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Rugby Union - International Rugby: How should England's backline look in Australia?

With England facing Australia in three internationals Down Under in July, what should the backline of the Red Rose look like across the series?

It's an important series for head coach Eddie Jones, who will be demanding a response from his side after the 52-21 thumping at the hands of the Barbarians on 19th June.

WhatAustralia vs England - First Test
WherePerth
When10:55, Saturday 2nd July, 2022
How to watchSky Sports Action
OddsAustralia 8/15, England 6/4

The first Test takes place in Perth on 2nd July and the visitors are 6/4 to win, while the duo meet a week later in Brisbane before the finale in Sydney on 16th July.

With World Cup 2023 beginning on 8th September next year, this series could go a long way to helping Jones decide who will be in the mix when it comes to making his final squad selection for the major tournament in France.

Pack not an issue

Before we get onto the topic of the backline, one area that England should have no concern about is the forwards, as they are blessed with quality in the pack even with the absence of some of the regulars.

Tom Curry, Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes and Sam Underhill are all set to play huge roles during the series, while the same can be said of Jamie George and Luke Cowan-Dickie - who are both battling for the starting hooker spot - and Ellis Genge.

The returning Billy Vunipola also gets an opportunity to stake his claim for a WC spot and if you throw in the fact Kyle Sinckler is not in the squad, there is a plethora of talent to choose from in the forwards.

Fly-half conundrum

With the World Cup under 15 months away, Jones has a decision to make on who will start at fly-half. Does he go with the experience of Owen Farrell - reliable with the boot - or will he make the arguably bold choice to have the more expansive Marcus Smith at No.10?

Jones has already come out and said he will be going for Smith at 10 and Farrell at 12, but I don't think the latter has shown enough at inside centre to warrant starting ahead of someone else. It should be one of these two at fly-half, with the other on the replacements bench.

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Saracens ace Farrell has been capped 94 times for his country - only four players sit above him in the list - while his haul of 1036 points is bettered only by the legendary Jonny Wilkinson (1179).

As for Smith, he only has nine caps to his name but he has certainly laid down a marker by amassing 126 points from those matches - scoring four tries and being named Man of the Match in two of this year's Six Nations contests.

The 23-year-old brings a lot of flair and creativity to the backline, something which can often be missing, and the Harlequins star should be afforded the opportunity to show what he can do against Australia.

Youth over experience

In regards to who will fill the scrum-half position, it's hard to ignore the inclusion of Danny Care in the squad and he knows Smith well from their time at Harlequins together.

The 35-year-old has plenty of experience, having been capped 84 times, but he has not played since 2018 for his country and he may find it difficult to displace Bristol's Harry Randall.

The 24-year-old has turned out for England six times and although he's not the finished article at international level yet, his game should have developed even more by the time we get to the World Cup.

Porter should be tested

As mentioned earlier, it looks like Farrell will be starting at No.12 for the first Test, but I think there are better options that Jones should be plumping for.

The first of those is Guy Porter, who was moved to centre for Leicester Tigers' 15-12 Premiership final victory over Saracens and had some big moments with ball in hand during the second half of that encounter.

Yet to be capped at international level, the 25-year-old definitely brings a freshness and new dimension to the backline and that little bit extra is what the Red Rose are missing at times.

Taking the spot at outside centre should be Harlequins' Joe Marchant, who scored seven Premiership tries this season and made 12 clean breaks - one less than Porter.

Experience on the wings

With 35 tries to his name, 69-time capped Jonny May is England's second-highest try scorer and there is no doubt he should take the left-wing spot (fitness depending).

The 32-year-old's speed makes him a constant threat to opposition while his finishing is regarded as some of the best in the business.

Starting on the right side should be Jack Nowell, whose hard-working, industrious play gets him into the starting XV for the first Test.

The Exeter Chiefs star may not be the most flashy player but he scampers down the channel, fighting for every inch, and it would be a surprise should he not be picked to start.

Steward is the future

Freddie Steward is a real talent and he has scored three tries from his 10 England caps, going over against Australia, South Africa and France.

At 6f 5in, the 21-year-old is a towering force at full-back, which gives him a big advantage under the high ball, while he is more than capable of creating something special with ball in hand.

It is crucial that Jones keeps Steward at No.15 and not move him to the wing like he has done before, with the Leicester sensation doing his best work at full-back.

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