Steve Borthwick will name his 33-player squad for the Rugby World Cup on Aug 7, with as many as 70 names on a longlist of those who have been told to remain available and fit.
Until then, however, there will be various training camps – both at home and abroad – as Borthwick attempts to get his squad into shape for global rugby’s showpiece in France this autumn.
Over a fortnight, one unit at a time, Telegraph Sport is breaking down the depth that the England head coach has at his disposal in each position. So far in our six-part series, we have examined the front row, locks, back row, half-backs and centres. Now it is the turn of the back three.
Completing this interrogation of England’s squad depth is a glance across the back three, where Steve Borthwick has a blend of solidity, speed and skill at his disposal.
Back in January, the new head coach axed Jack Nowell and Jonny May in a statement selection ahead of the Six Nations. Nowell has taken himself out of contention for the World Cup prior to his cross-Channel move to La Rochelle, whereas May is thought to have been sounded out about the upcoming training camps.
Anthony Watson, who has persevered through a series of injuries to find his sharpest form, is another survivor from 2019. He and Freddie Steward, a main-stay at full-back for two years now, seem certain to be inked into the final 33. From there, things get rather interesting.
Elliot Daly and Max Malins provide poise and intuition on the ball as well as versatility. There will be a justifiable temptation to tap into existing Saracens cohesion, and why not? Daly’s hamstring injury on the cusp of the Six Nations was a shame, while Malins’ brilliance in the Premiership final caught the imagination. Selecting those two leaves one more back-three berth.
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George Furbank is an alternative if England fancy a playmaking full-back, while Joe Carpenter’s breakthrough campaign for Sale Sharks will have put him on the map. Sticking with Sale, Tom Roebuck was another to have excelled.
Rangy, powerful and willing to roam around the field, he is in the frame for future honours with England if Scotland do not cap him first. Louis Lynagh, Ollie Thorley and Adam Radwan were all in and out of camps under Eddie Jones. They will probably need to keep impressing with eye-catching domestic performances to force the issue.
Closer to the shake-up will be Tommy Freeman and Joe Cokanasiga, with Cadan Murley hoping that his prolific Premiership season leads to a chance. Low-slung, powerful and busy, in the mould of Nowell, Murley should at the very least be involved from the beginning of pre-season preparations.
Finally, to a pair of ex-London Irish colleagues in Ollie Hassell-Collins and Henry Arundell. The former was a flagship pick at the start of the Six Nations, with the latter ending the tournament by starting in Dublin.
Unless Daly edges out Henry Slade, leaving room for another back-three specialist, it appears that there will only be room for one of these dynamic wings to supplement Steward, Watson and the two Saracens. Arundell’s electric pace would make him my choice.
Have your say:
Charlie Morgan’s five back-three players for the World Cup: Freddie Steward, Max Malins, Elliot Daly, Anthony Watson, Henry Arundell