Following the news of Jonathan Joseph’s season-ending foot injury, Ali Stokes assesses the men available to Eddie Jones for the tour of South Africa this summer
England’s outside-centre options for South Africa tour
Eddie Jones will be looking to finish his third season at the helm of England with a flourish after suffering a torrid Six Nations campaign, plummeting from first place to fifth in a mere 12 months. For the sake of the players’ confidence, their buy-in to Jones’s methods and the fans continuous support, England need a convincing win in South Africa this June.
Jonathan Joseph has been ruled out of the three-Test series because he requires foot surgery, so here we highlight the myriad of outside-centre options available to Jones, what they bring to the table and their chances of featuring against Rassie Erasmus’s Springboks.
Club Worcester Warriors Age 31 England caps 13 Lions caps Two
The former rugby league man has often been shown favour by Jones for his hard-hitting running lines and physicality in defence. Te’o offers cast-iron punching power and an offloading game developed during his seven-year career in league, but has been shown up for his decision-making and speed in defence at times, and is not getting any younger.
Club Wasps Age 25 England caps 18 Lions caps Three
The England and Lions wing has all the intelligence, distribution skills and electric pace to succeed in England’s midfield. In addition to his extensive experience at centre during his breakthrough with Wasps, Daly possesses a nuclear warhead in his left boot that can just as easily slot a 60m penalty as pounce on the opportunity to punish his opponents for territorial space left vacant in the backfield.
The only issue with starting Daly at 13 is the loss of his proven quality as one of the best wingers on the international scene.
Club Exeter Chiefs Age 25 England caps Ten
Slade brings something very different to Joseph, Te’o and Daly. While the three previous midfield options have searing pace, fancy footwork or brute force, the Chiefs centre is an out-and-out playmaker and uses silky smooth skills to weave through defences or set up team-mates.
However, the Chiefs star’s inconsistency at Test level may be held against him.
Club Saracens Age 24 England caps Four
Utilised primarily at inside-centre by England, Lozowski has proven for Saracens that he has all the attributes of an international-class 13. Speed, playmaking ability, monstrous defence and excellent touches from the boot – skills the 24-year-old has in common with all-time greats like Brian O’Driscoll and Conrad Smith.
Club Harlequins Age 21 England caps Uncapped
Marchant has suffered extensively in recent years with injury, but is back terrorising defences for Harlequins. Electric pace, footwork to rival any other competitors and the vision developed as a fly-half throughout the age grades makes the 21-year-old a genuine attacking weapon.
Similar to Joseph, both in build and playing style, Marchant seems the most fitting replacement if Jones is after a like-for-like substitute.
Club Leicester Tigers Age 26 England caps 26 Lions caps One
“If Tuilagi was fit…”, a phrase uttered more than any other in history when it comes to England’s midfield. The Samoa-born wrecking ball of a centre is most well known for tormenting the All Blacks in 2012 and 2014. When fit and firing, no player in the world can stand toe-to-toe with Tuilagi’s destructive capability, but he is yet to prove his durability with Leicester.
Club Exeter Chiefs Age 25 England caps 26 caps Lions caps Two
The England and Lions wing is currently under consideration as a centre by Eddie Jones. With a lack of top-end speed compared to the likes of Daly, Jonny May and Anthony Watson but impressive displays of power and footwork against some of the best in the world, the Cornishman possesses tremendous prospects at outside-centre.
Nowell may not be as abrasive as Te’o or Tuilagi, but what he lacks in stopping power he makes up for with tenacity.
Club Gloucester Age 29 England caps Uncapped
The 29-year-old is the most balanced runner in England and has often featured on the wing under Johan Ackermann this season. If not for a career plagued with injuries, the Gloucester man may have established himself in the England set-up years ago.
I believe Joe Marchant is the obvious choice at outside-centre for England. With his playmaking experience as a fly-half and threat ball-in-hand, he offers the best option in both the short and long term.
Alex Lozowski should pair up with Marchant in midfield, filling in for Owen Farrell, who deserves an extended rest not enforced by injury. George Ford will continue to work as the architect of England’s attack in the dual playmaking system alongside two centres with devastating strike-running capability and solid track records in defence.
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