Why England’s squad selection is so crucial ahead of the Autumn Internationals

The summer tour to South Africa was rather disappointing. South Africa played far better rugby than was anticipated and went onto the pitch with everything to play for and not much to lose.
England, on the other hand,​ were poor in discipline and failed to connect on the field.
Frustration grew throughout the tour and upon reflection it a lot of England’s mistakes came from the lack of experience of players playing alongside each other on the international platform.
After all, how can you expect Brad Shields to be ‘in tune’ with his fellow teammates having only known them for a matter of days?

The Autumn Internationals will be extremely testing for England via one match. They face the Springboks for the first test, then World Champions New Zealand, followed by Japan and Australia to finish the series.
Therefore, squad selection and player partnership must be flawless and show a pretty strong idea as to what the team will look like in a year’s time for the World Cup.

Rewind two years and England won an impressive series in Australia 3-0, and if you compare the team sheets from both the 2016 second test and the 2018 second test it shows the inconsistency of the squads.
Of those starting in 2018, 66% were in the 2016 match day 23. But of the match day 23 in 2018, only 44% were featured in the 2016 match day 23.

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The majority of those players that were not featured this year were left back home and rested by Eddie Jones, but there are players that seem to have disappeared from the England radar.
If you look at the 2018 Six Nations squad there are 24 players who made the squad in Spring but did not tour in the summer but, Eddie Jones all throughout the tour made it very clear that:
“we have 25 players sitting at home not available for selection”.
Which is true. However, I am yet to find those key 25 players that he means.

Players such as Sam Underhill, Alec Hepburn, Nathan Earle and Zac Mercer all made the Six Nations squad but didn’t tour in the Summer. However, I am not entirely convinced that they will feature again for England. They might appear in a squad but how likely is it for them to earn multiple caps for their country? So, it begs the question, why bring these (young) players into a squad if they aren’t given a chance to grow on an international platform.

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It is fantastic that during the summer Tom Curry got his chance to develop himself as an international player at a young age and in fairness to him he did play very well and coped with the enormity of the event. But the only way young players who are starting to knock on England’s door are ever going to prove themselves is by playing on the big stage.
It’s great that Marcus Smith to have been included in the squads this year to get used to the international step up and will have taken that experience forward to the U20 World Championships this summer, but he needs to get some game time in the Autumn to see if he can handle himself on the international level. By no means play him for the New Zealand match but give him a run out against Japan, let him prove himself. If not then why keep including him, or any of the younger players. Why put their hopes up if they’re never going to play?

By the end of the Autumn Internationals, Jones and his coaches need to have a very clear idea of the squad that they will be taking to Japan for the World Cup. The squad needs to have minimal changes within the next year so that the players can all be on the same page.
Then from that build player partnerships and stick to them so that come September 2019 the England team sheet is a slick organisation, rather than one that has your leaders getting into fights and conceding five too many penalties.

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