- Saracens edge closer to completing a domestic and European double
- An exciting blend of youth and experience players are heading to Australia
- A victory against Wales will maintain England’s momentum going into the summer tour
Looking back at the semi-finals, I actually thought Wasps might nick that one but Exeter Chiefs are such a strong side at home. Saracens though were the ones that surprised me. I never thought I'd see a Leicester Tigers side get rolled over that badly, especially when there was so much to play for. They are a little less experienced and I believe they will bounce back all the stronger for it.
Floating on a carpet of confidence
I think Saracens are continuing to build really nicely. They have their detractors for this perception of how they play the game but there's little basis of evidence for this so-called boring style. On reflection, it reminds me of the successful times with Leicester. When you're one of the best and you keep winning, people want to knock you.
Saracens are a side that are very capable of scoring tries. They do it frequently and play a winning style of rugby. They look after the ball when they have it and if that means using multiple phases to get down to the other end and take their time to create the space for Wyles or Ashton, they can do that. If it means taking the points that are on offer because they've had prolonged periods of pressure in particular areas of the field and they need a drop goal or three points as a reward for that, they'll take them. It's all about winning.
Personally, I cannot see Exeter beating Sarries. Yes it's a one-off game at Twickenham and any team has a shot but the confidence Saracens have from smashing a historically strong team like Leicester in a key knock out game, on top of winning the Champions Cup for the first time in their history, with a core of Grand Slam winners as well – they are floating on a carpet of confidence and euphoria at the moment.
Eddie Jones' additions
Eddie is clearly having a good look at some youth in the build up to the Australia tour. Following Stuart Lancaster's reign, there is a big group of players that have played a lot of rugby for England. Eddie can therefore afford to bring in the likes of Ben Te'o, Kyle Sinckler, Teimana Harrison and Ellis Genge.
In Genge, there's an inexperienced player in terms of Premiership game time but there's no doubt he shows great potential. It's a remarkable call up for a young man who has had to overcome some personal challenges, but has the hunger to reach to the top, which is something that Eddie looks for in players.
Another interesting inclusion is Marland Yarde over Chris Ashton. Eddie Jones is not just going to go on what people think. Chris is obviously a try scoring machine but playing at international level is more than just skillset, it's attitude as well and you have to fit in to that environment. At the top level, having the right mindset separates a good player from a great player. Perhaps Eddie Jones believes Marland Yarde brings a bit more of the fight and temperament.
I like the inclusion of Ollie Devoto aswell. With Tuilagi out with injury, it's a great chance for him to put a marker down ahead of Luther Burrell. He's in that Will Greenwood mould as he's tall, lean, but stronger and a bit more physical. He reads the game instinctively and has that ability to offload, play and kick – he's an exciting inclusion.
Seeing Matt Kvesic in the training squad for Sunday's game with a chance to add to his two England caps is great, he's deserving of a place. Whenever I watch him play he's standout over the breakdown, aggressive and strong. I hope he gets a chance and has a brilliant game. He won’t be going to Australia unless there's injury but hopefully he plays well in South Africa with the Saxons because he's been so good.
Taking on Wales
It's a very tough warm-up game for a tour that will be even tougher but it's a perfect match in that sense. It's more of a challenge than the traditional Barbarians game you often see at this time and in Wales they're playing a side that will always front up so the boys will have to be at their best.
They will really want to go and get a win to keep the bandwagon rolling from the Grand Slam and to give them good momentum going onto Australia. There have only been three England sides that have ever won on Australian soil. This side is playing some really attractive rugby so they have a chance, but Australia at home will not roll over for anyone.