What a victory it was for England against Argentina in the first test, with Eddie Jones’ side running out 38-34 winners in an enthralling encounter.
It was made even more intriguing by the fact England were fielding a very youthful side. Indeed, the team had 11 debutants with four in the starting XV. This is something that could not have happened though had it not been for the Lions’ tour.
Warren Gatland’s side are of course made up of the very best players, of which 16 men from England were initially chosen. In conjunction with this, there have been a number of injuries to players meaning that, all in all, there are 30 people missing from the England squad.
The man that seemed to benefit most from these injuries was Denny Solomona, who scored a scintillating try. The rugby league convert picked up the ball in the final moments on the wing before bouncing a tackler off him, ghosting past a number of opponents, handing off the final defender and running in under the posts.
— Classic Rugby Shirts (@classicrugby) 11 June 2017
The back’s score was a remarkable one and it once again proved that the Lions tour allows England, and all the other nations for that matter, to unearth their players of the future.
Had Warren Gatland not have called upon Jack Nowell then Solomona would probably not have been in the squad to have scored his match winning try.
The last time England had the chance to bring in exciting young talent was the last Lions tour of Australia in 2013.
Stuart Lancaster, the doomed coach of the time called upon many young players, with 17 of his changes aged 25 and under. England won that series 2-0 against Argentina while they also claimed victory in their two other tests against the Barbarians and the Consur XV.
Among those 17 players were some very notable names. Joe Marler, Joe Launchbury, Courtney Lawes, Ben Morgan, Johnathan Joseph, Jonny May and Billy Vunipola were given the chance to shine and most have continued to do so in the current England team under Eddie Jones.
Of course, some of the above had already begun to establish themselves in the side with a number of caps to their name, but the chance for some uninterrupted game time if they played well was invaluable. This breeds excitement in both the team and supporters, something scrum-half Danny Care echoed:
“People are right to be excited – the young lads coming through are a different breed these days. In a hostile environment, to get the win, I think the future of English rugby is great.”
— Danny Care.
England have struggled in recent years by keeping ahold of older players because of their experience which blocks the young and talented from breaking into the first team. This has seen old and outdated ideas continue to be implemented, such as the dominance of the powerful forwards continually taking the ball into first contact over more exciting play from the backs.
England seem to be well on their way to finding a middle ground between the two now, with able forwards that are technically gifted, while their backs are given licence and the ball to attack the opposition at speed. Of course, this is down the Eddie Jones as well, with the England coach cultivating a side that has the ability to massively outscore their opponents and also dig in and win ugly when needed.
The Lions tour and a shift towards fielding younger players has allowed some of England’s best players to break into the side early and make their mark on the team. Vunipola is testament to this, brought in by Lancaster in 2013 and now one of the first names on the team sheet.
It is very difficult to picture an England side without the defence breaking runs that he brings along with his tenacious work rate and tackling.
Is it too much to ask that the likes of Tom Curry, Alex Lozowski and Denny Solomona could become the Vunipola’s of the next few years?