England’s 38-man World Cup training squad has been announced by Eddie Jones. Although most of the squad was expected there have been a few surprises.
David Challis looks at the biggest talking points from the squad announcement and what it could mean for England’s World Cup campaign.
Joe Marler returns from Retirement
The biggest shock of the 2019 World Cup training squad was the return of the retired Joe Marler. The Harlequins man retired from international rugby in the Autumn but he has been tempted back to the international scene.
One would expect that Marler is a front runner to go to Japan but, does his inclusion alienate others who have been playing his position over the past few months? Popular, although form must be the judgment
Hartley misses out on World Cup training squad place
Jones’ long-term captain, Dylan Hartley, has missed out on the squad as he appears to have failed to recover from injury in time. This has not come as a huge surprise to some but does confirm a shift for this England side.
Hartley’s omission confirms Jones’ faith in Owen Farrell as his captain. Hartley’s lack of playing time recently probably makes this decision the correct one. However Hartley’s leadership could be vital around the squad so Jones may live to regret his omission.
Robshaw denied chance at Redemption
Chris Robshaw has been omitted from England’s World Cup training squad as Shields and Wilson are preferred on the blindside. Robshaw has failed to force his way back into the England squad after injury this season. However many have felt that the Harlequins man has played some of his best rugby at points this season.
England are blessed with options in the number six shirt. Shields and Wilson offer specialist options whilst the likes of Lawes and Itoje can provide cover. Robshaw though will feel hard done by but a lot can change between now and September.
Heinz gets his Opportunity
Willi Heinz has been given a chance to prove his worth, as he is included in his first full England squad. This comes as a shock given Jones is yet to look at Heinz during his tenure as head coach. Heinz joins Spencer and Youngs as the three scrum-halves in the squad.
Heinz will have a lot of work to do to force his way to the World Cup but the Gloucester man will work to prove his worth.
The ex-pat New Zealand-born player’s inclusion has come at the cost of Danny Care. Care was a mainstay of Jones’ plans for a number of years but has found himself forced out in the recent months. Jones’ decision making around his scrum half has been confusing at best and this latest incidence shows his lack of clarity in that position.
Cipriani ‘back in’ RWC fold
Danny Cipriani gets one final chance to force his way back into an England shirt. It is a decision that will attract a lot of attention but does Jones seriously see Cipriani as part of his plans.
The Gloucester fly-half has never really convinced Jones of his ability despite great from for his club. This may well be an attempt to silence the media and realistically Cipriani has a lot to do. If he is to overtake Ford he will need to perform out of his skin.
McConnochie gets the final Wing Spot
After a storming first season of 15s, Ruaridh McConnochie has caught the eye of Jones and gets a shot at the World Cup. McConnochie has beaten out Thorley for the final spot in the backs.
This is a big achievement after just one season in the sport.
However, owing to the competition in the back three, McConnochie is unlikely to make the plane to Japan. The Bath man has a lot to do to force his way into the final squad but there have been bigger shocks in the build-up to World Cups.
World Cup training squad: Concluding Thoughts
This squad announcement marks the beginning of the road to the World Cup. Jones has made some big calls but overall the squad looks strong.
However, a lot can change between now and then, those that missed out could still find their way back in so watch this space.
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