With England struggling to find a decent performance and few in the elite squad displaying any form, it is interesting to have a look at the Premiership clubs and see what or who else is out there for Mr Johnson to think about for the next big tests in February.
Olly Morgan could soon be challenging for further England honours
Out of all the top clubs, Gloucester are hitting the form they hope will allow them to go into the New Year sitting near the head of the table. Of all their exciting backs it is he of the big chin, Olly Morgan, putting his hand up for extra recognition and he scored another try in their victory against Bristol. Whether Ryan Lamb is worth a look on the international stage is debatable, he’s probably the only 10 with a worse defence than Cipriani, but he scored a full-house of points (try, conversion, penalty, drop goal) as Gloucester won 39-10.
In the most nail-biting match of the weekend, Northampton upheld their excellent unbeaten home record with a 28-all draw against Bath. Even with the internationals pilfering the top talent, both teams fielded some recognisable names – Spencer, Reihana and Foden for Saints and James, Claasens and Grewcock for Bath. Bath dominated the first half, Northampton the second and a draw was the fair result. The two points meant more for Northampton as they pulled clear of the bottom three whilst Bath lost a bit of ground to the chasing pack.
Worcester condemned Newcastle to another defeat as they beat them 26-11 in a game they never looked like losing. Taking a look at the try scorers for Worcester, Latham and Tuitupou, it becomes easy to see why Worcester are comfortably mid table at the moment and they should progress to a reasonable finish. Newcastle on the other hand are in a bit more trouble, only three points above Bristol and one ahead of Wasps. Losing Ollie Phillips to the sevens circuit won’t help either.
Leicester halted Harlequins’ impressive progress with a comfortable victory at home by 27-14. Johne Murphy scored a try after just 76 seconds to set the tone and Harlequins never recovered. Derick Hougaard is keeping the 10 shirt warm for Toby Flood and can take a lot of credit for this victory with three conversions, two penalties and a try. Leicester jump above Quins to fourth place, with Sale also stealing ground on Dean Richards’ men to push them into sixth.
On Sunday, London Wasps continued their rotten run of form with an unlucky defeat at home to Sale by 13-12. Sale scored a converted try in the 78th minute to steal it at the death. Wasps tried to re-jig their back division to bring more penetration with Van Gisbergen at 12 and Lachlan Mitchell at 15 but it was to no avail as they could only score 4 penalties.
Youngster Tom Homer stole the headlines at the Madejski Stadium as he scored a brace of tries to steer London Irish to a victory over Saracens by 27-14. Steffon Armitage continued to match his bigger brother’s good form by taking the man of the match award ensuring that he’ll be one to watch for future progression in the England ranks.
Overall the quality of the Premiership has seen an inevitable dip while the internationals are on. The fact that the England boys will come back with a lot to prove should provide a necessary boost to the competition in December.