Eddie Jones earlier this week admitted that his current squad is missing 20 of the best 45 players in England but he knows only too well that they could make history this summer and become the first England team to win a series over in South Africa.
This could be the reason for a rather mixed experience touring squad and that Jones will be relying on those experienced players to ensure the series win.
The stats aren’t in England’s favour with them winning just 23% of their matches against the Springboxes in their back garden and to add to the enormity of the task, England are between 700-800 caps less experienced than the men in green and gold.
Owen Farrell will captain the tour and if he proves himself in the role it could be the end of Dylan Hartley’s captaincy. Despite Hartley’s self-inflicted troubles in the past, one cannot criticise his commitment to the role Jones gave him when he arrived as England head coach and that this exclusion of the touring party is not down to his behaviour. Nonetheless, rugby can be a harsh sport and Farrell will need to step up and show his leadership skills. The challenge for Farrell will be whether he can manage the games calmly and build a good relationship with the officials.Embed from Getty Images
It is clear that England are going over to South Africa with the aim of a series win – who wouldn’t? If they are going to get the win they will desperately need to call on those experienced members of the squad. Chris Robshaw, once an England captain himself will be able to show composure on the pitch and lead behind captain Farrell, whilst Mike Brown is a veteran in the fullback shirt and will passing down his experience to those new additions to the squad.
England face both South Africa and New Zealand in the next twelve months, with both tests enhancing the player’s test experience. However, I am sure England fans would agree, I would rather Jones plays around with the squad now than in October when they face New Zealand.
Ultimately, Jones needs to start picking a set squad, with maybe only a couple surprises and then decided on partnerships that work. He really only has this summer and then maybe the first Autumn international to decide on a match day 15 that will carry forward to the World Cup.
By the end of the summer tour, England need to know who will be going to Japan and more importantly who will be leading them there. The captaincy shouldn’t be this open to doubt this late on. It is fair to say a lot rests on the summer tour.