Picking England’s 31-Man Squad For The World Cup

The road to Japan.

In case you hadn’t heard, it’s Rugby World Cup year, and we’re now less than five months out from rugby’s biggest spectacle taking place.

Rumours are rife about who will make it on the plane to Japan, with home nations Scotland and Wales already announcing their World Cup training squad.

Having already discussed the options open to Joe Schmidt, we thought we’d have a go at predicting the 31 men Eddie Jones will pick for his England squad (injuries permitting of course). Do remember that this is who we THINK will make the journey, rather than who we WANT on the plane.

Props (5)

Mako Vunipola
Kyle Sinkler
Ellis Genge
Dan Cole
Harry Williams

Whilst he’s been ruled out for three months, it sounds like Mako will be just about fit for Japan, and there’s no way Eddie won’t be picking him if that’s the case. Kyle Sinkler is guaranteed a seat having firmly established himself as England’s first choice tight-head. Eddie seems to be a fan of Genge, so we reckon he’ll get the nod, leaving Dan Cole, Harry Williams and Ben Moon fighting it out for two spots. In the end, Cole’s experience could be key for a relatively inexperienced set of props, whilst Williams just edges out Moon due to his scrummaging ability. It’ll be close though.

Hookers (3)

Jamie George
Dylan Hartley
Luke Cowan Dickie

Fairly straightforward here. Eddie will want co-captain Hartley on the plane, whilst Cowan-Dickie provided cover in the absence of the Saints man during the Six Nations. Jamie George will obviously travel as the (hopefully!) first choice hooker.

Second Row (4):

Maro Itoje
Joe Launchbury
Courtney Lawes
George Kruis

Another simple one. England’s strongest position by far with all four of them capable of making the starting XV. Itoje and Lawes will be particularly useful with their ability to cover six as well as the second row.

Back Row (5):

Mark Wilson
Tom Curry
Billy Vunipola
Sam Underhill
Nathan Hughes

This is a tough one. Wilson, Curry and Vunipola all look set to travel as the first choice back row (Wilson may need to look for a different club though with Newcastle relegated to the Championship…). After that, it’s hard to predict. Sam Underhill proved what a class player he is during England’s Autumn Internationals, and will likely be included as a specialist openside. The final slot is anyone’s call though. Nathan Hughes, Chris Robshaw, Sam Simmonds and Jack Clifford are all in contention, but with Itoje and Lawes able to cover number six, we think Eddie will want another out-and-out number 8, with Hughes currently leading the charge.

Scrum Half (3):

Ben Youngs
Danny Care
Ben Spencer

This all depends on the fitness of Dan Robson, who is currently side-lined with blood clots (we wish him a very speedy recovery). Youngs will travel as England’s most capped Scrum-Half, with Danny Care producing a number of very strong performances at the end of Premiership. Jones could easily pick just two nines for this squad, as he’s done before, but’s that’s a definite risk! Therefore, Spencer or Robson will likely travel as the third option.

Fly-Half (2)

Owen Farrell
George Ford

We all want Cipriani on the plane, but it almost certainly won’t happen. Eddie will stick with Owen and George for the World Cup, with Henry Slade (spoiler alert…) likely to be able to cover 10 if needed. 

Centre (4)

Manu Tuilagi
Henry Slade
Ben Te’o
Jonathan Joseph

This should be an easy call, with all four players valued highly by Eddie Jones throughout his tenure as England Head Coach. This of course relies on an English Club picking up Te’o after his decision to leave Worcester, but that shouldn’t be too much of an issue.

Back Three (5)

Jonny May
Jack Nowell
Elliot Daly
Joe Cokanasiga
Anthony Watson

This is probably the hardest area of the squad to pick. May and Daly are definite picks, with Nowell also part of England’s preferred back three- his versatility will count in his favour. ‘Big Joe’ offers something completely different to other options, so should bag himself a seat on the plan. From there it’s one coveted spot left, with Watson, Chris Ashton, Mike Brown, Alex Goode and Ollie Thorley all in contention. In the end, Watson is simply too good of a player to leave out, and also provides much-needed cover at fullback with Daly still not 100% comfortable in our opinion.

So, there we have it. How close will this be to the squad Eddie Jones picks in around four months time? We’ll have to wait and see, but let us know in the comments if you think there’s anyone else in with a chance of being selected.