An England XV for the first test against New Zealand


With injuries and the Premiership final ruling many players out of the first test in New Zealand in a few weeks’ time, Stuart Lancaster will field a new look England team. Here’s our shot at what that team might look like.

15. Mike Brown
A no-brainer, provided he comes through an injury scare from the semi-final. If not, Chris Pennell could be given a chance – who would have seen that coming at the beginning of the season?

14. Marland Yarde
Stormed back into form after a wobbly initial return from injury. Has a brilliant chance to prove he’s England’s answer on the wing.

13. Manu Tuilagi
Continues to look dangerous whenever he has the ball and has developed his offloading game. The one player the All Blacks have admitted to being worried about.

12. Billy Twelvetrees
Another waiting on an injury scare, but everyone wants to see what the Twelvetrees/Tuilagi partnership can do in midfield. Should he fail a fitness test, Kyle Eastmond will get a chance.

11. Jonny May
Wasn’t convincing in the Six Nations, so needs to grab this opportunity by the scruff of the neck. A poor tour could see his international career come to an abrupt end.

10. George Ford
Barring an injury in the Amlin Cup final this weekend, Ford will start at 10. A precocious talent who has had a brilliant season, it will be intriguing to see how he goes against the world’s best.

9. Danny Care
Another no-brainer – Care was the heart and soul of Harlequins’ late run to the play-offs. Needs to make sure his box-kicking is on the money against NZ’s back three, though.

1. Joe Marler
New scrummaging laws has seen Marler excel at the set piece for Quins and England. Will be itching to get his teeth into New Zealand’s front row.

2. Dave Ward
Whether Rob Webber returns from injury or not, Ward has been the standout English hooker this season and more than deserves to start the first test.

3. Dave Wilson
As with the Six Nations, tighthead is Lancaster’s biggest concern. He will have everything crossed that Wilson gets through the Amlin final unscathed.

4. Joe Launchbury
Another fine season from Wasps’ baby-faced assassin. Only ever gives 100% and has done more than enough to fight off an impressive group of challengers for his spot.

5. Dave Attwood
In Lawes’ absence and given Parling’s lack of rugby, Attwood may be given a chance to start. Having deputised for a long time, he will be eager to take his chance.

6. James Haskell
Haskell has probably been the player of the close season – the only risk is that his versatility will see him consigned to bench duty. Will be between him and Tom Johnson.

7. Chris Robshaw
England’s captain will be available for the first test, which will be a huge boost to Lancaster et al in what will be a much changed team.

8. Ben Morgan
With no Billy Vunipola, Ben Morgan will get a chance to stamp some authority on this shirt. Up against the best player in his position in the world, he will have to be at his best.

16. Rob Webber/Luke Cowan-Dickie
17. Matt Mullan
18. Henry Thomas
19. Geoff Parling
20. Tom Johnson
21. Ben Youngs
22. Danny Cipriani
23. Anthony Watson

We also thought it would be interesting to put together an XV for the Barbarians game the day after the Premiership final. Obviously anyone involved in that final won’t be available, and we’re working under the assumption that those who will play in the first test will be among the group on the first plane to NZ, that leaves the Tuesday before the Baa Baas game. It’s a fairly hypothetical exercise, but here’s what that team might look like:

Possible England XV to play Barbarians:
15. Chris Pennell
14. Semesa Rokoduguni
13. Elliot Daly
12. Kyle Eastmond
11. Charlie Sharples
10. Henry Slade
9. Joe Simpson
1. Nathan Catt
2. Luke Cowan-Dickie/Tommy Taylor
3. Kyle Sinckler
4. Ed Slater
5. Michael Paterson
6. Jamie Gibson
7. Luke Wallace
8. Dave Ewers

What do you make of the above teams? Would you change anything?

By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

32 thoughts on “An England XV for the first test against New Zealand

  1. I would start with Webber if he’s fit. The only reason being is that aside from Robshaw and Twelvetrees, there aren’t really any other leaders in the squad. As far as I’m aware they are the only two who have captained their clubs before?!
    That is the only real issue with this squad for me is the lack of leadership. Look at the players missing through either injury or Prem final, and a few of them are on the field leaders. Wood, Parling, Hartley to name a few.

  2. So how far this that XV for the first test from Englands first choice?

    Wade over May. Farrell over Ford. Corbs over Marler. Hartley over Ward. Cole over Wilson. Lawes over Attwood. Wood over Haskell. Vunipola over Morgan.

    So 8 of the 15 are not available. Very, very rarely does an international team take the field with the exact first choice 15 available – but that is a large chunk missing.

    It says a lot for our strength in depth that I still feel as though that side will do a very good job.

    On the BaaBaas team, will they risk Eastmond? I was thinking Twelvetrees was out of this tour initially, so surely they won’t risk Eastmond considering that Twelvetrees still could only be a maybe going into the week of the test.

    1. Yeah you could well be right – if there’s a worry about Twelvetrees for the first test they probably wouldn’t risk Eastmond. Sam Hill or Anthony Allen?

      1. Personally it makes more sense to me to give Sam Hill a go, especially with Slade inside him.

        1. Yeah I agree – either those two or a Burns/Allen combo I think. Given that it’s a Baa Baas game though, I’d go with the Exeter boys.

          1. Burns is a weird one. He is still being mentioned for the NZ tour, but I can’t think of anything worse for him right now. I wouldn’t give him this game either. I’d go with the Exeter two.

            Is there a real possibility of Burns being without a club next year? I keep expecting an announcement, but there’s every chance the Leicester have gone off the idea of signing him. Where else can he go?

            1. Well – it is well known that there are “a couple of big names” who will sign for Bristol if they get promoted.

              Not sure that Burns is one of them, but you never know.

              On the face of it, he would be better off competing with Nicky Robinson and Adrian Jarvis, than with Owen Williams.

  3. Actually looks a very good side, though I think 12T may miss the first test (at least), so they will probably give Eastmond a run. A centre partnership which actually excites me a lot more! Also the prospect of Care and Ford, probably the most dangerous half-backs we’ve had since… I have no idea. Have England ever had that much running threat from our 9/10?

    Really hope a few of the baabaa match players put their hand up- I am looking at you Daly, Still maintain he is a future England centre, only below Tuilagi in terms of potential class.

    Also given Parling’s lack of game-time, think he may miss out and they will have Slater on the bench. Obviously a lion is a loss in terms of experience, but think Slater is playing better at the moment and has such potential. I would argue for him over Atwood if there wasn’t the line-out calling issue (unless Launchbury is capable?).

  4. I think this side has the potential to really surprise the All Blacks. A lot of strength in depth here.

  5. I really want to see Eastmond start the first test. That makes a very dangerous half back and centre partnership, and Eastmond may be more of an unknown quantity to NZ.

    1. Whilst I agree Eastmond should be given a shot if Twelvetrees is injured; is no one else worried about the prospect of that?

      He is clearly an extremely exciting talent. But he weighs 26kg less than Ma’a Nonu (80kg against 106kg). Defending against that for 80 minutes will surely be an issue. Whilst I’ve not seen any evidence that Eastmond is poor defensively; surely physics dictates that his body can not take Nonu running straight down his channel all day long?

      I hope I’m wrong, as there’s a decent chance he will be forced into action in the first test.

      1. Jacob, on the face of it it may appear to be an issue, but he has been going all season (outside Ford) defending 12 in the Aviva Premiership, and I am not sure that many attacks have got the better of him. Counter intuitively, the bigger issue may well be Tuilagi at 13 as he is know to be a little impetuous in his defensive discipline.

        1. Completely agree that Tuilagi has a tendancy to fly out the line looking for the bit hit – but his timing on that has improved considerably.

          And I did say that I’ve seen no evidence of poor defence from Eastmond – but Nonu is a different beast to anyone he has faced in the Premiership in terms of carrying.

      2. It would be a concern, and would be an area you would expect NZ to target. On the other hand, as Eastmond is untested at this level, the combination of him and Tuilagi might cause NZ a load of issues defensively. The main point is that we won’t know unless we try it!

  6. I think both teams look pretty good actually, especially considering those still to come back. Strangely, i think the Barbarians team excites me more!

    Are you going with Slade because you think Cipriani will tour or just not play? Personally i would like to see him play with the opportunity to fly out if he does well, he has the ability to make an impact.

    1. Went with Slade on the basis that I don’t think anyone playing against Baa Baas will feature in first test – they don’t arrive until the 4th, and 3 days isn’t long enough to integrate into a squad to play the ABs (plus I think team announcement will be before that anyway).

      Cipriani is next in line after Ford for me, so he benches and doesn’t play v Baa Baas. Slightly annoying that both he and Myler are playing that weekend as it would have been good to see either of them play v Baa Baas – realistically I don’t think Slade will be going to NZ.

  7. Henry

    Apart from Stuart Barnes, Bev Risman & Richard Sharp. Latter 2 @ least, likely before you were born?

    1. A little before my time! Even Barnes. I think I was 3 when he got the last of his England caps. Have grown up through a Andrew, Wilkinson, Flood and Farrell era…

  8. Eastmond may well be a surprise to the ABs, just as much as he may be to England in fact. Ditto Ford. However, Nonu won’t just run down (potentially anyway) Eastmond’s channel all day, he’ll likely side step him, inside or out, as well.

    Why didn’t SL blood these guys @ least during the 6N? What, with his avowed ‘youth’ policy, esp as he’s known about this tour for ages & that all teams suffer injury?

    Tuilagi at 13 is likely as he’s a known to SL, even tho ‘he is know to be a little impetuous’ & not just ‘in his defensive discipline’. Ask Chris Ashton. Ouch!

    ‘The combination of Eastmond and Tuilagi might cause NZ a load of issues defensively’. Well they might, but 1st they’ll need the ball, which might be an issue in itself. Also NZ have a pretty tight ‘D’, esp @ home & more tried & tested attacks didn’t get much change out of them last season, so, IMO, it’s gonna be tough for England whoever’s in their midfield. Not impossible, but not easy either. And when on attack, the England centres will need to make more space & time for their wide men & display more invention… but that’s another old chestnut story.

    Regrettably, I doubt that Cipriani may play unless there’s injury @ fly1/2. I don’t think England trust him, or ever will, even tho ‘he has the ability to make an impact’… as v Ireland when he had the opp. Any of the other England 10’s capable of doing the same?

    As H asked tho; ‘Have England ever had that much running threat from our (9/) 10’? I suppose @ 9, Dawson, maybe Bracken, ran it a bit. Maybe Youngs, Care? But a real running 1/2back threat like the Saffa, van der Westhuizen? Running threat from fly1/2 tho, it has to be Cip or Ford surely?

    1. Tualagi has to start as he is a game changer.

      “Why didn’t SL blood these guys @ least during the 6N? What, with his avowed ‘youth’ policy, esp as he’s known about this tour for ages & that all teams suffer injury?”

      Because the guys he did play have little experience and they needed the experience they gained.

      “IMO, it’s gonna be tough for England whoever’s in their midfield”

      Totally agree but that applies right across the park, playing the ABs is tough for all players who ever you are.

    2. Don, you don’t think that England will ever trust Cipriani?

      I think that the fact he has returned to the wider squad suggests that they will do trust him.

      Whether he proves good enough to play is another matter of course and will depend on his actions during the squad sessions.

      For me, I suspect he has a very reasonable chance of dragging himself up to third choice in the near term, which probably means a bench place in the 1st Test.

      He is very talented – undoubtedly – but we should also remember that he has been poor (on the pitch) at times in the past. He hasn’t always been the maverick game-changer that he is sometimes portrayed as.

  9. Good pick. I think when all is said and done, that first test XV isn’t bad. Especially considering the injuries we’ve had and absences during six nations.

    Only one I’d disagree with is Haskell at 6. I’d give Johnson or Wallace a go.

  10. It’s all very well talking about centre combos and so on but we’re playing the All Blacks here. The best team in the world for the last 3-4 years. Unbeaten for however long with the (marvelous) exception of us doing them at Twickenham.

    They’ll be looking to put a marker down for the RWC by giving us a good hiding.

    Going to NZ is hard enough but going without half your side is ludicrous. If we escape a thrashing in the first test I’ll be very relieved.

  11. Lancaster didn’t do Ford any favours when he implied that facing the haka in NZ in your very first test match would be a dry-mouthed experience. Let’s hope he’s young enough to not let it bother him. Problem is he’ll have a target on the front of his jersey. Tough having a rookie as your playmaker. Still, all good luck to him and England although England will also be up against history – they’ve beaten the ABs in NZ only twice. 2002 and 2003.

  12. Cadence Mayberry

    You’re right in that ‘Lancaster didn’t do Ford any favours’ regrding the haka… but, IMO, more so by NOT blooding him prev @ Int’al level. Talk about the deep end.

    FYI John Pullin’s side won 16-10 @ Eden Pk in 1973 & the 2002 win was @ Twickenham, not in NZ, but you’re correct about 2003.

  13. In a strange way it might benefit england to start the 1st test understrength. Losing a game you aren’t given much of a chance in won’t damage confidence and morale the way it might losing with a full team. It gives england a chance to come into series without too much pressure.

  14. ExpatChief

    But he’s left his fly1/2 & midfield (@ least 1) novices totally exposed @ Int’al level. Surely he could & should have played Ford/Cip, Eastmond (or whoever) v Italy/Scotland. I mean as an intro (or reintro for Cip) it would hardly have been hi risk would it?

    This is partly why I ? Lancaster’s insight, i.e., in this instance, his lack of foresight. On TV he always sounds the part, is erudite & talks a convincing game, but he seems unaware of England’s issues (e.g. lack of midfield invention & inability to create space out wide) let alone have the awareness to address them.

    I don’t doubt his sincerity or work ethic. These are good quals of course, but IMO England needs & will need, esp in NZ, more guile than he & his team offers with a relatively inexp team, certainly 1st up? And I predict that Tui ain’t gonna run amok like @ Twick in 2012.

  15. Buzz

    Agree. Mostly, altho NZ have been the best team for a few more yrs than 3-4 & the Twick win ought to be taken with a grain of salt & it’ll count for little come June.

    Too late now tho, but England ought to have neg a better deal long ago… for their sake.

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