The England Rugby Team are set to head to a training camp in Brighton on Monday 14th May, ahead of a tour of South Africa which kicks off next month. England’s tough-talking Head Coach Eddie Jones is known to favour the relatively austere conditions at Brighton College’s Eastern Road facility to England Rugby’s luxurious purpose built facility at Pennyhill, and has previously brought England squads to Brighton on a number of other occasions. No doubt he has fond memories of our city after coaching Japan here during the 2015 World Cup, particularly as he led his unfancied Japan team to a shock win over this summer’s opposition at Brighton & Hove Albion’s Amex Stadium.
The 31-man England squad which arrives in Brighton next week will include established stars such as Mike Brown, Jonny May, George Ford, Ben Youngs, Chris Robshaw and Joe Marler, but also a number of relative unknowns who will be put through their paces by the England coaching team ahead of future tours, and as outside bets to travel to South Africa. Other key England players such as Tour Captain and star player Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje, Joe Launchbury and Billy Vunipola will join the squad later in the month following the conclusion of the Aviva Premiership semi-finals and final.
Jones has courted controversy with this squad as he seeks to bounce back from a deeply disappointing Six Nations campaign. His inclusion of New Zealand-born Hurricanes flanker Brad Shields has met with criticism as the New Zealander (who is eligible to play for England by virtue of having English parents) does not play in England and has not progressed through the national system. Some critics have also suggested that he was rejected by The All Blacks.
However, England watchers will be most intrigued by the inclusion of bad-boy fly-half Danny Cipriani. Cipriani made a bright start to his England career a decade ago, at times even threatening to edge England’s all-time greatest player Jonny Wilkinson from the coveted number 10 spot. Despite this, the 30 year-old has been capped a meagre 14 times by his country following a spate of personality issues. It is considered telling that, despite his impressive performance at Wasps this season including a man-of-the-match performance which is believed to have secured his England recall, Cipriani has not been offered a contract for next year by his club. Jones has suggested that the talented fly-half could well make the England World Cup squad in 2019 in the event of a good showing in South Africa, but has also already threatened to fly him home in the event of bad behaviour.
Jones is targeting a 3-0 win test series over The Springboks, who are as ever reputed to be the physically toughest team in the world. This could be considered a tall order considering England’s recent problems on the road. However England need good results in order to gather momentum ahead of next year’s World Cup and the England Head Coach has rolled the dice in terms of selection to reflect this. A gruelling, crunching, fascinating series awaits.
England face The Barbarians at Twickenham on 27th May 2018 ahead of a three-match test series in South Africa in June.