Eddie Jones' eight No 8 options for England's Quilter Internationals
Jones' England squad for the Quilter Internationals will be announced on Thursday morning
By Emma Thurston & Michael Cantillon
Last Updated: 17/10/18 11:57am
Billy Vunipola's latest injury set-back, a broken arm against Glasgow, gives England head coach Eddie Jones a selection headache at No 8.
England have an intense set of international Tests on the horizon, live on Sky Sports, with matches against South Africa, New Zealand, Japan and Australia in November.
In addition to Vunipola's absence, Exeter Chiefs' Sam Simmonds is out for six months due to an ACL injury while Wasps' Nathan Hughes is awaiting the outcome of a disciplinary process which could mean he is unavailable for selection this autumn.
As a result, England's head coach must look elsewhere to fill this key position in his back row. Here are eight possible options available to Jones...
Ben Morgan (Gloucester Rugby)
The 29-year-old last played for England against Australia during Rugby World Cup 2015. He has 31 caps to his name but never appears to be at the forefront of Jones' thinking.
From the stands at Kingsholm, England's head coach will have seen Gloucester's No 8 deliver a man-of-the-match performance against Castres last weekend. Morgan, who captained the home side, made more carries than any other player on the pitch.
The fact that he's a specialist No 8 already, and one with prior international experience, makes him one of the more natural options for inclusion.
The forward has proven before that he can have the type of impact on the gain-line that England will require this autumn, but, will need to continue developing over the coming weeks to be selected.
Zach Mercer (Bath Rugby)
This 21-year-old is a bundle of enthusiasm and energy on the rugby field and is someone that Jones has had his eye on for a while.
Mercer, who has been an apprentice in England's squad before and played against the Barbarians in May, provides the most dynamism in the loose of all of the options available. In short, he's a different type of No 8 to the rest.
The issue may still be the young man's physical size. He throws himself into every defensive set with gusto and heart but isn't as imposing as a Vunipola or Morgan, for example.
Will Jones want to risk the promising talent against South Africa and New Zealand or will he perhaps look after him and select the 21-year-old more carefully?
James Haskell (Northampton Saints)
With 77 caps and a track record of physical performances for England, the experience of this Northampton Saint may push him back into Jones' thinking.
Haskell may not have played a huge amount of rugby so far this season but, his knowledge of England's set-up and of those around him, may come to the fore.
Physicality is not ever an issue with Haskell and despite not consistently playing No 8 at club level, his knowledge of the game and commanding presence could be called upon by England.
Teimana Harrison (Northampton Saints)
The Northampton Saint is not having his name thrown into the No 8 conversation as much as some are, but he could still be a viable choice for Jones.
The 26-year-old's short England career (five matches to date) is most clearly remembered for him being substituted after 31 minutes against Australia in 2016.
Since then, Harrison has dusted himself off and this season has started every game for Saints at No 8. Most recently, his director of rugby called his performance in defeat against Clermont "unbelievable" and praised the forward's high work-rate.
Is now the time for Harrison to step back on to the international stage?
Jackson Wray (Saracens)
At club level, when Vunipola has been absent over the last few years with several ailments - be it arm, knee or shoulder injuries - Wray has been the one to invariably step up for Saracens in his place.
The 27-year-old is equally capable of performing at No 8 or flanker but though he has been at Saracens since 2009 and racked up over 200 games for the trophy-laden club, he has yet to win a cap for England.
A vastly different type of player to Vunipola or Hughes, Wray is less physically imposing but a bundle of energy nonetheless and a tackling machine. During 2016/17, his performances were such that he was named in the Premiership Rugby Team of the Year.
The summer of 2014 saw Wray called up by Stuart Lancaster to a 55-man England training squad. But he has yet - somewhat surprisingly - to be involved under Jones.
Matt Kvesic (Exeter Chiefs)
Naturally an openside flanker, Kvesic started for Exeter at No 8 in the absence of Simmonds against Munster last weekend and was one of the best players on the pitch.
The 26-year-old made a phenomenal 25 tackles - the most of anyone - missing none, while he also made 16 carries - no one for the Chiefs made more - and earned a turnover.
Kvesic has not started a Test for England since June 2013, though, and has only earned three caps to date - the last of which came off the bench in May 2016.
"For me, that ship has sailed," he said of England to the Rugby Paper in August. "I've not been in the frame for so long now. Even when I have been playing what I've considered to be some of my best rugby, I've still never had much of a look in...I don't know if it's gone for good for me but it certainly feels that way." Could he be afforded a chance?
Brad Shields (Wasps)
The freshest arrival of our eight listed options, Shields only arrived on English soil in September for Wasps from the Hurricanes in New Zealand.
The 27-year-old Kiwi-born backrow qualifies for the national side through his English grandparents and English-born parents, and made his debut in June during their series defeat in South Africa.
Shields made All Black training squads in 2012 and 2016, and is highly thought of in both hemispheres.
More accustomed to playing on the flank, he has featured at No 8 and is a viable option for Jones having recovered from a fractured cheekbone sustained in September.
Don Armand (Exeter Chiefs)
Our second Exeter Chief on the shortlist, Armand has developed into one of the most physical players in the Premiership over the last few seasons.
The 30-year-old is versatile and capable of playing across the backrow, and has featured in the second row too.
The Zimbabwe-born forward has picked up two caps for England to date, coming off the bench to play at flanker against Argentina in June 2017 and off the replacements to face Ireland at No 8 in March.
Armand was overlooked for the tour to South Africa in the summer.
Jones' England squad for the Quilter Internationals will be announced on Thursday morning with coverage from Twickenham Stadium on Sky Sports News.
#Followtherose this autumn as all of England's Tests are live on Sky Sports throughout November and the series starts on with Saturday 3 November against South Africa before clashes against New Zealand, Japan and Australia.