Everything you need to know about the England squad travelling to face the Wallabies


England and Australia have one of the closest rivalries in international rugby.

Having faced off 52 times, England hold a narrow edge with 26 victories to Australia’s 25. In recent years, however, England have dominated the match-up, winning the last eight.

Eddie Jones has selected a new-look, 36-man squad for this tour of Australia. Jones was quick to point out that he is missing ten players to injury following his team’s record defeat to the Barbarians last weekend.

Consequently, this squad includes eight debutants, and a further 12 have less than 15 caps.

If the Wallabies are to break their losing streak against England, at home against a relatively inexperienced squad is about as good a chance as they will get.

Now, England still have some seriously good players on tour and their starting 15 is going to be brimming with talent. However, should England suffer any injuries, their depth will be seriously tested.

Let’s take a deep dive into the squad and see where the Wallabies will be looking to attack England and where their biggest threats lie.

Front row

Props: Ellis Genge, Mako Vunipola, Will Stuart, Bevan Rodd, Joe Hayes, Patrick Schickerling

Hooker: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Jamie George, Jack Walker

Believe it or not, the front row might be an area of Wallabies dominance. England will be without first-choice tighthead Kyle Sinckler due to a back injury, and veteran loosehead Joe Marler will also not be on tour.

Genge will likely start at loosehead having established himself as one of world rugby’s most dynamic front rowers.

Nicknamed the ‘baby rhino’, Genge is an incredibly powerful ball carrier and tackler and can hold down the loosehead side of the scrum without any issues at all, although he is not someone the Wallabies will necessarily fear at scrum time.

Genge will be backed up by veteran Mako Vunipola. Despite falling out of favour with Jones in the past 12 months, Vunipola brings a lot of experience with 67 caps for England and an impressive nine Lions caps.

The tighthead side of the scrum is much less certain. Will Stuart is likely to start, and with 20 caps at only 25 years old, he is full of potential.

However, the Wallabies will be keen to test him out at the scrum. Backing up Stuart are rookies Joe Hayes, two caps, and Patrick Schickerling, uncapped.

Scott Sio of the Wallabies in a pack at training

Scott Sio. (Supplied photo by Andrew Phan/Rugby Australia)

James Slipper and Scott Sio, who will lead the Wallabies on the loosehead side, have 183 Test caps combined and young gun Angus Bell has 16.

With Taniela Tupou and Allan Alaalatoa holding down the tighthead side, the Wallabies will be hoping to establish scrum dominance, which as we know goes a long way in winning Test matches.

At hooker, England have the trusted pair of Lions, Luke Cowan-Dickie and Jamie George. Cowan-Dickie started the first two Lions Tests last year and has been England’s first-choice hooker since.

George played in all three Lions Tests against New Zealand in 2017 and will bring 66 caps to Australia. Whichever way Jones goes, he has a reliable operator who nails throws at lineout time.

Coming on tour is uncapped Jack Walker from Harlequins. Walker has had a breakout year for Quins, and is a player with plenty of potential, beating out previously capped Jamie Blamire, Jack Singleton and the injured Australian-born Nic Dolly.

Second row

Maro Itoje, Nick Isiekwe, Jonny Hill, Charlie Ewels, Ollie Chessum

England will fancy themselves to have a huge advantage in the second row.

Superstar Maro Itoje is probably the first name on the team sheet for Jones. Itoje has established himself as one of the game’s best players for some time now, racking up World Rugby player of the year nominations, winning player of the series in the Lions versus Springboks series and previously winning European club player of the year.

Itoje is as complete a lock as you will see. He is an outstanding lineout operator who will look to make life hell for the Wallabies’ inexperienced hookers and locks.

Maro Itoje runs the ball for England

(Photo by Adam Davy/PA Images via Getty Images)

Folau Fainga’a is Australia’s most capped hooker with only 25 caps. Dave Porecki is uncapped and Lachlan Lonergan has four caps.

None of the Wallabies’ options at hooker could be described as outstanding at throwing. Uncapped Porecki is probably the most reliable.

Add into the mix that three of the Wallabies’ squad locks are uncapped (Jed Holloway, Cadeyrn Neville and Nick Frost) and that Matt Philip (20) and Darcy Swain (ten) have nearly half as many caps combined than Itoje, this is an area England will surely target.

Who partners Itoje will be one of the more difficult selection decisions for Jones but only because he only has good options.

Saracens team-mate Nick Isiekwe, who stands at six foot seven and 120 kilos, has been favoured by Jones recently. Despite relative inexperience, the 24-year-old lock already has over 100 caps for his club and is an impressive athlete.

British and Irish Lions tourist Jonny Hill will be looking to reclaim the jersey many thought he would make his own. Charlie Ewels (30 caps) and young gun Ollie Chessum round out the second-row depth.

If Courtney Lawes were to suffer an injury, we might see Jones move Itoje to the blindside flank such is the depth at lock, and Jones’ preference for lineout dominance.

Back row

Flanker: Tom Curry, Sam Underhill, Courtney Lawes, Jack Willis, Lewis Ludlam

Number eight: Billy Vunipola

When healthy, Courtney Lawes is one of England’s best players. Few players have a bigger motor and hit harder.

While he can play in the second row, Lawes has more recently specialised at blindside flanker and you can expect to see him starting there in the first Test.

Lawes gives England a third elite lineout option and disruptor. You can expect Lawes to add to his 93 caps this winter.

It would be shocking to see anyone other than Tom Curry in the number seven jersey, even though there is very strong competition.

Curry is only 24 years old and is one of England’s most valuable players. He started all three Tests for the Lions last year and has captained his country.

Curry draws a lot of similarities with Wallabies captain Michael Hooper. He has an incredible motor, is a dynamic carrier and punches well above his weight in defence.

Like Hooper, he is not a renowned jackal but can impact a game at the breakdown. His match-up with Hooper will be one of the highlights of the series.

(Photo by Dan Mullan – RFU/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

Depending on how Jones wants to play, we might see Curry at number eight, giving way for a more traditional breakdown threat.

Sam Underhill was one of the stars of England’s 2019 Rugby World Cup. More recently Underhill has struggled with injuries, mainly concussion this season, but has got himself fit and played enough rugby to earn a spot on this tour.

When Jones has played Underhill and Curry together, it has primarily been Underhill at seven and Curry at six or eight.

It will be interesting to see how Jones rounds out his back row with Curry and Lawes being presumptive starters.

At this point Underhill is probably too similar in skill set to Curry to be in contention for that last spot but when he is fit and in form, he is incredibly destructive at the breakdown and in defence.

Billy Vunipola, like his brother, is back in the mix having fallen out of the squad last November. He is possibly a lucky inclusion following an injury to incumbent Alex Dombrandt last week.

Lucky or not, Vunipola is one of world rugby’s most effective and impactful ball carriers. He does receive criticism for a perceived (and perhaps real) lack of work rate.

But should England want to turn to a number eight who can reliably get them consistently over the gain line, there are not many others better. Vunipola and Rob Valetini collisions will be absolutely brutal.

Jack Willis and Lewis Ludlam round out the back-row options. Jack Willis is a name many Australian rugby fans may not know but he is an elite player.

Willis has suffered a horrific four years of injury hell after first being called into the England squad in 2018. When healthy, he has been a dominant force for his club Wasps and is considered one of the best breakdown operators in Europe.

He is a player to keep an eye on. It might be hard to see him being too involved but if he is given a chance, he could be one of the factors that swing the series.

The fact that Lewis Ludlam isn’t too likely to figure in Jones’ plans speaks to the depth at this position. He is more of a no-frills workhorse who does a bit of everything and is an outstanding leader for his club Northampton Saints, rather than a game breaker.

Ludlam will do his job as asked and do it well. His best chance is if Jones opts not to play Vunipola and isn’t full of confidence in Willis or Underhill, because you probably won’t find a more reliable player than Ludlam.

The halves

Halfback: Danny Care, Harry Randall, Jack van Poortvliet

Five-eighth: Marcus Smith, Owen Farrell

The back line selected by Jones is where it starts to get interesting.

Starting at halfback, incumbent Ben Youngs has withdrawn from consideration due to family matters, leaving a 117-cap hole in the side.

England Rugby Union

(Photo by Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images)

Jones has flirted with a few young halfbacks as understudy options to Youngs for a few years now but rather than turn to an entirely novice group of players, he has turned to Danny Care.

Care returns to the Test frame after being gone for four years, earning his last cap in 2018. Care is 35 years old but is in supreme form for his club side Harlequins, where he partners incumbent flyhalf Marcus Smith.

In fact, Care’s form over recent years has been so good that he was considered an outside chance of a Lions selection last year despite having not played Test rugby in three years.

In spite of his age, what Care brings to the England team is attacking flair and speed. He has a reliable kicking game but where his real strength lies is his ability to create around the ruck with his carry, pass and kick.

Jones has long favoured the kicking game of Youngs so this will be an interesting experiment.

His partnership with Smith cannot be underrated, given the pair have produced some ridiculous attacking rugby together over recent years.

It would be a shame if Care is just on baby-sitting duty, helping Randall develop for the World Cup until Youngs is ready to return. If Care does line up at nine, it is the more threatening selection for this Test series.

Randall has been Jones’ preferred back-up halfback for the past two seasons but this position has been a revolving door since Care was dismissed in 2018.

Randall is a quality player who is capable at Test level. He is yet to establish himself as a sure-fire selection but he very well may get that chance on this tour.

Van Poortvliet might be the bolter of what is a bolter-filled back line. He is Youngs’ back-up at the Leicester Tigers.

Van Poortvliet didn’t even play in the Tigers’ premiership victory last week, as former Test player Richard Wigglesworth was preferred for the big occasion.

Van Poortvliet gets the nod over the in-form Alex Mitchell and other capped players such as Dan Robson and Raffi Quirke.

At five-eighth, you might have world rugby’s most exciting player, Marcus Smith. You also have England’s talisman and captain, Owen Farrell.

Marcus Smith in action for England during a Guinness Six Nations match between Scotland and England at BT Murrayfield, on February 05, 2022, in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Ross MacDonald/SNS Group via Getty Images)

(Photo by Ross MacDonald/SNS Group via Getty Images)

Both have been included in the squad at flyhalf but the operating theory is that Smith will start at ten and Farrell will start at 12.

Farrell is quite capable at 12, having played there alongside George Ford in many Tests, including the 2019 World Cup final.

Exactly how Jones wants to play will determine the final selection. Farrell is the traditional English ten: a competent distributor with an absolutely elite kicking game. He is also incredibly tough in defence.

On the other hand, Smith is about as x-factor as it gets. His kicking game is strong, but his running and passing abilities are unmatched. He frequently creates tries out of nothing at all.

In the past Six Nations tournament, Jones handed the reigns to Smith with Farrell being out injured, so this tour is the first time that Jones has really had to decide exactly how he wants to use his two star players.

It might seem mad not to play Smith at ten given he is probably the best player in his position in the world at present.

But during the Six Nations, Jones asked Smith to leave his bag of tricks at the door and follow Jones’ favoured game plan, which is kicking focused and territory based, really stifling Smith’s ability to use his talents.

If Jones refuses to unleash Smith, and not pair him with Care, that is a big win for the Wallabies. As we will soon see, the centre selections do suggest we will see Smith at ten and Farrell at 12.


Joe Marchant, Guy Porter, Fraser Dingwall, William Joseph

With Manu Tuilagi and Henry Slade injured and for one reason or another Elliot Daly left home, Joe Marchant is the only capped player in this English centre group.

Bearing in mind that Farrell is probably going to play 12, this is really about who will play 13 and offer injury cover.

Owen Farrell

(Kaz Photography/Getty Images)

It is a shame Tuilagi is injured because previously it has been Jones’ preference to play Tuilagi at 12 outside of Farrell.

Similarly, Smith plays inside a very powerful, ball-carrying 12 in Andre Esterhuizen at Quins. And seeing the three of them together would have given us some clarity over his plans for 2023.

Either way, with this series, Marchant is a lock to start at 13. Marchant has flirted with locking down the England 13 jersey in the past, finishing this year’s Six Nations in that position.

He has also played Test rugby on the wing. He is an incredible athlete with a dangerous running game and is exceptionally capable defending in what is the most challenging defensive position in the game.

If given the chance, he will thrive playing alongside Smith and Care, where he has built a strong habit of finishing off tries for them.

Guy Porter was playing his rugby for Sydney University until July 2020 when he signed for the Leicester Tigers. He had a one-year stint at the Brumbies in 2019 but was unused.

Now he returns to Australia as a potential Test debutant. Porter had an outstanding season with the Tigers and would probably be the likely third-choice centre.

While he can play both 12 and 13, he is established now at 12 and likely the starting cover there if Farrell or Smith get injured.

Dingwall and Joseph are true bolters. Dingwall doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page. It is hard to see them getting too much opportunity but it’s always better to be in than out.

Back three

Wingers: Jonny May, Jack Nowell, Henry Arundell, Joe Cokanasiga

Fullbacks: Freddie Steward, Tommy Freeman, George Furbank

Jonny May, Jack Nowell and Freddie Steward headline England’s back-three depth. May is one of England’s most experienced tourists with 69 Tests and 35 Test tries.

Nowell has been right there with May as a squad mainstay since 2015 and earned a Lions call-up in 2017, playing in two Tests.

Freddie Steward, at only 21 years of age, is a superstar in the making. At six foot five and 108 kilos, with elite aerial skills and incredible speed and agility, Steward draws comparisons to Israel Folau (minus the controversy).

Despite having only ten Tests, Steward has potential to be the game-breaking player in this series so keep an eye out for him.

The rest of the back three is very inexperienced. Eddie Jones has kept faith in George Furbank despite a rocky start to his international career, but he will likely only see Test action if Steward suffers an injury.

Furbank, who missed Northampton Saints’ semi-final due to injury, recovers in time to tour and can also cover ten, which might be why Jones has included him.

Jones has a soft spot for powerhouse Joe Cokanasiga. When he first picked him in 2017 as a 19-year-old, Jones plainly stated “he’s big and he’s fast”. Cokanasiga is six foot four and 112 kilos and has scored 11 tries in 11 Tests.

Unfortunately for Cokanasiga, he has struggled to stay healthy, suffering multiple injuries since his debut to prevent him establishing himself at Test level.

I get the sense Jones really wants big Joe to work out so we could see him getting the nod on the wing ahead of either Nowell or May.

Jonny May

(Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

2022 has been a breakout year for young English back-three players. A dozen or so players have lit up the Premiership with highlight moments.

Uncapped Tommy Freeman and Henry Arundell have been the fortunate two to earn the final selection to travel to Australia.

Freeman is Furbanks’ understudy at Saints but has played most of his rugby this year on the wing or coming off the bench.

Arundell, only 19 years old, scored one of the individual tries of the season: a 100-metre solo effort in the European Challenge Cup.

However, the young winger only has two senior starts in his career and those in the know in English rugby could list at least five players who might be more deserving of this spot on the tour.

Projected match-day 23
1. Ellis Genge
2. Luke Cowan-Dickie
3. Will Stuart
4. Maro Itoje
5. Nick Isiekwe
6. Courtney Lawes
7. Tom Curry
8. Billy Vunipola
9. Danny Care
10. Marcus Smith
11. Jonny May
12. Owen Farrell
13. Joe Marchant
14. Jack Nowell
15. Freddie Steward

16. Jamie George
17. Mako Vunipola
18. Joe Hayes
19. Charlie Ewels
20. Jack Willis
21. Harry Randall
22. Guy Porter
23. Tommy Freeman


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