An England XV to play France

england huddle

15. Mike Brown
A no-brainer here. Brown’s form in the autumn makes him one of the first names inked into the team – the one thing we’d like to see him add is a desire to fade into the line more, something that Alex Goode actually does very well.

14. Anthony Watson
Is Watson the biggest success story of the season? More often seen at fullback, his performance on the wing recently against the Tigers showed that he is equally as comfortable on the end of the line. And that was on the narrow pitch of Welford Road – imagine what he can do in the wide expanses of Twickenham.

13. Luther Burrell
There are no out-and-out 13s in the squad, so it’ll be between Burrell and Barritt for this spot. While the latter combined well with Twelvetrees against Scotland last year, surely this is Burrell’s time. The threat he offers in attack is so much greater (ask yourself who you think the French would rather face?), and his offloading game should bring the wingers into the action. Also has much better distribution than people give him credit for.

12. Billy Twelvetrees
Twelvetrees needs a big Six Nations. He has all the right attributes to be the future in the England 12 shirt, and appears to have Lancaster’s backing, but has yet to really live up to potential on the international stage. If he and Burrell gel, it could be a devastating partnership. If it doesn’t, Kyle Eastmond will be breathing down his neck.

11. Jonny May
There is no substitute for raw pace, and a partnership of Watson and May would have it in abundance. One of Ashton’s strengths is his reading of the game, and knowing where to be and when, something that May does equally well – the difference being that the Gloucester man is excellent at exploiting it. Some of the tries he has scored this year have been breathtaking.

10. Owen Farrell
With George Ford pressing his case, Farrell’s form has gone somewhat under the radar. He has been looking sharp for Sarries, and hopefully, finally, he can make the England back-line click. Standing flatter would be a start, but with Ford likely to be on the bench he will know there is someone that can spark a back-line available if he fails to do it.

9. Danny Care
There are four scrum-halves in the squad, and while Ben Youngs might be the favourite long term, he has struggled for form with the Tigers. Danny Care has been playing with the carefree zip that he made his name for, so why not let him bring that onto the international stage? If his control of the game isn’t looking up to scratch, Youngs, Wigglesworth or Dickson are all valuable options from the bench.

1. Mako Vunipola
With Corbisiero injured it is between Vunipola and Marler for this spot, and Vunipola’s destructive capabilities in the loose give him the edge. Neither have Corbisiero’s scrummaging prowess, but both can more than hold their own there, so it comes down to who offers more around the park – and that is the Saracens man.

2. Dylan Hartley
Both Hartley and Tom Youngs are in superlative form, but the Northampton captain was one of England’s best players in the autumn and deserves to keep going in the starting shirt.

3. Dan Cole
Cole’s form for Leicester has been brilliant this season, after many people thought he had gone off the boil towards the end of last year. His scrummaging is still excellent, and he brings a lot of endeavour in the loose – he is still one of the best front row forwards in world rugby at the breakdown.

4. Courtney Lawes
Lawes’ successful stint as line-out master in the autumn proved that he has acquired a shrewdness to go with his well-known physicality. Both will be needed as England go up against a solid French set-piece and imposing pack.

5. Joe Launchbury
England’s most consistent performer in the autumn, Launchbury is the perfect foil to the eye-catching nature of Lawes’ game. The ‘unseen’ work is a bit of a clichĂ©, but it is exactly what Launchbury does so well. The engine of a back-rower in a lock’s body.

6. Tom Wood
One half of England’s much-talked about six-seven duo, Wood is as vital a cog in the England machine as any. He was more obvious with ball in hand in the autumn, which was encouraging to see, while his defensive work rate never dipped below the highest level.

7. Chris Robshaw (c)
A leader by example, Chris Robshaw at times seems to be everywhere on the rugby pitch. His ability as a link man is well documented, and his dubbing as a non-genuine seven often detracts from the excellent work he does do at the breakdown. In combination with Wood, it is a partnership on the flanks that should go on for many years.

8. Billy Vunipola
England’s wrecking ball, big Billy’s acclimatisation to Twickenham in the autumn should see him now more comfortable in the climes of the international arena. If he gets his ball-carrying game going, England have a sure-fire source of front foot ball.

16. Tom Youngs
17. Joe Marler
18. Henry Thomas
19. Ed Slater
20. Ben Morgan
21. Ben Youngs
22. George Ford
23. Jack Nowell

By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

22 thoughts on “An England XV to play France

  1. Well that ruins the debate – it is almost the exact 23 I’d go for.

    Only change I’d make is to swap Care and Youngs round.

    Also, with Burrell not being in the EPS, and Eastmond/Barritt being in there, can we assume he is still beneath them in the pecking order, or am I reading into that too much?

  2. Why choose twelvetrees?? He’s been poor for Gloucester and poor for England!

    Should be 12. Burell and 13 Barrett

  3. Good thing about that 23 is the strength on the bench. You could easily have all the bench places in the starting 15 and vice versa. Exciting times ahead!

  4. Agree with pretty much everything.

    I would go with youngs over care, who i never really rated.

    I would like to see vunipola, b. Step up and take control, he has the traits and started well in the autumn.

    I still think Farrell is a problem, he will not get the backline moving, although i agree that for this game with so many new players ford will have to wait. I would like to see him get at least three matches in this 6N. We could barrit in with Ford for more stability. Tough on burrell. Looking forward to this one.

    I am concerned that ashton will be in on the count of his experience in an unexperienced team, they are going to Paris after all.

    1. Farrell can get the back line moving if the style of play is right. England’s recent style of play has not been right. Is that down to the coaching? Or the way he’s being told to play? Probably! He’s had the backline moving at Sarries very well this season, hence the 35 tries they’ve scored so far in the Premiership alone. You can’t lay all the blame at his door. But I would actually play Wigglesworth above Youngs or Care because at the moment surely your 8, 9 & 10 should be playing together as much as possible? Wiggy has shown great form so far this season, and playing behind a powerful mobile pack will suit him.

  5. Spot on – You know that Lancaster will pick Ashton, Barritt and Ben Youngs against France though because he is stubborn.

  6. Interesting that Jonny May is playing 13 for Gloucester this weekend. Maybe Lancaster asked Davies to do that just like he was rumoured to have asked Mike Ford to play Watson on wing last weekend? If he had plans to play him at 13 would make a little bit more sense to him picking 4 12s

  7. Think I would have Attwood on the bench over Slater.

    Difficult to know which 2 from 3 to pick out of Nowell, Watson and May. Nowell may find it the most difficult of the 3 with England’s lack of creativity (he seems to be the one that comes in the most) so I would be happy to go with the real gas men.

    Scrum half is the trickiest:
    – Not Dixon, because he’s not a good combination with Farrell (don’t like 2 non-running half backs, no one holds any defenders)
    – Care worries me a bit because he, a bit like Flood, never seems to quite translate the club form into great international performances.
    – Wigglesworth, not sure, understand the point on the benefits of a familiar 8-9-10, but is he really the guy to take us forward to 2015?
    – Youngs, hard to argue he’s the form pick, but he’s a good combination with Farrell (Lions) and the most accomplished international performer out of the quartet. I think I would go with Youngs to start, as we have to start capping our most likely 2015 combinations together as much as possible, with Care off the bench.

    Bit worried if ‘Moose’ is unavailable, especially with France being first up and Domingo obliterating Cole last year. Thomas seems more of a ‘good in the loose’ type prop than a scrum animal.

    1. Agree with your comments in regards to the 9 slot. My issue with Care is that his boxing kicking is poor at Premiership standard, let alone international. Some facets of his game are fantastic, but a good box kick is vital for a top level international scrum half.

      Youngs is superb in this area, and whilst he is not on top form I’m with you on the theory that he is our 9 in 2015, so we should be giving him some game time with Farrell now.

      Not convinced with Wrigglesworth, he is very much the Dickson mold, and Dickson is better at it IMO.

      I’d definitely give Youngs the 9 shirt, with either Dickson or Care off the bench.

  8. For me, Youngs to start and Wigglesworth on the bench. I agree with Jacob that he is of the Dickson mould BUT I feel he poses far more of a running threat (than Dickson, not Care/Youngs).

    I take the old point about “impact” subs and “broken game/tired defenders”, BUT take a look at the other 7 subs.

  9. So, I would be very happy with that 23.

    I would have Youngs/Wigglesworth as the two nines however (its really a wide-open position for England at the moment isn’t it?).

    I would also swap the start/subs of;


  10. I admit that farrell has looked good for sarries this year, but,

    1 everyone playing for sarries has looked good this year, they are playing really well nd so is the pack.

    2 sarries have looked just as good if not better when farrell has not played at 10, I don’t think he can do it at international level. That said, he is a great kicker and defender and we have to decide what kind of game we want to play.

    As for 9 youngs is the 9, all players will go through ups and downs but he is penciled in for 2015. He needs a big 6N more for himself.

    I would pove to see may at 13, 12ts can pass a ball if anything and it would be great to see someone threaten the outside shoulder, can’t see it though.

  11. Farrell has managed a grand total of zero try assists in the premiership this season. Has a of table percentage and has already given away eight penalties even though he’s only played around 540 mins of rugby in the prem. He is a useful tool and very useful on the bench but it’s time for England to move on.

    1. I’ve said similar for a while to be honest. What Martin Johnson got right was the halfback work and Youngs/Flood for 60 minutes to bash and attack and break the gainline followed by Wilkinson/Care to hold out the game was something that I thought could have continued with Owen Farrell in place of Wilkinson. However, England are now in a position where throwing any of the other options into the Flood position would potentially be suicide. Wouldn’t mind seeing the option of Ford starting for Italy or Scotland though.

  12. Agree on the pack, would probably start with Marler, but is really a coin toss. Only thought is with the world cup round the corner we need too see more combinations tried inthe pack, mainly second and back row as we will get injuries there.

    My main concern is the Farrell 36, link up. To me Farrell uses up 36 space and time by running sideways, if he off loads at all. If that doesn’t work then doesn’t really matter who is outside. Would love to see the three wingers listed, but doubt itwill happen Ashton will get another run.

    Would also like to see another option available than brute force at 13 (not such an issue with Burrell) give another option if plan A dosent work, being a glos fan I would have liked to see Trinder brought in as has been doing well on scraps.

  13. I agree with pack though properly would put marler instead of mako

    Also would have youngs at 9 instead of care I feel youngs is a better distributer than care but defiantly have care on bench

    Saying that I think I would like Tom youngs starting over Hartley they both excellent at scrum time and Hartley is more consistent in the line out but youngs is getting loads better with his consistancy in that area but feel youngs is a much much dominat and powerful ball Carrie than Hartley maybe also has a slight edge work rare compared to Hartley

    I think the back line looks good as manu is injured I think Burrell will do good as will Watson he looked great against leicester if twelvetrees doesn’t have a good first test I think we should give eastmond ago. Farrell has to sit flatter to give us a better attacking platform if he doesn’t I think ford should be given the nod as flood isn’t there and bench Farrell.

  14. I agree with the starting line up but

    I think Marler should start and bring mako on to cause havoc in the last half hour…

    I think Dickson is not good enough and the Youngs/ Care combo is by far our best…

    Twelvetrees needs to step up now and if the combination with Burrell works well… Does that leave a space for Manu on the left wing for World Cup time an exciting prospect…

    Also Atwood should be in at reserve 2nds and Kyle eastmond on the bench for his versatility, game changing ability and excitement and to use him as an impact player to tear through a tired French defence

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