England’s World Cup training squad was announced on Thursday with some interesting inclusions as well as some notable absentees. Joe Harvey takes a look at the key points from Eddie Jones’ selection.
Joe Marler (Harlequins) – Understandably, Joe Marler’s return from international retirement has taken all of the headlines. Having a magnificent season, in which the loosehead prop was named as part of TRU’s Premiership team of the season, the Quins man has decided to return to the England fold.
This is extremely welcome considering the long-term injury to Saracens’ Mako Vunipola, that left England with only 17 caps at that propping position. Now with Marler back, England will be far more competitive in the scrum and more likely to progress in what is an extremely tough pool.
Ruaridh McConnochie (Bath Rugby) – McConnochie’s inclusion in this 35 man training squad makes him easily the best player to have transitioned from sevens to the 15-a-side game. Scoring a lot of Bath’s tries this season, McConnochie fit the void left by the injured Anthony Watson and Semesa Rokoduguni with an apparent ease, resulting in the Olympic silver medallist catching the eye of Eddie Jones.
Former sevens star (and Olympic silver medalist) Ruaridh McConnochie has been named in England's Rugby World Cup training squad ??— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) July 5, 2019
The @bathrugby flyer certainly knows where the try-line is, and has shot up in Eddie Jones' pecking order with his recent performances ?? pic.twitter.com/ZQJccJQYUX
Fighting against club mates and fellow wingers, Watson and Joe Cokanasiga, McConnochie has his work cut out, but there is no doubt that he could find himself in the England squad.
Willi Heinz (Gloucester Rugby) – The uncapped Gloucester man has been involved with several England training camps but has not made the final cut just yet. At the age of 32, this will probably be the scrumhalf’s only opportunity to play at a World Cup, so he will be keen to get to Japan.
Heinz is a very good player, but his inclusion ahead of international stalwart Danny Care has brought about some confusion. Ben Youngs will be the starting scrumhalf, with Saracens Ben Spencer as his backup. With Spencer only having three caps, it does seem that the squad is lacking in this position.
Alex Dombrandt (Harlequins) – A firm favourite at Talking Rugby Union, Dombrandt was the Premiership’s break out star, just one year after concluding his studies at Cardiff Metropolitan University. Playing in the England XV against the Barbarians, Dombrandt was dominant against an opposition that included All Black Steven Luatua and Francois Louw.
With Nathan Hughes seemingly out of favour, Dombrandt look to be the perfect alternative to the Fijian. Regularly breaking the gainline, the Harlequins man would add much needed depth to an England squad whose out and out number eight is Billy Vunipola, who has had injury troubles in the past.
One of the breakout stars of 2019 Alex Dombrandt has been pulling up trees domestically ??— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) July 4, 2019
The @Harlequins bulldozer will get a chance to impress all of us in the #Heineken #ChampionsCup next campaign ??
Exciting times for the young number 8 ?? pic.twitter.com/Mxq7tpWwaq
Mike Brown (Harlequins) – In training camp one day and out the next. That’s probably the best way to describe Mike Brown’s week. Brown’s exclusion from the World Cup squad leaves England without an out and out fullback. With Anthony Watson, Ruaridh McConnochie, Jonny May and the incumbent Elliot Daly all capable of playing in that position, there is a chance that this may not be a problem.
But, with that said, Brown does possess 72 caps for his country, making the Harlequins legend one of the country’s most experienced backs available. So reliable under the high ball and vicious in defence, Brown could be a big miss in Japan.
Tom Dunn (Bath Rugby) – With Dylan Hartley set to miss out on a place in Japan, the consensus was that Tom Dunn would finally be getting a chance on the international stage. Playing the best rugby of his career last season for Bath, Dunn had a major say in England XV’s victory over the Barbarians last month.
An experienced head at club level, Dunn’s seniority sets him aside from the likes of Luke Cowan-Dickie and Jack Singleton. An athletic player, Dunn’s throwing at the lineout has improved drastically in the past three years, making it all the more surprising that he hasn’t at least made it to the 35 man squad.