Former Lion selects explosive England back row to devastate Wallabies and Boks
Former Wales and British & Irish Lions No8 Andy Powell has given his verdict on what the England back row should look like this autumn and has not skimped on ball carriers.
The 2009 Lions tourist picked a trio of Alex Dombrandt at blindside flanker, Tom Curry at openside and Sam Simmonds at No8. This is a back row loaded with devastating ball carrying potential, which is perhaps unsurprising from such a bruising player as Powell.
Englands back row for the autumn internationals should be 6 dombrandt 7 curry 8. Simmonds
— Andy Powell (@andypowell8) October 20, 2021
This back row effectively contains two No8s, which differs from some England back rows Eddie Jones has picked in the past which have actually been lacking an out and out No8 entirely. Both Dombrandt and Simmonds play at the back of the scrum for their clubs, Harlequins and Exeter Chiefs respectively, and offer different threats with ball in hand.
The Harlequin possibly has more strength in the tight and continually shows that he has a world class distribution and offloading game. Conversely, there are not many faster forwards in the game than Simmonds, who is lethal in the wider channels. Having said that, he packs a punch in close quarters too, and scores plenty of tries in and around the ruck. His explosiveness from the back of the scrum is possibly why he makes the cut at No8 for Powell.
Meanwhile, Curry, who started all three Tests at openside for the Lions this year against South Africa, certainly is a potent ball carrier himself, known for the volume of carries he makes throughout the game. There is certainly no danger of England lacking any bite with their ball carrying in the pack with these three, which may be crucial against a brutal South African defence and against the rejuvenating Wallabies.
This selection leaves out Sam Underhill, who has been a mainstay in Jones’ England team when fit. Underhill is known for his defensive game, but his carrying has developed immeasurably in recent months.
Jones’ favoured No8 during his tenure has been Billy Vunipola, and while the Saracen has looked in fine fettle this season, he missed out on the squad entirely. During the time in which Vunipola has held the No8 shirt, both Dombrandt and Simmonds have struggled to break into England squads, so this is a clear sign of the changes that are afoot.
England kick off their autumn internationals against Tonga, and face Australia and the Springboks thereafter.