The 13-month injury-enforced absence of Anthony Watson finally came to an end last Friday, with the British & Irish Lion fighting to place himself back into contention for one of the predicted five outside back slots in England’s 31-man World Cup squad.
Once considered a nailed-on Test starter, Watson now faces the challenge of re-establishing himself as absolute certainty in Eddie Jones’s Japanese touring party post-injury – and he is not alone in this undertaking. Fans have bought their Rugby World Cup Tickets and hoping for their favorite players to perform well in the tournament.
Exeter Chiefs’ first Lion, Nowell is one of our three outside backs guaranteed a trip to Japan. Capable at outside-center, wing, and full-back, the Cornishman packs a punch in attack and, crucially, mixes in with the best breakdown causes. Jones’s throwaway statement that Nowell could play at openside for England highlights just how highly the Australian boss rates his skill-set.
Whether you scoff at the idea of Daly at full-back or, like me, sit in awe of his all-around skill-set, the fact that he’s started the last 12 England games in the No 15 jersey indicates that Jones will take the soon-to-be Saracen to the World Cup.
While the basics of defensive full-back play may have eluded him during his first few starts at 15, Daly has transformed England’s attack. Distributing in the last offensive wave and utilizing his pace as an individual threat, England’s attack will flounder without Daly.
Arguably England’s most improved player over the past half-decade, May has evolved from a simple speed merchant with a penchant for running in the wrong direction to England’s, and Leicester’s, most prolific try-scorer.
But May’s innate ability to find the white line like a heat-seeking missile is not the only reason he is guaranteed a squad spot. The 29-year-old’s strength under the high ball is an immensely attractive trait, with Ben Youngs’s box-kicking game fundamental to any and all English success under Jones. May is the final outside back Jones trusts implicitly.
He has been a revelation for England this season after bursting onto the scene last November. Cokanasiga is the only England winger in possession of a truly unique selling point: X-factor. The Bath winger’s size (6ft 4in and 19-plus stone), power, ability to offload like a Fijian Sevens star and sheer athleticism offers Jones a genuine game-breaker. Although an attractive asset, it is not necessarily the World Cup material Jones desires.
For all his many attributes, Cokanasiga does not tick the box of full-back play Jones holds so dear. Going forward, his positional play and scrutiny under the high ball will mean the difference between watching the World Cup on his sofa and sampling sushi in Japan.
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