Which XV should kick off England’s autumn international campaign?

first_imgfeatures Autumn internationals Share on Twitter Owen Farrell will resume kicking duties for England during the autumn. Photograph: Dan Mullan/Getty Images Facebook Reuse this content Dylan Hartley captained England’s Calcutta Cup victory over Scotland at Twickenham during the Six Nations tournament. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian Topics Left wing: Jonny May (Leicester)It says everything about May’s electric start to his time at Leicester – nine tries in eight games – that he is among the first names on England’s autumn teamsheet. His sprinting ability and increasingly good understanding with Ford makes him a sharp attacking weapon and he is visibly growing in confidence. He also keeps the dressing-room consistently entertained.Fly-half: George Ford (Leicester)Ford’s confidence and assurance is returning since his return to Welford Road and his team-mates marvel at his tactical acumen and organisational skills. England’s record with him calling the shots at 10 is impressive and he is more durable than he might look at first glance. The more proactive the game plan, the more influential a figure he becomes.Scrum-half: Ben Youngs (Leicester)Looks revitalised alongside Ford at club level having withdrawn from the Lions tour for family reasons. Jones wants a third scrum-half to put pressure on Youngs and Care – he name-checked Richard Wigglesworth, Dan Robson and the injured Jack Maunder this week – but there is currently little doubt about the identity of England’s first-choice half-back.Loosehead prop: Ellis Genge (Leicester)Normally Mako Vunipola would be in pole position but there is a case for holding the Saracen back, along with a couple of others, for the visit of Australia. That would allow Jones to see how the aggressive Genge responds to the slightly different pressure of starting a Twickenham Test. There has been no more destructive ball carrier in the Premiership this season.Hooker: Dylan Hartley (Northampton, capt)Everyone has an opinion on Hartley and a betting man might fancy a wager on someone else captaining England into the Six Nations. But just think about it from a team perspective for a second: Hartley’s record as captain is outstanding and, whether or not he remains his country’s best hooker ahead of Saracens’ Jamie George, offering him the chance to defend his shirt this autumn will help motivate everyone. Share on Messenger Since you’re here… Pinterest Twitter Tighthead prop: Harry Williams (Exeter)Dan Cole will probably start against the Wallabies, so it makes sense to give the ever-improving Williams a shot at the Pumas. As well as a dry sense of humour big Harry contributes in an unusually large number of areas and has already packed down against Argentina in the summer. The suspended Kyle Sinckler will have to wait his turn.Lock: George Kruis (Saracens)His Lions tour did not go entirely according to plan but he was at the heart of Saracens’ outstanding European demolition of Northampton this month. England have an array of good options at lock, not least the up-and-coming Nick Isiekwe, but Kruis is probably the most expert lineout caller and his work-rate is exemplary.Lock: Maro Itoje (Saracens)Itoje has already had a lot of rugby for Saracens this season but Jones wants him to play at least some part in the autumn series. With one or two slightly callow faces elsewhere in the home pack it would make sense to send him out for 50-odd minutes against Argentina to help England set the tone before Courtney Lawes rumbles on in his place.Blindside flanker: Chris Robshaw (Harlequins)Along with Hartley and Brown, these are crucial weeks for the 31-year-old Robshaw as he seeks to hold off an increasing posse of rivals for the No6 shirt. England’s former captain deserves massive credit for the way he has bounced back from his country’s 2015 World Cup disappointment and remains the most unselfish of players. Jones, crucially, still sees him as first choice at blindside.Openside flanker: Sam Underhill (Bath)No young English back-row has caused more ripples of excitement than Underhill before he has even started a Twickenham international. Mentored by Richard Hill, he is a defensive menace and is smart enough to know precisely when and where to attack the breakdown. All he needs is more hands-on Test experience and England could finally have their own version of Richie McCaw.No8: Nathan Hughes (Wasps)Billy Vunipola may be unavailable but Hughes offers another strong ball-carrying option off the base. Luckily for England his recent suspension will have been served by the time of the Argentina fixture, ensuring he will be fresh and even keener to show he can be every bit as destructive as Billy V. Every back row has to possess a decent balance and Hughes gives England all-important momentum. Twitter Outside centre: Henry Slade (Exeter)It has reached the point where Slade simply has to start a major Test at Twickenham to preserve his sanity. If he goes well – and his form this season for the Chiefs has been exceptional – his range of skills could make him hard to dislodge. Jonathan Joseph ripped it up for England last autumn but it is time to invite the 24-year-old Devonian to show what he can do.Inside centre: Owen Farrell (Saracens)If there is one player whose presence reassures England it is Farrell, he of the warrior temperament and assassin’s boot. The talented Alex Lozowski, his understudy at Saracens, could fill in for him alongside Slade but Jones remains a firm fan of the Farrell-Ford 10-12 combo and, with Ben Te’o injured, will be keen to reunite it for the first time since March. Share on Pinterest England rugby union team Rugby union Share on LinkedIn Pinterest Support The Guardian Full-back: Mike Brown (Harlequins)Anthony Watson and Elliot Daly started all three of the Lions’ summer Tests and, for that reason, are set to be used sparingly this autumn. Daly is a potentially exciting option at No15, possessing both pace and a powerful boot, but Brown, for now, is still in possession. Jones will want his rivals to demonstrate they want it as badly as the bristling Harlequin still does.Right wing: Denny Solomona (Sale)With Jack Nowell injured and Watson likely to be rested there is a possible opening for an out-and-out finisher. Solomona has already scored against Argentina at Test level and England need some extra power to complement their footballers. His summer squad expulsion for late night drinking also appears to have focused his mind. Nathan Hughes is likely to take the No8 jersey in the first match against Argentina. Photograph: Dan Mullan/Getty Images, Share on WhatsApp Replacements: Jones’s “finishers” will be equally eager to impress and press their claims for places in the matchday 23 against the Wallabies. The uncapped Sam Simmonds’ versatility and line-breaking pace make him a perfect bench option alongside a raft of returning Lions in the shape of George, Mako Vunipola, Cole, Lawes, Joseph and Daly. Isiekwe, Sale’s flanker Tom Curry and Lozowski should all feature against Samoa in the third and last of England’s autumn fixtures. Facebook Share on Facebook Eddie Jones gives chaos a whirl to keep England on their toes for autumn Tests Read more Facebook Share via Email Pinterest Twitter … we have a small favour to ask. More people, like you, are reading and supporting the Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. 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