With James Haskell and Jack Clifford both out of the autumn internationals and Chris Robshaw only considered as a Test blindside, England will need a new openside for their four end-of-season internationals.
Here we run the rule over the contenders for the No.7 shirt ahead of Friday’s Elite Player Squad announcement.
Mike Williams (Leicester Tigers)
(Photo by Malcolm Couzens/Getty Images)
England coaches Eddie Jones, Paul Gustard and Neal Hatley were in the stands at Welford Road on Sunday to keep a watchful eye over the hopefuls ahead of Friday’s announcement. Williams, who started at blindside, is on their radar and played superbly against Bath. He is primarily a blindside flanker or a second-row but could slot into the openside berth, filling the attritional role that Haskell took on for England’s tour in Australia.
Tom Wood (Northampton Saints)
Tom Wood is captaining Northampton this season. Tom Shaw/Getty Images for Aviva
Wood, who has 42 England caps, is yet to feature in an England squad under Jones but can play across the back-row and has started the season well at Northampton. Jones’ last assessment of Wood, according to the player, was that his form back in April was “distinctly average” but he will hope his consistency at the start of this campaign will put him in good stead ahead of Friday’s announcement.
Guy Thompson (Wasps)
Guy Thompson has started the season brilliantly for Wasps. (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
Thompson is arguably the form back-row in the Aviva Premiership and continued his remarkable start to the season with another brilliant performance in Wasps’ win at Northampton on Saturday. Starting at openside, Thompson has filled the void left by George Smith and is making the right noise for an England call up.
Will Evans (Leicester Tigers)
Will Evans impressed in the Junior World Championship. (Photo by Malcolm Couzens/Getty Images)
English-qualified Brendan O’Connor is ahead of Evans in the Leicester pecking order at blindside but with England it is seemingly the other way round. Evans, 19, was included in the provisional 45-man squad named on Aug. 1 having impressed the England staff while playing for the Under 20s in the Junior World Championship.
Matt Kvesic (Gloucester Rugby)
Matt Kvesic has three England caps Malcolm Couzens/Getty Images
Kvesic is perhaps the most natural openside at England’s disposal but so far he is seemingly low down in Jones’ pecking order. He was left out of the previous 45-man squad and Gloucester’s slow start to the season will not boost his claims for a spot in Friday’s squad but his ability at the breakdown may work in his favour.
Teimana Harrison (Northampton Saints)
Teimana Harrison has made two appearances under Eddie Jones. David Rogers/Getty Images
Harrison started the third Test in Australia for England but lasted just 31 minutes before being hauled off for Courtney Lawes. His form this term hasn’t been the same as his bulldozing finish to last term but Jones is a fan and he should keep his place in the EPS on Friday.
Jackson Wray (Saracens)
Saracens’ Jackson Wray has impressed this term. (Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)
Wray is one of the unsung heroes in the Saracens team and with Will Fraser still recovering from off-season surgery, he has slotted nicely into the champions’ back-row alongside Springboks star Schalk Burger. He should be there or thereabouts come Friday’s announcement.
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