An England XV to take on the Pumas


Although it seems like all roads lead to Australia at the moment, with focus on the Lions tour at an all-time high, the appointments of Rob Baxter and Paul Gustard to England’s coaching staff for the summer tour to Argentina, remind us that there is more going on this summer than just a Lions tour. Here is a look at the potential team which could line-up against the Pumas.

1. Mako Vunipola (Saracens)
Mooted by some as a potential Lions bolter, he is an intriguing prospect for Warren Gatland, but is arguably behind Cian Healy, Gethin Jenkins, Ryan Grant and a fit Alex Corbisiero in the pecking order. If Corbisiero is fit, and able to find form in time, he should be on the Lions tour, and if he isn’t, then, by the same merit, shouldn’t be on England’s tour either. An unimpressive Six Nations campaign for Joe Marler should have helped catapult Vunipola into the starting line-up for the Argentina tour.

2. Joe Gray (Harlequins)
With both Rory Best and Ross Ford failing to overly impress during the Six Nations, both Tom Youngs and Dylan Hartley could find themselves on the plane to Australia, leaving Joe Gray primed to take over the number two jersey, and prove he is more than just a solid Premiership player.

3. Henry Thomas (Sale Sharks)
Dan Cole is a certainty for the Lions squad and Thomas, one of the bright stars in Sale’s tough season, could be given preference over David Wilson, Cole’s long term backup. Wilson has shown glimpses of his ability at the international level, but nothing consistently, and Lancaster could look to blood Thomas in one of the most fierce scrummaging tests in international rugby.

4. Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints)
Lawes seems to have lost his place in the England side to Joe Launchbury, and this tour could come at the perfect time for him to reiterate his claim for a starting spot, with both Launchbury and Geoff Parling likely on Lions duty.

5. George Robson (Harlequins)
Calls for Robson to be given an opportunity with England have been quietened recently by the emergence of Launchbury, but there is no denying his form over the last couple of the seasons should warrant him a ticket on the plane to Argentina. Tom Palmer and Mouritz Botha are other options, particularly if Lancaster wants to add some experience to what will be a largely youthful team.

6. James Haskell (London Wasps)
A lot of new players will be blooded on this tour, so keeping some of the older heads in the team will be vital. Potentially both Tom Wood and Chris Robshaw will be with the Lions, leaving Haskell as arguably the best all-round back rower available to Stuart Lancaster. Tom Croft is another experienced option here.

7. Matt Kvesic (Worcester Warriors)
A hugely exciting talent, Kvesic has been knocking on England’s door for the best part of a year. Barring a dramatic call-up for the Toulon’s Steffon Armitage, the seven shirt will be a direct competition between Kvesic and Will Fraser.

8. Ben Morgan (Gloucester)
Morgan gets the nod over Billy Vunipola based on his maturity and control of the ball at the scrum, but expect the youngster to get plenty of game time off of the bench.

9. Danny Care (Harlequins)
It’s a big call. Ben Youngs makes the Lions squad and Care doesn’t. With Youngs unavailable, Care is clearly top of Lancaster’s pecking order at nine, but there will be stiff competition from Joe Simpson and Lee Dickson, both of whom have been in excellent form over the last month.

10. Toby Flood (Leicester Tigers)
With Owen Farrell tipped as a Lion, this is a shootout between Flood and Freddie Burns. Expect Lancaster to start Flood, as he seems unwilling to cast aside the perennial back-up, but it won’t hurt Burns to get some experience off the bench, as opposed to be thrust into the starting line-up.

11. Christian Wade (London Wasps)
As exciting a player as you’ll find in the Premiership. Calls for Wade to play in the Six Nations may have been slightly premature, but he should get his opportunity in Argentina. He faces stiff competition from Johnny May, but the Wasps flyer has the advantage at the moment.

12. Billy Twelvetress (Gloucester)
After his inclusion in England’s initial Six Nations squad as cover for the injured Manu Tuilagi, Twelvetrees was highly impressive on his debut. He showed enough then to warrant him being given another opportunity this summer, with Brad Barritt potentially making way.

13. Jonathan Joseph (London Irish)
Manu Tuilagi is another certainty for the Lions tour, and Joseph should prove to be a very adequate replacement. Joseph’s place in the England team is anything but a certainty however, and he will have to fight off competition from Elliot Daly, whose versatility could be highly desirable for Lancaster.

14. Tom Varndell (London Wasps)
Varndell is the leading try scorer in the Premiership and fully warrants a second chance at the international level. Chris Ashton has struggled for form for a while now, and barring a sensational end to the season with Saracens, should not be starting in Argentina. Charlie Sharpes, Ugo Monye and David Strettle are also all in contention.

15. Mike Brown (Harlequins)
Lancaster could do worse than giving Brown some playing time at his natural position, and the competition with Ben Foden could bring the best out of both players. Alex Goode is a potential Lion given his versatility, and isn’t considered on that basis.

by Alex Shaw (@alexshawsport)

56 thoughts on “An England XV to take on the Pumas

  1. Changes I would have made: Croft for Haskell, Fraser for Kvesic, Simpson for Care, Burns for Flood and May for Varndell. Still an exciting team though, and nice that there are so many options!

    1. Tend to agree – if we’re using this as a bit of a development tour, playing Flood is pointless as he’s England’s elder statesmen as it is. Fraser and Kvesic are both the future at 7 I imagine, so one has to start and one on the bench ideally.

      Varndell must have made some enemies somewhere in the England setup, otherwise it defies belief that he’s not even in the Saxons with his try-scoring record. As such I don’t think he’ll tour.

  2. I’m still incredibly suspect about Wade. He has potential, he’s quick, but I don’t think he’s a winger. His tackling is suspect and his defensive strategy is awful. Look to the Saints game recently. Every time Saints had the ball in space he rushes up off his wing, destroys the defensive lineand leaves a 1 on 0 attacking on the wing when the ball inevitably gets passed out. What I’d like to see though is him retrained as a scrum half. His sniping runs and distribution are pretty reasonable and he might be more useful there.

    Haskell is not needed in the England side. His best use is impact off the bench, but he’s more a liability than an advantage. Tom Croft is the much more obvious player.

    On the other wing, I still don’t see Lancaster taking a risk on someone who is just quick with little else to their game. Varndell is again incredibly dubious in defence. Looks good at Wasps but never has and I suspect never will step up at international level. I’d personally like to see Tom Biggs step up, but I suspect Charlie Sharples will get his recall and maybe Strettle

    1. Wade to scrum-half is an odd one. It’s a pretty specialist position and from what I’ve seen from Wade his distribution isn’t great. Easier to teach him some defensive alignment than all the intricacies of scrum-half play.

      Agree on Tom Biggs though, he always looks classy for Bath (despite his ridiculous hair) and is as strong a defender as any wing out there. Would put him up the pecking order above Sharples and Strettle – although Sharples probably deserves another shot at some point, I think he’s been a little hard done by.

      1. I pointed this out recently but when Jason Robinson was first chosen for England, a number of the pundits complained that his defence and positioning was nowhere near good enough for an international player.

        Worked out ok though

        I am not saying that Wade will be as good as Robinson, but defence and positioning can be taught. What can’t be taught is his speed, elusiveness and eye for the line – attributes England sorely need.

        Throw him in on the Argie tour, work hard on his defence and give him a chance (don’t do a Matthew Tait on him) and he could turn out to be just waht we need

    2. when haskell was given a start on the SA tour last year he made 23 tackles, and i think he was even subbed at about 60 mins. he was also one of the top ruck hitters too.

      his ball carrying may have become less effective, but haskell offers a great deal to england. defensively he is sound, and he often provides a few good turnovers too.

  3. Was only thinking about this yesterday!

    1: Mako Vunipola
    2: Rob Webber
    3: Dave Wilson
    4: Dave Attwood
    5: Courtney Lawes
    6: Will Fraser
    7: Luke Wallace
    8: Billy Vunipola
    9: Danny Care
    10: Freddie Burns
    11: Jonny May
    12: Billy Twelvetress
    13: Jonathan Joseph
    14: Tom Biggs
    15: Alex Goode

    16: Joe Gray
    17: Henry Thomas
    18: George Robson
    19: Matt Kvesic
    20: Karl Dickson
    21: George Ford
    22: Kyle Eastmond

    Can see the benefit of taking Flood, would make good Captain otherwise Lancaster should look to Webber, Lawes or Care for leadership

    1. Do you support Bath, Andrew? I do and from games I’ve seen I don’t think Webber, Wilson or Attwood deserve to be in an England shirt. They lack a physical/aggressive edge to get on top of games.

      Bath have a really exciting back line at the moment yet still lose games because of a lack of control up front (or because of poor missed tackle from Eastmond! But arguably Bath should have been out of reach by then)

      Possible changes from the Blogs picks would be Fraser 7, Burns 10, Daly 13 & May 14. All young exciting players

      1. I do support Bath and whilst I totally understand and agree with the reasons for our disappointing Away Results my inclusions of Bath players are more than justified –

        Webber – Billed as an international quality hooker, he has had so much time off injured the tour to Argentina would do him good and he needs game time to prove he is ‘international quality’.

        Wilson – Dan Coles reserve, simple selection choice.

        Attwood – Long Shot, bit of a bald Ritchie Gray and I like that, the Argies wont. Lack of experience and the fact that he does not always start for Bath when Day, Hooper and Caldwell are all fit are negatives.

        Tom Biggs – Great Defender, can score great tries, international experience on a ‘tour that doesnt matter’ will give him the chance to develop. Regardless of the qualities of Wade/Varndell they are not good enough in defense, all they do is score tries when given the opportunity, although this sounds daft – that is not what rugby is all about, if it was Wasps would be ahead of Sarries at the top of the league, and held on against Saints at the weekend.

        Kyle Eastmond – Needs to go on this tour, he lacks the maturity at present to cope with pressure, a bit of england time will give him chance to prove he can be far better than Jason Robinson. Will be interesting where he is used.

        All of the five players from Bath that I have mentioned should go on tour, whether they will tour as first choice in their positions is another matter.

        1. As a Bath fan I agree it would be nice to see Biggs and Eastmond tour, and for Biggs to get some time in the starting XV. Abendanon has been strong for Bath all year as well, he might have already had his chances though,

          Attwood toured with England under Martin Johnson and looked one of their best players a couple of years ago, offloading out of the tackle and really getting beyond the gameline. He’s not kicked on from there and I’ve rarely seen him play up to that standard. Too many players on better form; as you say, he’s sometimes 4th choice for Bath.

          The fact there is so little to say about Wilson sums him up as a player. He’s currently a reserve because of lack of options. When Cole gets battered in the scrums he still stays on the bench, I think that shows England’s lack of confidence in him. Plus I don’t think you’d see him make many other international squads.

          Webber is probably the better of the three forwards and might tour if both hookers go to the Lions. Needs to step up a level and prob still sits behind Gray and Paice.

          1. webber is a former Leeds player under SL. we have seen SL stick with guys like this in the past (Care and Clark)

            although Care has warranted his selection, not sure if clark has, but SL has played the “i know what potential he has” card. similar was said about webber.

            also lets keep in mind that once Mears retired, Hartley and Webber were the england hookers under SL until webber got injured. Tom Youngs was called in for the AIs as cover to webber.

  4. Tom Biggs haha. Watching him play at bath he is a finisher but thats about it. He brings no xfactor and rarely roams infield looking for ball. Would be outclassed at international level.

    1. I thinks that’s a bit harsh. No, he doesn’t have the attacking nous of Ashton in his pomp, but he’s a real workhorse – isn’t afraid to get stuck into rucks if need be, solid in defence, and on more than one occasion he’s chased down a winger to avoid an almost certain try.

      1. He has improved exponentially since leaving the falcons. I just don’t think he’s the type of guy that will keep defence coaches up at night. I still think that rugby should be all about scoring tries. Wade and varndell have their defensive frailties but they more than make up for it with the amount of points they score. Plus they can’t be worse than Ashton has been during the 6N.
        Really like the look of Eastmond now. Initially thought he was going to struggle but he’s really growing game by game. He must be learning a hell of a lot from the wins and losses of baths topsy turvy season. I think George ford will really bring eastmonds skill to the fore next season. But that’s a whole season off!
        The wasps tries by varndell and daly were outstanding at the weekend as well.

    1. johnson and clark were both named in the 6 Nations EPS as 6’s before they got injured. fitness allowing, i would expect both to tour.

      clark’s versatility (ability to play 2nd row and all 3 back row spots) help his cause, plus he is a former Leeds lad under SL.

      however 6 is a shirt that england have pretty well covered at the moment, and i would expect croft or haskell to play their first before anyone else (obviously wood is no1 choice if he doesnt make the lions)

  5. Now before I start I am playing some players on form and experience. I know people are going to shoot down at least one of my selections, but think about it before doing so.

    1. Vunipola (saracens)
    2. Youngs (if not selected for Lions) (Leicester)
    3. Thomas (Sale)
    4. Borthwick (Saracens)
    5. Lawes (Northampton)
    6. Croft – Captain (Leicester)
    7. Fraser (Sarecens)
    8. Morgan (Gloucester)
    9. Simpson (Wasps)
    10. Flood (Leicester)
    11. May (Gloucester)
    12. Twelvetrees (Gloucester)
    13. Tomkins (Saracens)
    14. Wade (Wasps)
    15. Brown (Harlequins)

    16. Gray (Harlequins)
    17. Wilson (Bath)
    18. Marler (Harlequins)
    19. Robson (Harlequins)
    20. B. Vunipola (Wasps)
    21. Dickson (Northampton)
    22. Burns (Gloucester)
    23. Eastmond (Bath)

    Was in two minds about Flood or Burns to start. But as I’ve excluded Care I’ve gone for Flood to start because of experience. Simpson has been consistent for Wasps and offers great pace from the back of the scrum, which should produce good ball with Morgan at the base. Also Simpson will track Morgan if he gets up a head of steam, and pick holes in the defence.
    Not sure about the balance of the back row, but Croft needs to get back in the groove, and Fraser definitely deserves a shot.
    Back three gives a nice balance of pace, strength and vision, and with Brown at FB, should give Wade and May a chance to run off some nice counter attacking runs.
    So Flood Twelvetrees and Tomkins. Flood has the experience to bring Twelvetrees into the game more, and Tomkins is having a storming season. He has great hands, is solid in defence, and not short of pace and strength.
    Front row is a tricky one. Youngs will probably be on the Lions tour, but I’ve stuck him in anyway. Vunipola is constantly improving, and is another possible for the Lions, but I don’t think Gatland will take him.Thomas has been excellent in a poor side this season. Good in the loose, and improving in the scrum.
    And then we come to the second row, and yes I’ve gone with Borthwick. He has been outstanding for Sarries this season, and could be used as part of a leadership group, as well as his line-out prowess. Lawes could learn a lot from Borthwick, and will hopefully stay fit. Somehow I just can’t see Lancaster picking Borthwick, but I think he is a resource that if used correctly could help some of the younger guys in the squad.

    1. Hadn’t thought about Borthwick TBH, but it’s not a bad shout. Think I would still go with Robson though, he’s earned his shot, but do agree that on premiership form alone Borthwick is probably the form player.

    2. I like the balance of your back row picks. Would be quite happy to see that.

      But I will be the first to shootdown your selection of Borthwick, although I see some value in your reasons. He’s off he radar and at 33 isn’t a selection I’d want or expect Lancaster to make.

      1. I wouldn’t expect him to make it either. But with the inclusion of Gustard in the coaching set up for the tour, you never know!

      2. have to disagree with Rodgers in terms of the backrow balance.

        As we all know, Croft likes spending time out on the wings. The Wales game showed that he still does it.

        Morgan is our ball carrier, and has to be freed up to do so.

        this leaves Fraser. and here is where the problems arise.

        because neither of the other 2 backrowers are link-men or workhorses, fraser would be left to try and do both jobs, while winning his first few caps… its too much to ask of him. not to mention that in the few games i have seen him play for sarries, he too seems like a flanker who likes to carry. also, correct me if i am wrong, but does he not like popping up on the wing to score a few tries?

        all of these guys are great players in their own rights, and no doubt each has the potential to produce great rugby for england.

        But personally i think that, in an attacking capacity, they are not actually balanced.

        England had great balance with Dallaglio (carrier), Back (link-man) and Hill (workhorse). They managed to find a similar balance with Morgan (carrier), Robshaw (link-man) and Wood (workhorse).

        But the backrow of Morgan, Fraser and Croft lacks a workhorse. I think Fraser if capable of it, and also capable of linking play, but he cannot be asked to do both. Asking a single player to try and cover both of these roles brings too much strain on the balance (as we saw in the 6Ns with Robshaw being tasked with link play and ball carrying, trying to free up wood for workhorse play).

        I would more like to see someone like Callum Clark or Haskell at 6, with Fraser or Kvesic at 7. The 6’s would be tasked with work horse play, while the 7 can link. this allows Morgan or Vunipola to carry.

        at the moment croft seems to be in no-man’s-land. he is a good player, with great potential. but he does not seem to offer the right attributes to blend with england’s other backrowers.

  6. Here’s my 23

    1) Vunipola (Same logic as Alex, if Corbs is fit he should be good enough for lions)
    2) Hartley (Don’t think both he and Youngs will be selected ahead of Best)
    3) Wilson (Does provide a stable set piece)
    4) Lawes
    5) Robson (Capt and line out caller)
    6) Wood (Don’t think he’s going to get picked at the expense of 3 from Robshaw, Warburton, Tupuric, SOB, Lydiate, Jones and Brown)
    7) Kvesic (Please Lancaster don’t move Wood to 7, wouldn’t mind seeing Fraser given a game either)
    8) Vunipola (Just a hunch that if Morgan is fit that Gatland will take him as he likes his big ball carriers and Heaslip has been offering very little)
    9) Care
    10) Burns (Flood hasn’t been consistent so would rather invest in Burns, especially given selection at 12)
    11) Varndell/May (I would give them a game each)
    12) 36
    13) Tomkins/JJ (Again a game each)
    14) Wade (Not without risk, but we have to find out if he can step up, if not this tour then when?)
    15) Brown (Disagree with the comment about Goode being a likely Lion, if Gatland picks a utility back it has to be Hook. Think Brown is a better full back)

    16) Gray (Would like to see Buchannon tour as well, really like his pace and power)
    17) Marler (suffered from being a small prop in a small tight 5, but can’t think of anyone to pick ahead of him)
    18) Thomas
    19) Kitchner (you could argue for Mo Bo given the nature of the opposition, but I would rather look at a younger player who toured very well last year)
    20) Haskell (ability to cover all 3 positions)
    21) Simpson
    22) Flood
    23) Daly

    If Foden gets back to his best then I would find a slot for him in the 23, but think he’s a way off at the moment. I think Ashton needs to catch fire with Sarries (and not continue to burn in defence) before I would bring him back.

    Croft isn’t in my 23, I don’t think his return and being appalling at the breakdown were mutually exclusive. Argentina are just too good around the ruck and tackle area and we must compete and win those battles.

    1. Absolutely agree with you about Croft. A luxury player and not one England can currently afford.

      Blind-side for me, assuming no lions picks, is Wood. After that there’s Johnson and Haskell but can’t think of many others. Does Fraser play blindside as well? And is Calum Clark fit again?

      Would like to see Kitchener play at some point.

      Think that Marler has a lot more to give, just needs to get back to his natural game in the loose and get some experience in the scrums. He may be relatively small but so is Domingo and that doesn’t stop him.

      1. Domingo is about the same weight, but considerably shorter. I reckon Marler should convert to hooker, he’s young enough to learn the wrote skills and seems the right size to be a rampaging hooker. My hunch is at prop he’s always going to struggle to balance getting enough size/strength to be effective in an international scrum without compromising his ability in the loose.

        1. Not a bad call Matt but unlikely to happen at Quins with Gray and Buchanan there

          Still think he can get there. His scrummaging will get better with experience

    2. Completely agree with everything – except for your Captain! Robson is, what, fourth choice captain at Quins (behind Robshaw, Easter + Wallace?). In that team (and any England team for that matter), for me there is no question – Wood, if he’s for England and Robshaw isn’t, is the captain. Wasn’t he the man in line anyway before he got injured before last year’s 6N?

      1. Good point Mike, I went for Robson on the basis he did the job for the mid week teams last tour, but you are right Wood is a much better option.

        1. i didnt bat much of an eyelid at Matt’s call for Robson. As Matt said, he did it for the mid-weekers in SA, so clearly SL values his leadership.

          But Mike is spot on. Wood has to be the guy, if he isnt with the lions. He, like Robshaw, seems to be the human personification of the mentality under SL. plus he is a nailed on starter when fit. he leads by example, interviews well, has his head screwed on straight, and cuts the crap when things havent gone well.

          If both Wood and Robshaw tour, then another option could be (again depending on lions selection) Hartley. He captained england to the draw in SA, and was the VC under Robshaw. I think the 6Ns may have changed that A)because he wasnt starting, and B) because i would have had wood as my VC (for the above reasons)

          5 other options that i think could be more darkhorse ones would be:
          Foden – originally in the leadership group under SL. if Brown tours with the lions, then Foden could find himself back in the XV. He is smart, swtiched on, intervews well and seems to hold respect in the camp. plus he is one of the more experienced players. possibility of not making the team and proneness to errors could count against him.
          Flood – the most experienced player in Lancaster’s squad. is a leader in the camp. clear to see that when the sh*t hit the fan against Italy it was he (not robshaw) who pulled everyone in and laid down the law.
          Barritt – Mr. Reliable. Strong defender. won’t let you down. however, if this truly is a development tour, then it is likely we may not see him selected in the team. (unless the development of 36 is deemed to be so important that he plays with Brad and guys like Daly, Tomkins, Jospeh and Eastmond dont get game time)
          Croft – experienced, potential to be a world class player. has been a lion. however, may not make the XV. also, isnt the best example of a leader who roles his sleeves up, gets his hands dirty and leads by example.
          Haskell – probably the biggest wildcard of them all. has the potential to be a great player, and was touted as a future england captain and the next dallaglio. has become more of a workhorse in recent years, and will lead defence by example. chances are weakened because of A) discipline and B) competition for the 6 jersey. Even with Wood and Robshaw away he will still have to fight off Croft, Johnson and Clark for the starting shirt.

  7. As an aside, I’m really pleased that Rob Baxter is a touring coach, Gustard also seems a good decision.

    I think Lancaster made a poor decision last year to go with 3 front line coaches to cover a test and midweek team with just Callard & Halliday for support. Think this year he’s made a much better decision.

  8. My starting line up in the 1st test would be:

    1. Mako Vunipola (Saracens)
    2. Joe Gray (Harlequins)
    3. Henry Thomas (Sale)
    4. Dave Attwood (Bath)
    5. Joe Launchbury (Wasps)
    6. Tom Croft (Leicester)
    7. Will Fraser (Saracens)
    8. Billy Vunipola (Wasps)
    9. Joe Simpson (Wasps)
    10. Freddie Burns (Gloucester)
    11. Christian Wade (Wasps)
    12. Billy Twelvetrees (Gloucester)
    13. Jonathan Joseph (London Irish)
    14. Charlie Sharples (Gloucester)
    15. Ben Foden (Northampton)

    16. Rob Webber (Bath)
    17. David Wilson (Bath)
    18. Joe Marler (Harlequins)
    19. George Robson (Harlequins)
    20. Matt Kvesic (Worcester)
    21. Lee Dickson (Northampton)
    22. George Ford (Leicester)
    23. Johnny May (Gloucester)

    I would be happy with this selection as it would give yes quite a bit of inexperience but massive amounts of gas especially in the wide channels. These players need to step up and prove they are quality international players in the next few months so why not give them a tough test away in Argentina? I don’t think Launchbury will be on tour with the Lions so start him. Not too impressed with Lawes of late but he will tour to Argentina no doubt. I expect Morgan, Care, Youngs, Farrell, Barritt, Tuilagi and Mike Brown to all be involved in the Lions tour. Reasonably strong bench and an opportunity to give George Ford some game time off the bench. I don’t think there is any point in taking Flood as he’s had his opportunity and only very rarely cut it at international level.

  9. If Morgan is fit I think he’ll be in Australia. Gatland rates him.

    Pretty exciting looking team though! I hope we do see that many new caps and not the old second tier getting wheeled out again.

  10. Team I THINK SL will pick



    I think Corbs, Youngs, Cole, Parling, Launchbury, Wood, Robshaw, Morgan, Care, Youngs, Farrell, 36, Tuilagi and Brown will be in Aus.

    1. 13 englishmen in a 37 man lions squad. leaving 24 places for the other 3 nations… thats a big call.

      also that is an entire XV minus wingers (assuming brown is viewed as a 15)

      i would love to see that many englishmen, but i somehow doubt we will see them all travel.

      i do like your XV. benching ashy is a good call (gives him a kick up the backside, but lets him have the chance to prove himself). I like that you went for Foden and left Goode out too.

      i would worry that those centres as too one dimensional at this level, and maybe the backrow balance would struggle. I am starting to find that any backrow with croft seems to lack something, as he doesnt fill any of the traditional roles (carrier, workhorse or link-man).

      good team though, and i think your locks are a good call too.

        1. I should have worded it better. It isnt that Tomkins as a player is one dimensional, but it is that that pairing would cause a more one dimensional england.

          he does have an outstanding offload, and that is an extra dimension that is added, and his passing is definitely better than Barritt and Manu. but the issue with england at the moment is having someone to get the ball out wide quickly with long flat passes.

          Tomkins is very much like Sonny Bill, the kind of guy who will take it to the line and use his power to get a hand free and get an offload away. Its great for guys to run off his shoulder. Both Manu and Barritt are capable of this (they just don’t bother). The problem is, it isnt hugely difficult to prevent this type of play, and as soon as that is addressed, then you simply have yet another big guy taking the ball to the line.

          the added dimensions that a guy like Twelvetrees brings is not only the wider passes, but also the kicking game. this is hugely important, as it takes large amounts of pressure off the 10. A) because he doesnt have to do all the kicking, and B) with a 2nd kicking option, chasers can’t solely focus on the 10.

          So maybe i was being slightly harsh on Tomkins by saying it would be one dimensional, but i do think that saying a combination of Barritt and Tomkins remains limited wouldnt be wrong. neither of them provides that release for a 10. essentially, a selection of these two players would mean a need to continue with Goode at 15. But the reality is, guys like Tomkins thrive when they have runners all around them, having a danger 15 like Brown or Foden on one shoulder, with guys like Daly, Joseph or Ashton are on the other. He wouldnt thrive if he has Barritt and Goode running off him.

          However, selecting someone like 12Ts, or even Daly, adds another kicking and passing option in the backs.

          the point is, england have enough big men who take the ball to the line (and then either do, or do not, look to offload). They need a centre who is going to use the space created by dummy runners to get the ball moving to the wingers or threading kicks down the wider channels.

          I should finish by saying that i think Tomkins is a great player with huge potential. However, i would not partner him with Barritt. I would like to see him playing with either 12Ts or Eastmond inside him, or moving him to 12 with Joseph or Daly outside him.

  11. A few contentions for me, but the main one is the wingers. Varndell may be doing well in the Aviva, but I’d much rather go with Jonny May on the left and Wade on the right. Combined with Brown, that would be a very exciting back three.

  12. I would take a very big squad, for the experience of travelling and training with England. probably about 2-3 players for each shirt.

    so, being VERY optimistic, i will assume that these players tour with the Lions (the likelihood is that they won’t all go):
    One of M. Vunipola or Corbiserio, One of Hartley or T. Youngs, Cole, Launchbury, Parling, Wood, Robshaw, Morgan, B. Youngs, Farrell, Brown, Twelvetrees, Tuilagi.

    with that assumption made, this would be my touring squad for Argentina, minus the Lions players (anyone who doesnt make the lions would slot in here):
    1st choice player, then 2nd and 3rd:

    LH: Corbs/Mako, Marler, Mullan
    Hooker: Youngs/Hartley, Webber, Gray
    TH: Thomas, Wilson, Doran-Jones
    4’s: Lawes, Attwood, Kruis
    5’s: Robson, Kitchener, Gaskell
    6’s: Haskell, Croft, Clark – Johnson or Gibson could also get the nod.
    7’s: Kvesic, Fraser, Wallace – we may see the 3rd miss for another 6 to tour.
    8’s: Vunipola, Waldrom, Guest
    9?s: Care, Dickson, Simpson
    10?s: Burns, Flood, Ford – (Burns would get 10 shirt – a chance to prove)
    12’s: Barritt, Eastmond, Banahan
    13’s: Tomkins, Daly, Joseph
    Wings: Wade, May, Ashton, Sharples, Strettle
    Fulbacks: Foden, Goode, Tait

    if in the rare chance that both hartley and t. youngs go with the lions, then i would have Rob Buchanan as my 3rd hooker.
    Similarly, if both B. Youngs and Care go to Aus, then i would probably go with Ben Spencer as my 3rd 9.
    Billy Vunipola could be an uncapped lions bolter, so in that eventuality, then i would look to probably have Dowson come in, or another 6 may go. (SL loves his 6’s…)

    1. We took 42 to South Africa last year, without any midweek fixtures I don’t think we’ll see a comparable sized squad go to Argentina. Agree with you on the benefits of taking a look at a greater number of people within the national environment, but I don’t think we are going to see a lot of people go to not play. Suspect it will be an EPS sized squad.

      1. I think you are right, we won’t see a big squad, but I would have liked it.

        Does anyone know if the Saxons have anything going on in the summer, like the Churchill cup or something, because that would be a good place for a few of the names I said to be.

    2. Agree with lots of that apart from:


      I’d imagine we’ll see JTH go as one of the centres. Although i think he never really lived upto his early promise.

      Would love to see Tait back in an England shirt. Could have shone for england if it wasn’t for injuries and a shocking level of mis-management

      Some others that people have missed who may well go:


      Can anyone tell me how Nathan Catt is getting on at Bath?
      I seem to remember people talking him up a couple of years ago

      1. Waldrom is definitely a name I put on there begrudgingly, but I think him being in the EPS, and the possibility of Morgan going with the lions will mean that Waldrom is pretty much the only other tried and tested 8 in England.

        With regards to banahan, he. Is a guy I think has huge potential but has never lived up to it. I would like to see him get a chance again in an England shirt, if he fails to produce the goods, then that’s the nail in his test coffin.

        I didn’t pick JTH for the reason that you said. Also, he is simply a crash all player, and with this being a development tour, we don’t need to develop that, we already have Manu and barritt.

        Paice, slater, abendanon and Catt all came into consideration. I wouldn’t be surprised to see any of them tour.

      2. Catty is doing really well, unfortunate sin bin in lv cup semi final was the final nail in the coffin for bath and shattered the dream of an unlikely comeback. but that wasn’t nathans fault. hard work in training sees him given the chance when paul james and dave wilson are away on international duty, however charlie beech and anthony perenise have been epic so with kane palma-newport also in the prop battle he’ll have to continue his development. big chance of going to argentina as he is listed as on the eps for saxons

        ross batty impressed and actually performed better than webber in march so with first choice argie hooker Eusebio Guinazu a bath player it’ll be great to see an all bath battle at number 2.

        abendanon has been good this season, but not sure he’ll be back on the international radar, especially as brown, goode, foden are ahead and only brown with a slim chance of being a lion.

          1. yeah, whilst catt has a strong chance of touring this summer (just watch the scrums from the quins lv game), really beech on form should be picked.

    3. Please dont take Botha Strettle Waldrom or Flood Suppose D-Jones has to go as t/h are like hens teeth but he aint good/big enough.

      Gaskell in front of Matt Garvey is a joke surely?

      Yarde has to go as a wing/fb.

      At lock big opportunity for Mad Dave to really cement a place as our big unit – Robson honest AP standard but not big enough for int.

      1. I didn’t pick Botha, so that’s that one done.

        Yarde in for strettle is a possibly good call. Strets will likely get the nod though, as he is already in the EPS (unfortunately)

        As I said above, Waldrom is only in because he is the only tried and tested 8. If no English 8 tours with the lions, then Waldrom would be out.

        Flood has to go. With burns going to travel, and the possibility of ford going too, you have to have a senior 10 to show them the ropes. After all, burns has a 20 min appearance under his belt, and ford hasn’t been capped.

        Garvey was an oversight from me. I would definitely have him in there, and Gaskell would likely be the player that he would overtake. Good shout there.

        Robson is too small for international rugby… They used to say that about Neil Back, so lets give him a chance first shall we?

        1. Robson really isn’t that small – 1 inch shorter and 11 ib lighter than Attwood, 1 inch shorter and 4 lb less than Launchbury. Same height and 7lb less than Brad Thorn

          The differences aren’t huge

          Gaskell is another one who was much praised a few years back but hasn’t really cracked on. Is he ever likely to?

    4. I’m surprised at the number of people suggesting Tait as a full-back option. I’m a Tigers fan and am massively pleased to see him back playing regularly, but he just hasn’t convinced me as a 15 yet. I still think he’d be better off at 13 or on the wing. Last week’s absolute clanger against Exeter proves he’s shaky under the high ball, and his tackling leaves a lot to be desired.

      It’s fantastic to see him back playing again, but he is a long, long way from being a test full-back at the moment.

      1. Yes he is a great player and still has a lot to offer for leicester, but was awful against exeter and no way he’ll be back in an england shirt

  13. I believe the tour is a fantastic opportunity to do what we rarely do and step outside the box. With the tour to Australia being the clear focus of attention for, well, everyone, this is an opportunity for the previously marginalised/young/talented and even the downright odd!
    I struggle to envisage a seasoned international team, who have just had their hearts broken by rejection from the Lions, being as motivated for this tour. Rather, lets give some caps to some at least to show they are not good enough, and hopefully some will step up. Also, some in my selection are in desperate need of game time at international rugby.


  14. Mako/Marler (although a fit Corbs no.1)
    B Vunipola
    J Elliott
    Mike Brown

    thats my take on experimental. i feel it has got pretty good balance and blistering with pace!

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