Now as the heartache of England losing the final of the Rugby World Cup has finally set aside, it’s time to look to the future and how Eddie Jones can build for the next World Cup cycle.
Jones’ England was the youngest World Cup team in the professional era at a final with an average age of 27 years and 60 days.
Depending on how contact talks between Jones and RFU go this will either be Jones’ last major rugby role and his successor will be within his management team. Or the 59-year-old will step aside once his current contract ends in 2021.
However, there are new senior roles within England up for grabs as scrum coach Neal Hatley is returning to Premiership side Bath. Whilst forwards coach Steve Borthwick is reportedly lining up a senior role at Leicester.
RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney has said their possible replacements are already lined up saying, “Even before coming to Japan Eddie started thinking about the next squad of coaches.
“There are a number in the frame that he has got lined up for the Six Nations, so we are about as prepared as we could be” he added.
Focusing on the squad, Jones had said we will see a different team to the one that took the field on Saturday for the Six Nations and summer tour of Japan.
Several players that’ll retire or slowly dropped from the senior side will be Dan Cole, Courtney Lawes, Joe Launchbury, George Kruis, Joe Marler (again), Mark Wilson, Willi Heinz and Ben Youngs.
Plus, I could see George Ford, Elliot Daly, Jonny May, Jonathan Joseph dropping out of the squad for a couple of years with a route back.
As for the starters, Owen Farrell will continue to lead the squad into France 2023. It’d be a smart move to make Maro Itoje and Billy Vunipola as vice-captains. As it looks likely the Saracens lock Itoje will become the next England skipper after 2023.
On the other hand, I wouldn’t be too surprised if Jones made the 25-year-old captain for the 2020 Six Nations and build for the cycle then.
Other players forming a major bond will be Tom Curry, Sam Underhill, Kyle Sinckler, Jamie George, Ellis Genge, Lewis Ludlam, Luke Cowen-Dickie, Anthony Watson, Joe Cokanasiga, Jack Nowell, Henry Slade and Manu Tuilagi.
Additionally, Ben Spencer could become the number one scrum-half.
As for refreshing the squad. Here are a number of players in every position that could join the England squad.
Bath’s Charlie Ewels will likely be Itoje’s partner but will compete with Saracen’s Nick Isiekwe, Alex Moon from Northampton and Exeter’s Jonny Hill for the position.
Exeter Chiefs’ Sam Simmonds and Bath’s Zach Mercer will compete to be Billy Vunipola’s understudy as will Billy’s Saracen teammate Ben Earl.
Jack Singleton, who went to Japan, will battle Cowen-Dickie for the replacement hooker.
Elsewhere, the prop position doesn’t need of massive changes yet as Manu Vunipola will still be around as will Exeter’s Ben Moon and Harry Williams.
Meanwhile, in the backs, another Chief in the form of Jack Maunder is in the race to be involved and could become England’s first-choice scrum-half in a couple of years.
Maunder’s England U20’s teammate Manu Vunipola, cousin to Mako and Billy, could also be part of the set up as understudy to fellow Saracen Farrell as he’s currently impressing during his early season opportunity.
Vunipola is only one of three players in the conversation as Northampton’s James Grayson, son of England International Paul, and Joe Simmonds from Exeter could make a claim.
The centre is an interesting position as it’s unknown if Farrell or Slade will move to the 10 role with the other joining Tuilagi. There’s a great argument to be had to move Daly to centre as it’s his best position, Piers Francis could finally have a proper run-out.
As for new players, Piers O’Conor of Bristol and Joe Marchant from Harlequins could make his claim to be part of the full set-up. He started and scored in England’s World Cup warm-up against Italy, despite not getting selected to the squad.
The other centre I think should be looked at is Nick Tompkins from Saracens as I’ve always been impressed and he’s got a good start this season too.
In the wings, Norwell and Cokanasiga will be the first choice and the surprise World Cup inclusion of Ruaridh McConnochie will be less surprising moving forward.
Nathan Earle is a player I think should be involved in future it’s just a massive shame he’s out injured for the season. However, at the moment the position should go to Earle’s Harlequins teammate Gabriel Ibitoye and he can cover both wing and centre positions.
With Watson now the only fullback in the side, it’s time to see what Northampton’s George Furbank can do in the England set-up as he’s started this Premiership season off on fire. It could be argued that Watson should say in the wing and start the 23-year-old instead.
The other player in contention would be Jason Woodward from Gloucester as he’s got decent stats from the start of this season. The only worry is his tacking and his age being 29-years-old, it’s harsh but I don’t see him as part of the team going to France.