Six Nations 2022: four England players yet to play who could have a big say

England sit third in the Six Nations table with two wins from their opening three matches, but their sternest tests are yet to come.

For some, England’s performances have been a toxic mix of clunky and cumbersome, raising concerns about their Championship chances ahead of fixtures against the top two: Ireland and France.

With Eddie Jones’ side still just about in the hunt for top spot, SWL takes a look at two forwards and two backs who could help improve the team’s fortunes.

Joe Launchbury

Joe Launchbury last played for England in December 2020 and earned a recall to the England squad in February after a nine-month layoff.

The Wasps veteran had only played 101 minutes of rugby between suffering a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament and his latest call-up.

But the second-row could return for England’s crunch fixture against Ireland at Twickenham, with Jonny Hill still injured and Charlie Ewels delivering an indifferent display against Wales.

Launchbury’s expertise at the lineout could be a real asset to England’s hookers, who have seen their throws stolen at crucial moments against both Scotland and Wales.

Eddie Jones has been a fan of Launchbury’s physicality and dynamism in the past, and his experience would also be invaluable against Andy Farrell’s Ireland.

The 69-cap forward completed 80 minutes for Wasps last weekend in their 31-19 defeat to Bristol and is edging ever closer to a Test match return.

Mark Atkinson

Manu Tuilagi’s ongoing injury struggles have posed a real problem for Jones in the backline.

The selection of Tuilagi for the Wales game, prior to his latest setback and subsequent withdrawal, suggests Jones wants to select a physical presence to partner Henry Slade.

Elliot Daly and Joe Marchant have both started at 13 for England in this year’s Six Nations, but have struggled to make an impact.

Mark Atkinson would allow England to play on the front-foot against Ireland, with his powerful running sure to challenge the strongest of midfields.

Many pundits believe that the Gloucester centre deserves a two-game audition after a string of good performances in the Gallagher Premiership.

He is the centre available to Jones whose game is most akin to Tuilagi’s, and perhaps more importantly could mirror the role Andre Esterhuizen plays for Harlequins that brings the very best out of Marcus Smith.

Adam Radwan

Arguably the quickest English winger in the Premiership, Adam Radwan has four tries from his two England caps so far.

Radwan has produced a number of eye-catching scores for Newcastle this season, none more so than a phenomenal finish from some 50 metres against London Irish in December.

Question marks linger over the 24 year-old’s defensive capabilities, but Jones may feel that it’s time to trade solidity for explosiveness.

Jones has preferred Max Malins and Jack Nowell on the flanks but neither has been produced a display to merit consistent selection.

Radwan, Ollie Hassell-Collins of London Irish and Bath’s fit-again Joe Cokanasiga could all find themselves thrust into action for England, who remain the only side yet to have a winger score this term.

Bevan Rodd

Bevan Rodd first captured the hearts of England fans with a stellar start to his international career in the autumn.

His entry into the side came somewhat fortuitously, after both Joe Marler and Ellis Genge contracted Covid-19 ahead of the visit of Australia in November.

Rodd showed courage and spirit in abundance in the autumn and those are qualities England have arguably been lacking since as their Six Nations campaign threatens to peter out.

What’s more, the prop’s all-round game is not dissimilar to Mako Vunipola’s, England’s de facto loosehead up to the last World Cup .

Maro Itoje has often found himself at first receiver in attack, tipping the ball off to his fellow forwards, but the Saracen may be better utilised as a ball-carrier. 

Rodd, who is more than comfortable with ball in hand and has an impressive turn of speed for a front-row, could fulfil that receiver role from the bench in place of Kyle Sinckler.

Featured image credit: David Jones via Flickr under CC by 2.0

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