Brian Ashton has ended the waiting and named his 30-man squad to take to France. The players to miss out are Nick Abendanon, Danny Cipriani, Toby Flood, Kevin Yates, Tom Palmer and James Haskell.
Both Mike Tindall and Charlie Hodgson have also been dismissed as they have failed to prove their fitness in time. Andy Farrell and Lawrence Dallaglio have both been included, against the recommendations of many, but to the surprise of no-one.
Jamie Noon is selected after an impressive defensive display against France, while Perry Freshwater is preferred to Yates for his ability to play on either side of the scrum. Looking at the squad as a whole, there are no specialist full-backs – Mark Cueto is likely to start in this position, with Josh Lewsey and Jason Robinson as cover – and only one specialist openside in Tom Rees.
By releasing Abendanon, Cipriani and Flood, Ashton has indicated that he will opt for a tight gameplan, with a big pack keeping the ball tight – a strategy that goes against what Ashton normally stands for, but one which seems sensible given England’s situation just before a World Cup.
At this stage, I’d take boring ten-man rugby and a win over South Africa rather than ‘Total Rugby’ with some young lightweights and losses to Samoa and the Springboks.
Let me know your thoughts.
England‘s Rugby World Cup squad
Backs: M Cueto (Sale Sharks), P Sackey (Wasps), J Lewsey (Wasps), J Robinson (unattached), M Tait (Newcastle), D Hipkiss (Leicester), J Noon (Newcastle), M Catt (London Irish), A Farrell (Saracens), O Barkley (Bath), J Wilkinson (Newcastle), S Perry (Bristol), A Gomarsall (Harlequins), P Richards (London Irish).
Forwards: A Sheridan (Sale Sharks), P Freshwater (Perpignan), P Vickery (Wasps, capt), M Stevens (Bath), M Regan (Bath), G Chuter (Leicester), L Mears (Bath), S Shaw (Wasps), S Borthwick (Bath), B Kay (Leicester), M Corry (Leicester), L Moody (Leicester), J Worsley (Wasps), T Rees (Wasps), N Easter (Harlequins), L Dallaglio (Wasps).
Thanks to Alex for this comment, that I deleted by mistake:
“Why no specialist Full Back!
All other countries do! Percy Montgomerie, Chris Latham, Leon Macdonald, Girvin Dempsey, Clément Poitrenaud, Kevin Morgan to name some.
Lets hope Ashton know something the whole world doesn’t!”
And to Stephen for this:
“Beyond Abendanon, though, who is too inexperienced for a World Cup, we don’t really have a specialist fullback to pick.
I think, to an extent, it’s a legacy of the Woodward Robinson Ashton turnover: so many players have been moved around all over the park, leaving a squad full of Jacks Of All Trades.
The squad seems fairly sensible and plays to England’s strengths, such as they are. I too would take successful ten-man rugby over flamboyant losses.
Behind the ten, I think it’s important to pair the more creative backs (Catt, Tait, Sackey and Robinson) with the tougher defenders (Farrell, Noon and Lewsey).
Against the Boks, we’ll need Farrell and Hipkiss, and possibly Lewsey, to bash everything in front of them (especially Jean de Villiers, who I think is the weak link in the Bok backline).
Against smaller, tighter teams, Catt and Tait will need to unlock defenses and Sackey and Robinson will need to be hungry for tries.
I’d like to see a Catt-Hipkiss pairing in Marseilles, as well as the return of George Chuter; we could do with a couple of straight line-out throws once in a while!”