England team to face Australia: Our writers select their 23s for first Test - and you can pick yours
England's three-Test series against Australia starts on Saturday with Eddie Jones' side desperately in need of some momentum as the World Cup edges closer.
After a poor Six Nations campaign, a number of familiar faces have been recalled to the wider squad. But will they get a chance to prove their worth in Perth?
Our writers pick their matchday squads for the series opener...
This is a tour which Eddie Jones must use to finalise his World Cup plans and selections but it will be critically important to do so from a winning opening to ease the pressure of the disappointing Six Nations campaign.
Tommy Freeman's time will come but for the opening Test, Jack Nowell’s big-game experience and fierce competitiveness will be important while Joe Cokanasiga will give Marcus Smith a powerful target to hit in the midfield as will the return of Billy Vunipola at No 8.
Danny Care deserves the chance to showcase his innate partnership with Smith at Quins and he can bring the best out of the array of ball carriers, including Ellis Genge and Courtney Lawes.
The return of Jonny Hill will bolster the scrummaging power while the bench will provide mobility and power and the potential game-breaking prowess of Freeman in the final quarter.
The big call here is the wing combination. I’m always loath to omit Jack Nowell but the pace and power combination of Tommy Freeman and Joe Cokanasiga feels too good to pass up.
If the sorry defeat to the Barbarians served one purpose it was to provide Marcus Smith as many opportunities to bring Cokanasiga into the game as possible. They perform different roles, but if they can build that understanding then the Bath wing could provide a similar route-one safety net as Andre Esterhuizen does for Smith at Harlequins.
I suspect he’ll be on the bench but Danny Care is the form pick at scrum-half. In the pack, Will Stuart and Billy Vunipola are the obvious stand-ins.
This would be to err on the side of caution with Jonny May, but not with Luke Cowan-Dickie. Jack Walker would be the next cab off the rank if next Saturday comes too soon for the latter.
Courtney Lawes remaining at blindside flanker, with Jonny Hill alongside Maro Itoje, gives England a weighty scrum to pressurise Australia and an added jumper to disrupt what could be an iffy Wallabies line-out.
Ollie Chessum deserves a spot on the bench, with Tom Curry’s versatility offering a number of back-five combinations. Lewis Ludlam and Jack Willis are unlucky here, and will surely feature at some stage in the series.
Elsewhere, Tommy Freeman is introduced in a balanced back three. Jack Nowell could swap with Joe Cokanasiga but Danny Care starting feels right because Harry Randall looked out of form against the Barbarians. Guy Porter, the second debutant, allows Eddie Jones to switch things up if the Smith-Farrell axis malfunctions.
Not quite as much room in the first Test to experiment by starting with Guy Porter or Tommy Freeman, which is a pity, but their chances will certainly come. Freeman's ability to beat defenders one on one has caught the eye.
Joe Cokanasiga might wear 14 but expect him to pop up everywhere as one of England's main ball-carriers along with a resurgent Billy Vunipola. It is a huge tour for Will Stuart at tighthead but if he falters then Joe Heyes is ready and waiting after another good season with Leicester.
Starting Danny Care might just give England the high tempo their attack has missed at times recently too, and we have seen how his quick ruck speed can help Marcus Smith attack flat to the line. Can that be replicated in Australia?
The gain-line carries were there from Ellis Genge, Courtney Lawes and the rest in the Six Nations but England never capitalised on them. Time to deliver.
England’s lively backline desperately needs quick ball to succeed and this pack, with Courtney Lawes and Billy Vunipola forming two-thirds of a sizeable back row, should provide just that.
Danny Care is the best nine on tour to provide crisp service for his club team-mate Marcus Smith, who has an exciting wing pairing of Joe Cokanasiga and uncapped Tommy Freeman to unleash.
Jack Willis edges out Sam Underhill on the bench due the added dimension of explosive ball-carrying alongside his outstanding breakdown work. Fraser Dingwall provides centre cover and would not let anyone down if handed a debut.
No one really knows what to expect of England; and no one really knows what to expect of Australia.
To that end, with some old-timers returning and with 18 months until the World Cup, this is the time to unleash a veritable New England - not the ham-fisted pseudo version that Eddie Jones promised us in the Six Nations.
Offset with some experienced, in-form heads - like Billy Vunipola, Owen Farrell, Danny Care and Jack Nowell - Jones must start to deduce which of these tyros are stop-gaps and which are genuine World Cup contenders.
Guy Porter and Joe Heyes are rewarded for excellent club form with Leicester; so, too, Tommy Freeman at Northampton. The pragmatism of Farrell can get the job done, while the poetry of Smith can put the icing on the cake.
With just over a year to the World Cup and up against potential quarter-final opponents, this isn’t the time for complete experimentation but it's definitely time to test out some combinations and give opportunities to players such as Joe Cokanasiga.
Freddie Steward has never toured the Southern Hemisphere before so he needs to gain that experience in the back three. Jack Nowell starts over Tommy Freeman who is on the bench.
Owen Farrell’s leadership was desperately missed during the Six Nations and he returns to start at fly-half with Marcus Smith outside him at 12.
Not the positions most would choose for the pair but having Farrell run the show, with Smith given an opportunity to provide creativity outside him, gives the Harlequins man a new experience and the opportunity to be a dual playmaker, and be surrounded by familiar faces with club mate Joe Marchant at 13 and Danny Care at 9.
Have your say
Our team of writers have selected their preferred England teams. What do you think of the selections? Pick your own England XV and have your say in the comments section below...