with over 60 appearances and a powerful scrummager as well.
18 - Paul Hill: Probably the surprise selection in this team is the Northampton Saints prop. Hill has only made five appearances for England, making his debut in 2016 against Italy. Hill is an agile and powerful prop and also pops up with a try now and then. England picked Will Stuart on the bench in the Autumn, but I feel Hill gives more as an all round rugby player than Stuart does.
19 - Charlie Ewels: A player that maybe goes under the radar for England but someone that always impresses and is a great option off the bench.
20 - Lewis Ludlam: Ludlam didn’t make an appearance in the autumn, but he is a driving force in the Saints pack making powerful runs and also with pace as well.
21 - Alex Mitchell: Many people would have Raffi Quirke in this position, and I can see why. Quirke played well in the autumn scoring a decisive try against South Africa. From the base of the ruck however, Mitchell has slightly more to offer along with the link up play.
22 - Owen Farrell: A starter for England for many years but a player that I would bench for the first game of the six nations. Farrell could play at 10 or 12 but the partnership of Smith and Slade offers more in attack. He’s a great player to bring off the bench in the last 20 minutes of the game if its close, to bring some experience into the team.
23 - Max Malins: The final player on my team sheet would be Max Malins. He can play at any position in the back three showing great versatility if needed through injuries. He’s also started the Premiership season with a bang, scoring eight tries in three games.