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