By Tom Masters, Sportsbeat
Tom Wood admits he is not jealous of Eddie Jones having to choose from an ‘embarrassment of back row riches’ ahead of the upcoming Autumn Nations Series.
The Coventry rugby star, 35, only hung up his boots at the end of last season and knows all too well just how strong the back rows are in the Premiership.
Jones has named his squad for the Autumn Nations Series, which will see England take on Argentina, Japan, New Zealand and South Africa in a jam-packed period at Twickenham.
And former flanker Wood, who earned 50 England caps, says Jones is facing a significant dilemma with the likes of Jack Willis, Billy Vunipola, Tom Curry and Alex Dombrandt all in the frame for selection.
He said: “England’s squad is always looking in good shape, because we have got such an embarrassment of riches to be honest.
“I do not envy Eddie Jones’ decision making of trying to form a back row, because it’s not that you have no options, it’s that you have too many options to narrow it down.
“You’ve got both Willis brothers, you’ve got Billy Vunipola back on form, if (Alex) Dombrandt gets fit and Sam Simmonds, both Curry brothers, there are just so many across the board.
“Courtney Lawes is an option at six, Alex Coles has just been selected who he namechecked the other day as a potential No.6.
“Colesy is a very skillful player and across the back five with Dave Ribbans in there as well, who obviously I know well, I’m looking forward to seeing those guys hopefully get their opportunities.”
One thing that is not clear is who is set to be captain during the Autumn Nations Series, with both Lawes and Owen Farrell likely in line to reach their 100th caps.
But Wood revealed who he thinks should lead England – believing Lawes, his long-term teammate at Northampton Saints, to be the more inspiring leader.
Wood, speaking at special event alongside Mike Tindall and James Haskell at Aylesbury RFC as part of the RFU’s ‘Play Together, Stay Together’ initiative, added: “Courtney has done an incredible job in Owen’s absence and then held onto the title, so that’ll tell us a lot about how he is going to play the game and what his tactics are going to be.
“I love Owen, I think he’s brilliant, but I’m a lot closer to Courtney, I kind of feel like what Courtney brings as a captain will work better and Owen as playmaker - he is going to lead anyway whether he has got the captain’s armband or not.
“I quite like the idea of a big towering second row or back row like Courtney as captain, intimidating the opposition when he shakes their hand before kick-off.
“I’m a huge Courtney Lawes fan, I’ve been lucky enough to play with him for years through proximity and friendship and I genuinely think he is one of the world class players over such a long time that England have had.”
The RFU’s Play Together, Stay Together campaign is aimed at reminding rugby fans of all the benefits that come with playing rugby. Whether it’s the physical benefits of regaining your fitness, or the mental benefits of being surrounded by a like-minded group of people, there’s always a reason to head back to your local club.