Whilst it’s too late in the day for mass experiments, with the World Cup just a year away, certain games do represent an opportunity to try out some new combinations, especially due to injuries to key players.
Whilst the New Zealand and South Africa games should be taken as seriously as possible due to the nature of the opposition, the Samoa and Australia games offer an opportunity for one or two players. With that in mind here would be my starting XV’s for each of the four games;
New Zealand/South Africa
The Springbok and All Blacks test will help to establish exactly where England’s development is at, although injuries on both sides mean it won’t be an accurate reflection of what to expect during the World Cup. This time around England need to play to their strengths, even if that means a more conservative style of play.
Goes without saying really, Brown is England’s stand-out full back and should start unless injured. His experience at the top level will come in handy against the worlds top two sides.
Rokoduguni has made an incredible start to the season for Bath and looks to be England’s form winger. He needs as much game time between now and the World Cup as possible.
Joseph has been another Bath player to make a flying start to the season and in the absence of Tuilagi and Burrell represents England’s only serious option at 13.
I’m sure most will disagree but facing the world’s best sides with key players out injured we need someone like Barritt to come in a shore up the defence to avoid being blown away like earlier in the year.
Yarde may have struggled a little bit to bed in at Quins this year but still looks like one of England’s best options on the wing, he just needs some game time now.
Injuries have hampered Farrell’s season, however given he’s likely to start for England at the World Cup he needs to be given as much game time as possible.
Over the last 18 months Care has established himself as England’s first choice scrum half and should continue as such unless injury or poor form strike.
It’s a tough call between Vunipola and Morgan for the starting 8 shirt but for me Vunipola is just that little bit more dynamic and should therefore be first choice for the World Cup.
Robshaw has been confirmed as England’s captain once more and for that reason should be starting the key games for his side as he builds to the World Cup.
Wood has done more than enough to retain his place in the side and should therefore start in the key games to rekindle his back row partnership with Robshaw and Vunipola.
With Geoff Parling injured Lawes becomes England’s key man in the second row and should therefore receive plenty of game time to further establish his partnership with Launchbury.
Launchbur and Lawes developed one of the most impressive second row partnerships in Europe earlier this season and should therefore look to carry on where they left off.
With no serious competition for the spot Wilson represents England’s only international class tighthead so needs to start, but equally he needs to be carefully managed to avoid injury.
Hartley looks likely to start for England in next year’s World Cup and therefore should be allowed as much time as possible to perfect his combinations with the rest of the team.
Loosehead is another area where injuries pretty much dictate who starts, but that shouldn’t take away from the fact Marler would be seriously pushing for a start even if Vunipola and Corbisiero were fit.
The Australia game is unlikely to be quite as tough as the Springboks and All Blacks test but will represent the best opportunity for England to claim a victory over one of the top three before the World Cup.
It’s tempting to try and experiment a bit, however England’s key men need as much time as possible to gel together so for this reason Brown should start.
Whilst there are a number of other options, Rokoduguni looks like England’s best wing option so should be given as much game time as possible.
Re-kindling the Bath centre combo, it would be really interesting to see if Joseph and Eastmond can recreate their club form at international level.
The Wallabies represent the least physical of the four sides this Autumn so for this reason are the best opportunity to reintroduce Eastmond into the international fold.
Yarde has a lot to prove so needs game time in which to do so, however he needs game time like Nowell and May got in order to prove himself ahead of the World Cup.
It’s very tempting to put Ford in here but with a more lightweight midfield Farrell’s defence will be key whilst the additional game time should do him some good.
Another key man who needs as much game time as possible before the World Cup to properly establish himself in the side.
The pack all remain the same in order to give them as much game time together as possible before the World Cup, however if England are in a strong position come half-time substitutions should be made early to give other players time on the pitch.
The Samoa game represents England’s best opportunity to experiment slightly with a few new faces but they should in no way be taken lightly.
Foden has been incredibly unlucky to play in such a competitive position so should therefore be given a chance to show what he can do for England.
As already mentioned, Rokoduguni needs as much game time as possible over the next 11 months so should start every game possible.
The Exeter man has been in fine form this season and therefore deserves his shot having already shown he’s capable of standing up to the toughest of opponents in an England shirt.
If Slade starts at 13 then Barritt is the ideal option inside him where his experience and defensive leadership will prove invaluable.
For me Watson must be considered a serious outside bet for the World Cup and therefore needs chance to prove himself before then.
It looks unlikely Ford will usurp Farrell before the World Cup but all the same he needs the game time to at least challenge for the number 10 shirt.
On his day Youngs is one of the very best scrum halves around and should therefore be England’s second choice nine for the World Cup.
The battle for the number 8 shirt is fierce and therefore Morgan should be given at least one start so he can make a serious challenge to Vunipola.
As captain Robshaw needs to be spending as much time out on the pitch as possible to ensure he is fully prepared for any eventuality at the World Cup.
Haskell is pushing both Wood and Robshaw hard for a starting shirt so therefore deserves at least a chance to prove whether or not he is capable of stepping up again.
Attwood has been another top performer for Bath this season and should therefore be given some game time to ensure he is match ready for the World Cup.
As Lawes is likely to lead England’s line-out into the World Cup he needs as much time as possible to develop into the role so should start as many games as possible.
It’s tempting to thrown Brookes in here but for me he’s not quite ready to start internationals so Wilson gets the nod but should be replaced within the first 50 if possible.
Webber proved during the tour of New Zealand he’s capable of playing at the very top level so deserves some game time as he looks likely to backup Hartley at the World Cup.
With injuries plaguing Corbisiero and Vunipola, Mullan needs some international experience to ensure he’s ready to step up should he be needs.
Who would you select in the England starting XV(s) for the Autumn Internationals?