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Eddie Jones and his new-look England coaching team of Matthew Proudfoot, Richard Cockerill and Martin Gleeson headed to the Twickenham Stoop to watch Harlequins host Worcester on Saturday.
Five days after naming a 45-man training squad, the trip allowed them to examine eight of the group due to convene at The Lensbury in Teddington later today for a three-day camp.
There will have been plenty to ponder from those in action, who spanned a variety of positions. Here is our report card.
What is palpable watching Lynagh in the flesh is his deceptive power. The 20-year-old is wiry and explosive, as his first-half try demonstrated unequivocally. Perry Humphreys was comprehensively beaten. Such strength also helps Lynagh stand up in contact to buy time for supporting teammates or to offload. He slipped off a tackle prior to Ollie Lawrence’s try for Worcester but this was promising. 8/10
A series of injuries on breaking into the Harlequins first-team forced Marchant to be patient and, at 25, he could easily have more than six England caps. There were moments of understated class throughout this game, notably a one-handed flick-pass to Cadan Murley. He underlined his versatility with a switch to the left wing, where he scored. 8/10
The resourceful openside will return to the England fold after a brief appearance, without winning a cap, in the summer. He forced a vital turnover inside his own 22 to snuff out Worcester’s bright start and linked attacks energetically before making way with half an hour to go before the visitors’ resurgence. Kenningham looks like he could develop as a lineout jumper, too. 8/10
However much you want to read into this England training squad, the exclusion of Billy Vunipola appears to offer an opportunity to Sam Simmonds and Dombrandt. Harlequins’ stand-in skipper scored a simple try at the base of a scrum and cut through Worcester from the subsequent restart. There was also some nice interplay with Andre Esterhuizen out wide, although he has had more influential afternoons. 7/10
The 72-cap loosehead continues to be utterly dominant at domestic level. Worcester simply could not contain Marler, whom Tabai Matson labelled as “probably the best player in the Premiership last season”. That was no exaggeration. Marler has picked up where he left off, milking set-piece penalties regularly and hitting hard on both sides of the ball in phase-play. Cockerill and Proudfoot must have been purring. 9/10
One of the more left-field picks in the training squad, Riley was given just 12 minutes from the bench as a replacement for Jack Walker. That was enough for a spinning midfield carry, some busy defence, solid scrummaging and an accurate lineout throw as the talented hooker settles into senior rugby. N/A
A trio of first-half spills was far from ideal for Lawrence. Then, at the start of the second period, came a moment that would have delighted Jones and Gleeson. Lawrence darted around a breakdown and arrived on the left shoulder of his centre partner, Francois Venter, before taking a short pass and slicing through the Harlequins line. Keeping his balance, Lawrence pulled away to score. He distributed accurately and defended well. Imposing himself consistently on matches must be his aim now. 7/10
So far, Hill’s Test career comprises a couple of brief cameos from the bench. He was typically industrious against Harlequins. In attack, he punched holes and threw deft passes on the gain-line. In defence, he showed impressive stopping power and stretched his legs to cut down Esterhuizen. Despite two fumbles and a deliberate knock-on, he ended up in credit. Jones has pondered using him as a lock, but wants a jumping back-rower too. Hill fulfils the latter function for Worcester very well. 7/10
Cockerill plays down possibility of succeeding Jones in 2023
By Ben Coles
Richard Cockerill has refused to put his name in the frame to replace Eddie Jones as England head coach when he leaves the post in 2023 after admitting he first has to prove himself at international level.
The former Leicester Tigers and Edinburgh director of rugby has joined Jones’ backroom staff as forwards coach, fuelling speculation he could be in the frame to replace the Australian when his contract expires after the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
But speaking for the first time since taking up his first role in the international game, Cockerill played down the suggestion and expressed his desire to knuckle down under Jones before thinking about the future.
"To be honest I have to prove that I can cut the mustard at this level before I start thinking about other things," Cockerill said.
"I've not even really thought about it. It's the first time I've been in an international environment and my focus is on getting the autumn right, reassessing and then getting into the Six Nations."
Under Jones, Cockerill will look after the lineout, with existing forwards coach Matt Proudfoot overseeing the scrum.
"There's lots of moving parts in this team and a lot to look at and think about. That's how the responsibilities are split and myself and Matt will work together with that to get the best out of the group."
Having won multiple titles as a coach with Leicester, Cockerill has just concluded a successful stint north of the border with Edinburgh. When Jones came calling - "he sounded me out," admitted Cockerill - the opportunity was too good to turn down.
"I've been in the coaching game a long time as a head coach and when the opportunity arose to join Eddie it was something that really appealed to me. You may never get asked again so it's an opportunity to coach at Test level which I've never done and I look forward to getting my teeth into it.
"I spent a long time at Leicester and then four years with my project at Edinburgh which has left them in good shape. With this job I'm not looking at what happens next, I want to make sure that what we do now we get right and look to build a squad with this coaching team that can challenge for the World Cup."
Cockerill added that working with Joe Marler would be "interesting" and spoke warmly of Ellis Genge's maturity - "he's his own man, own personality, and he's learned to harness that which has made him a world class player" - while revealing that he has already checked in with a number of clubs, including Northampton Saints. "There were a few wry smiles when I walked through the door," said a grinning Cockerill.
Meanwhile the benefits of adding Cockerill to England's coaching staff seems crystal clear. "I have always been able to get combative forward packs and drive mentality and I think that's probably appealed to [Jones].
"And to be able to coach this group of players with the quality that England have and try to bring that edge, physicality and mindset is a real challenge for me."