Elite England after toppling the All Blacks

Twickenham

England’s incredible victory over New Zealand will mean very little if it does not provide a platform to improve on the fairly average win ratio achieved during Stuart Lancaster’s short tenure as England coach. The men in white, and now sometimes purple, won just 50% of their fixtures in 2012 (6/12) and only managed one win over the big three southern hemisphere rugby powers from six attempts.

Despite the unlikely win over the All Blacks, Lancaster must not be afraid to rotate his playing staff if England are to win a first Grand Slam in 10 years.

Injuries, possible suspensions, and the complex rules governing the elite squad make it nigh on impossible to predict how many changes will be made in the Six Nations squad. But based on the first half of the season a number of players should make way for returning experienced internationals and some young, but very much in form, Premiership stars.

Forwards

In the forwards, the props are likely to stay the same but Dylan Hartley looks certain to be recalled at hooker, at the expense of David Paice. Joe Gray, who missed out on selection in the autumn because of injury, could be called up as a third hooker and as security to cover Hartley’s recent injury issues (taking the place of a back row forward). Such was Tom Youngs’ form in the autumn that Hartley, who captained the side in the 14-14 draw the third test in South Africa last summer, is by no means a guaranteed starter.

Joe Launchbury, the QBE Man of the Series in the autumn despite only starting two matches, and a fit Courtney Lawes should join the ever improving Geoff Parling in the second row. Tom Palmer or Mouritz Botha could both be selected as a fourth lock cover but Lancaster could also use the extra spot for a versatile second row / back row option.

Tom Croft, an injury casualty since last April after an awkward collision with England outcast Nick Easter, should fill this void and must be recalled, even if he has only played 50 minutes of Premiership rugby this season. I regard him as one of England’s truly world class players and the twice-capped Lion is certainly experienced enough to be thrown in at the Six Nations deep end, probably initially from the bench, in February and March.

The reconfigured pack could also see Thomas Waldrom, Phil Dowson and Tom Johnson miss out but provide exciting opportunities for youngsters Billy Vunipola and Matt Kvesic. Vunipola, brother of England loosehead Mako, has personified Wasps’ resurgence this season, with his trademark barnstorming runs and fierce tackling. Similarly Kvesic is beginning to show the potential he displayed in 2011 when he was part of the England U20 side that included current elite squad members Mako Vunipola, Joe Launchbury and Owen Farrell, which lost narrowly to the Baby Blacks in the Junior World Cup final.

Backs

Lancaster and his coaching team face equally difficult decisions in selecting the backline, especially at fly half and full back.

Toby Flood, England’s most capped player currently in the elite squad, should make way for Freddie Burns, who has been the Premiership’s outstanding fly half this season and looked reassuringly confident in his cameo 15 minute role first cap against New Zealand.

Flood could be banned for at least the start of the Six Nations, following an unlikely tip tackle against Worcester last weekend, but regardless, with Owen Farrell putting in his most composed international performance and upstaging the immortal Dan Carter at Twickenham, the former Newcastle standoff should miss out on this occassion.

England do not necessarily need three fly halves given Alex Goode’s emergence as an excellent passer and playmaker from full back. Goode has played fly half for his club side Saracens and frequently slots in at first receiver for both club and country, and will hopefully recover from a recent shoulder injury in time for the tournament.

England have a wealth of talent at full back where Ben Foden, returning from injury, and Mike Brown should also feature. Both players have been selected on the wing in the past year by Lancaster and are likely to join Goode in the elite squad. Lancaster will then have the unenviable task of choosing between these three talented performers in his starting lineup.

Other back line changes include choosing the patient Billy Twelvetrees at centre, at the expense of the unlucky Anthony Allen or Jordan Turner Hall, who could both be dropped given that Farrell and Burns can also play in the centres.

On the wings, Ugo Monye and Charlie Sharples are under enormous pressure from the Wasps duo of Tom Varndell, who already has three international tries in four appearances to his name, and the electric Christian Wade, who stand first and second in the Premiership try scoring table respectively. Marland Yarde is also hot on their heels but Wade could join Ashton as one of only two out and out wingers, if Foden and Brown are both selected.

Finally, a smart move by Lancaster would be to invite Kyle Eastmond and Joel Tomkins, two ex-England Rugby League internationals, into elite training camps. Both players are still learning the finer arts of the 15 a side code, but with the 2015 Rugby World Cup now under three years away they should be given brutal exposure to international rugby as soon as possible.

My Elite England squad (32)*
Alex Corbisiero
Mako Vunipola
Joe Marler
Dan Cole
David Wilson
Tom Youngs
Dylan Hartley
Joe Gray
Joe Launchbury
Courtney Lawes
Geoff Parling
Tom Croft
Tom Wood
Chris Robshaw (c)
Matt Kvesic
James Haskell
Billy Vunipola
Ben Morgan

Lee Dickson
Ben Youngs
Danny Care
Freddie Burns
Owen Farrell
Brad Barritt
Billy Twelvetrees
Manu Tuilagi
Jonathan Joseph
Chris Ashton
Christian Wade
Ben Foden
Mike Brown
Alex Goode

*French based players, and Nick Easter, were not considered for selection.

Pure fantasy? If you could pick any 32 English players from the Premiership what changes would you make? Should Lancaster be able to make unlimited changes?

By Alastair Pickering

Stuart Lancaster will confirm the Elite Player Squad for the Six Nations on Wednesday – we’ll have it here on The Rugby Blog as soon as it’s announced.

54 thoughts on “Elite England after toppling the All Blacks

  1. Given that under the EPS rules they can only change the squad at set times (is it twice a year?) I’d say it seems unlikely that Flood will drop out entirely, as it will mean he won’t get to play for England until the Autumn internationals. Bear in mind that he was first choice 10 for the Autumn internationals, and Farrell only played against NZ because Flood was crocked.

    It’s more likely that either a) Burns will remain in the Saxons and be called up to the EPS for the 6N to cover Flood’s ban or b) they will pick 3 10s at the expense of a centre (likely 12T on your list) as Farrell can play there.

  2. Twelvetrees for Farrell would be about the most bold call he could make, but one I would be in favour of (circumstances allowing). Despite his performance against the All Blacks I still don’t think he’s the future for England; his attacking game is just not good enough for international rugby. If he were a Kiwi or an Aussie would he realistically be in the international frame? Probably not. Sadly Flood’s likely ban means dropping Farrell would leave Burns alone as the out-and-out stand-off, with Twelvetrees and Goode as cover, which is certainly not enough for a 6 Nations campaign. Still, I think Twelvetrees has to be selected as he seems to be the only English 12 in the country that has the all-round game for international rugby.

    Wade has to be selected ahead of Monye for me, he looks ready now and his try at the weekend showed he is physically strong enough. Kvesic’s an interesting one too, certainly has the potential but is he ready? With the success of other young players thrust into the team recently (Launchbury, Youngs, etc.) I’d be tempted to include him.

    1. WARNING: ANTI FARRELL RANT

      Allastair: “Owen Farrell putting in his most composed international performance and upstaging the immortal Dan Carter”… not really.

      I re watched the England NZ game paying close attention to Farrell as everybody had started raving about his performance. It only confirmed what i always believed about him.

      He defends excellently and is a very good goal kicker (although he missed one very kickable conversion vs the ABs). This is where his positives end.

      He missed touch on at least 2 penalties. Pretty criminal failure to miss touch under no pressure.

      His kicking from hand was poor. It got made to look good by Englands defensive intensity and organisation. This is also what happens at Sarries their kick chase is so good it hides his poor kicking. He often kicked straight into the hands of Jane and Dagg.

      Whenever England cross the gainline off first phase he either stands way too deep or drops back into the pocket on the next phase negating any momentum created. He had such a massive armchair ride in that game and was given so many options he couldn’t not look good. If it had been Flood or Burns starting we would have looked far better in attack.

      Farrell gave away a cynical stupid penalty that lead to the all blacks 2nd try.

      The pass he made that put Barrit through for his try was OK nothing special. The break was made by an uncharacteristic mistake by Conrad Smith. Burns’s pass to Wood later in the game was far more impressive.

      All this is obvious at Sarries, when they play Hodgson at 10 they occasionally score trys. They never look threatening with Farrell at 10!

      Burns and Flood should be England’s options at 10.

      1. I think the problem would be if we only had Flood and Burns as our choices, we would be conceding more tries, as their channels would be targeted more and more. Neither have the physicality that Farrell brings to the 10 shirt. Floods tackling in particular is poor, Burns slightly better but not much. I think Burns is a better fly half, but never been truly convinced by Flood as he’s too inconsistent and injury prone. Personally I would like to see Twelvetrees played at 10 more, as I think he could be great. He has the physicality, the pace and the nouse to be a great fly half.

        1. I think part of Jonny’s legacy is that English fans aren’t happy unless our 10 tackles like a 6. I don’t think Flood or Burns are weak defensively at 10. Either way I consider attack to be more important than defense for a 10.

          Whenever i’ve seen twelevetrees at ten he looks like a twelve playing ten.

          We’re obvisouly going to have to agree to disagree on this.

          1. “I think part of Jonny’s legacy is that English fans aren’t happy unless our 10 tackles like a 6” – spot on. Most other countries barely consider the defensive qualities of their 10 but it doesn’t seem to hurt them. O’Gara for Ire. Priestland for Wales. Barnes for Aus. None of them are huge defenders but they all (wen on form) get a backline moving. It’s blinkered to keep Farrel in because he can defend.

      2. I’m not in the fan club either. But I do think his performance against the ABs was really influential (more than individually brilliant). As the defences held and this kicks started going over the confidence of the team grew.

        I was really disappointed with Flood over the Autumn. I had him as out clear number 1 on the back of the summer tour, but if after 50+ caps you can’t find any consistency at international level I don’t see it will happen in the next 50 caps.

  3. I’d love to see Billy Vunipola called up, probably over Waldrom – he could do some damage in the Six Nations off the bench. When did two sets of brothers last play for England?! Stuart Peel will know…

    I think Lancaster can make 4 changes, and then some can be included as cover – with Flood likely to be banned, Burns should be in without counting as one of those 4 changes (I *think*).

    Twelvetrees as injury cover for Goode perhaps, or just to replace JTH, Launchbury for Botha, Croft for Dowson…

    1. Vunipola is having a massive impact at Wasps and i’m sure he’ll make the step up at some point but he is still lacking in certain technical areas.

      He seems to always have at least 2 knock-ons every game. His control at the base of the scrum is pretty terrible. Watch wasps vs bath the ball came flying out the back several times.

      His (quite considerable) flaws would probably be exposed more at international level. But the impact he has around the park mean he might still be worth it. But i’d probably stick with Morgan for a bit at least.

      Delon and Steffon played together midweek vs the Maoris in 2010. Not a full cap tho i don’t think.

      1. Out of interest would you have considered them as Welsh (their father played for Pontypridd I believe) if they had chosen to play for Wales?

        1. They’re from whatever country their passport says they are from. If that’s Britain (I thought they were Tongan given the press I read about Tonga wanting them to play for them) then they count as English if they play for England. I’ve mistakenly lumped them in with Barrit/Waldrom/Botha/etc. if that is the case.

          1. Yeah, they don’t have rugby playing brothers. Are you misunderstanding what I said? Hutch said brothers playing for England are rare, I figured that non English brothers playing for England would be even rarer, possibly unique. I think you’ve taken it the wrong way, as some sort of dig, hence the desire to have a dig at some welsh players? Anyway, you’ve got the wrong end of the stick. I’m from the era of Howarth and Sinkinson, I have zero hangups about naturalisation. The only thing it makes me think is that the large number of English players who didn’t come through the English schools as academy system indicates that system is not as good as others. But the nationality of a player is irrelevant other than with regards to the original point about it being a possibly unique stat.

  4. I actually agree with your whole squad other than the exclusion of Flood. I still believe he is first choice Fly Half, and will therefore be in, potentially at the expense of Twelvetrees, as much as I am a fan.

    What is the limit on the number of changes made?

  5. Matt Kvesic? One very good game and suddenly he should be in the elite squad? I expect that sort of comment from Clearly in The Telegraph. That alone has put me off this website.

    1. Not really on the back of one good game – we’ve backed Kvesic for a while now. Take a look at some older articles and you’ll see…

      He also writes a column for us because we thought he was a good bet as a future star.

    1. I like that idea but not sure if that would be a priority if Lancaster can only make limited changes.

  6. I agree with dropping Flood for Burns. Burns is in good form, and has that creative spark we need at 10. I question his defensive ability though. (Any Glaws fans care to comment?)

    Kvesic is a good shout, he’ll learn a fair bit from Robbo, Croft and Wood.

    1. I’m not a glos fan but watched them a lot this season and seen nothing to suggest he is week defensively.

    2. Somewhere between Farrell and Flood from a defensive point of view I think. As it stands, I’d want Burns and Farrell as my two fly-halves and think they complement each other pretty well.

  7. Still don’t understand all the man-love for Croft.
    Completely agree that Eastmond and Tomkins should be involved in, at least, the Saxons.

    Billy V should be in over Waldrom, he is in significantly better form, and is 9 years younger. A no-brainer.

    Flood will be there, whether that’s through some sort of EPS work around due to his ban I don’t know. I really do hope we never have to see him take precious development time away from younger, better players again though.
    I don’t think we need a third hooker or full-back. You have three good full-backs, it’s a hard choice….. make it.

    One of the harder decisions is who is going to be dropped for Launchbury. Palmer or Botha, or both?

    I am also concerned about the lack of a third winger.

    1. Wouldn’t be too surprised to see Croft left out, given his injury issues and lack of game time. I’m not his biggest fan either…prefer a 6 who likes the close combat more than hanging out on the wing.

  8. Are you suggesting England’s target is a Grand Slam? I worry that there is an inflation of what is expected of a team in the 6N nowadays – Grand Slam or bust. Winning the championship is still a good target and is often accompanied without a slam.

    1. Agreed. Its also annoying me that you can’t find an article about England that isn’t gushing with superlatives about Englands win against NZ. If it carries on like this people will think we’ve won the tournament before it started.

      1. In this article the adjectives used to describe the win against NZ are ‘incredible’ and ‘unlikely’, hardly gushing. In fact he points out how mediocre our record for the year was, not sure how it’s annoyed you!

        1. Ye fair enough. I think i’m applying my blanket complaints from other articles unfairly to this one.

    2. I think that the article started off by pointing out that we only had a 50% win record last year, so a realistic start for any article. No problem with us aiming for a Grand Slam – any team is aiming to win all of its 6N matches. Don’t see it happening though. Would be delighted with winning 6N, but still don’t see that happening – France for me. Next year possibly when the team has matured a bit – they’ve certainly got some talent.

    3. Entirely agree. Grand Slams seem to be expected these days with the inference that that you are not true champions if you don’t get the GS. I think I would take back to back championships over a GS. Its been ages since anyone successfully defended a title (France I think back in 07 without a GS ironically).

      1. Despite all of the rugby quality in the Tri Nations/Rugby Champ isn’t it so much more satisfying to have a championship with 4/5 genuine contenders every year? I agree with France this year, with England pushing hard (this year will be the return of the dominant forward pack game I think) but everyone knows you can’t discount Ireland or Wales from it. I await someone telling me “or Scotland” but that I genuinely cannot see.

  9. i watched a game on espn recently, london irish vs someone. they trotted out the stat that ian humphreys was the second worst tackling flyhalf in the premiership (based on tackle completion stats from opta). the worst defensive flyhalf was freddie burns… this would be a slight worry for me, and a reason i can see for starting with farrell.

    I am a fan of burns though, and i think he offers something great in attack. I view the england flyhalf situation a lot like that of northampton in the past few seasons. the steady, reliable and arguably uncreative steven myler (farrell) vs the creative, but possibly more risky ryan lamb/ shane geraghty (burns). i think burns should be given chances like in the NZ game, to come off the bench and get used to test rugby. if england are losing a game, then he will be given the chance to come on and see if he can win it.

    also hope 12ts is in, as i feel he is the perfect 12 that Lancaster said he originally wanted. B.Vunipola would be a nice addition, and i think croft should come back, just to add a bit of competition at 6 (he and wood are great lineout forwards, but play in different ways). would like to see haskell stay in, although i do think kvesic is a good player. if we pick 2 hookers, and 3 locks, then i think we could afford to have 5 flankers in the squad (although that seems a bit wasteful…) back on b.vunipola, i think spending some time in the squad, learning from roundtree would help him a lot, and if that kid can get club coaching from dai young, and club from roundtree, then you know that he is being coached well!

    the fullback battle should be good! and looking forward to Youngs vs Care again. as for the 3rd scrumhalf spot, i think it should go to simpson, i feel he has more of a spark, and dickson has not been as prominent recently.

    left wing is a real issue, i hope that if they choose wade or strettle, whichever it is has a good tournament, otherwise i will keep thinking that brown or foden is the best option there.

    would like to see Lawes and Launchbury given a chance together, maybe vs italy, as i think we need to see what our situation would be like if something were to happen to parling.

  10. Still think Flood is our best 10. However it might be worth really working with Farrell and adding some zest to his attacking game so that he’s our man for 2015.

    Given that Lawes can cover 6 too, i’d rather have 4 locks at the expense of a flanker. Locks work hard man….

    I think i’d be tempted to get Foden used to the wing and have him on the wing and Brown at Full Back. Bring Varndell in too as tries speak for themselves and he’s at the top, so you say?

    :)

  11. I would have to agree with this selection entirely! Really can’t think of anyone else I would want to include apart from the Armitage brothers if they were available for selection. One area we could do with some more depth in though is at right head prop. Cole is world class but Wilson is a only a good club player. We are blest at loose head but definitely struggle on the other side.

  12. It is certainly about getting the balance right. Of course he can select players as injury cover but the squad Lancaster chooses today should be in his opinion the best 32 players in the country to take England forwards, not only in 2013 but towards the World Cup. So will he go with 3 fly halves or 2, then the same quandary for scrum half and hooker?

    It may be that some very deserving and some very unlucky players will miss out. If Lancaster is to promote real talent, then I am in agreement that Kvesic, B.Vunipola, Twelvetrees, Burns and Wade should make the cut. This means that the likes of Waldrom, Johnson and maybe even Haskell may miss out. The likes of Launchbury and Croft and are a given. One name I would throw in as a fourth lock choice would be Matt Garvey of London Irish, a stand-out performer for them who can cover both lock and 6. However, I fear Lancaster may play more conservative and I expect to see the likes of George Robson remain in the squad as a fourth lock and lineout specialist cover for Parling.

    What will be of real interest and will no doubt betray Lancaster’s real intent is the make-up of the somewhat smaller Saxons squad. England are lucky to possess a whole host of emerging talent, and the likes of Elliot Daly, Jonny May, George Ford, Henry Thomas and Will Fraser should surely be included with a view to fast-tracking them into the EPS at first opportunity. Then there is the return to form of players such as Dave Attwood, Graham Kitchener and Tom Varndell who Lancaster may have one eye on for the senior squad in the not too distant future. And finally there are a whole host of players booted from recent EPS who may count themselves unlucky to not even secure a Saxons place – some of the like include Sharples, Monye, Strettle, Allen, Paice, Botha, Palmer, Johnson, Clark and Dowson.

    And we haven’t even mentioned Banahan! Let’s not!

    In light of all this my squads would be as follows:

    EPS

    Foden, Brown, Goode, Ashton, Wade, Tuilagi, Joseph, Barritt, Twelvetrees, Farrell, Burns, Flood, B.Youngs, Care, Dickson

    Hartley, T.Youngs, Corbisiero, M.Vunipola, Marler, Cole, Wilson, Lawes, Launcbury, Parling, Garvey, Wood, Croft, Robshaw, Kvesic, Morgan, B.Vunipola

    Saxons

    Abendanon, Miller, Varndell, Sharples, May, Daly, Allen, Waldouck, Ford, Cipriani, Simpson, Wigglesworth

    Webber, Gray, Mullan, Thomas, Doran-J., Attwood, Botha, Kitchener, Robson, Haskell, Johnson, Fraser, Gibson, Waldrom, Joubert

    The unlucky ones/Ones for the future:

    Kyle Eastmond, Miles Benjamin, Joel Tomkins, George Lowe, Henry Trinder, Dan Robson, Tom Savage, Carl Fearns, Luke Wallace, and Andy Saull

    1. All reports seem to be saying that Calum Clark is in the EPS as the fourth lock – EPS is 33 now, not 32, because international matchday squads are now 23 players with a full front row on the bench.

      Cue much wailing and gnashing of teeth from Welford Road.

    2. I think Arscott, Jess and Scaysbrooke from Exeter will be there or there about a but, apart from that, would agree with this selection. Lets are what happens today!

      1. I’m an Exeter fan and would love to see the likes of Arscott sround the England squad, but I feel there is just so much depth at full-back that he is unlikely to get a look in. Scaysbrook is another who performs week in week out but I would imagine Lancaster would go for a more youthful option in Kvesic or Fraser. Here’s hoping for some Saxons representation though

  13. Calum Clark would be an odd one for me, especially as fourth lock cover. I would have thought he would have to have played himself back in more than anyone else. But Lancaster obviously sees something in him. It would be a shame if someone like Kvesic, a true openside missed out for another blindside inclusion. But there are cases for inclusion all over the squad I suppose

  14. Great feedback guys.
    Looking like Mark McCall’s push for a Strettle recall has worked. He only has 1 try in 7 internationals though, a bit like Monye only having 1 in 13 before Fiji test. I like both players but Wade, Varndell and Sharples are better poachers?
    Surprised that Clark is likely to be recalled but I was impressed with how he apologised and quickly returned to form, after Hawkins incident.

  15. Think the main challenge for Kvesic is Lancaster is picking Robshaw, Wood and probably Haskell ahead of him at 7. Love watching Wade play, but would like to see his defensive decision making improve before he goes into the EPS, he also sometimes tackles too high against the big men which isn’t going to be a recipe for success. He is so strong for his size I see no reason he can’t become effective in defense. Maybe summer tour to Argentina will be a good target for first full cap when there should be a couple of regulars missing.

    It would be good to see them both given the sort of treatment that Launchbury got last year, i.e. regular inclusion with EPS for training and integration.

    If Burns, 12trees and B. Vunipola are all in then I will be content. I’m not a huge Croft fan, you can make an amazing highlight reel from his play, but prefer someone with higher workrate. I can see the value in having him for impact off the bench, but I won’t be too upset if he misses out.

    1. Wade has oodles of class. If he were Australian or Kiwi he would have played already. We have to promote raw talent. B.Vunipola is by no means the finished article either, he needs to learn to control the ball at the base of the scrum before anything else, but like Wade he has that something special, that will frighten opponents – I say let them play!

      1. When was the last time you saw a Wallaby or a AB make a debut that didn’t have an all round game?

        You only need 1 shocker at international level that costs you a win to be out. Wade is so special going forward that it becomes a bit more of a balancing act. Best analogy I can think of is a top boxing prospect gets carefully managed, where as a journeyman gets thrown in to see what he can do. I really liked the way Lancaster brought Launchbury through last season, I would like to see the same done with Wade rather than just a sink or swim. If he’s breaking into the side summer tour/AIs then can still rack up plenty of experience before 2015.

        Having said that …. if the reports of Strettle being included are true …. I couldn’t pick Strettle ahead of Wade. It can only be because he is used to chasing Farrell’s kicks.

        1. Sorry Matt but Quade Cooper squashes that argument about Wallabies and All Blacks having all round game – he literally can not tackle.

          Cooper can change a game, so they fix the defense to accommodate for him.

          1. Fair point can you name another :-) I think it’s much easier to do this in a part of the pitch where there are lots of other players that can cover that space.

        2. Well my case in point would be Rococoko (interesting interview in the Rugby Paper the other week), but I agree, I fully take your point. If Lancaster has a plan for Wade then his non-inclusion would make sense. If Wade isn’t included there are a number of other good wingers out there, including Strettle, Sharples, Monye, Biggs and Varndell, all of whom are of similar standard and you could make a case for, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Strettle did get the nod. I just hope we use our wingers for more than kick and chase. I would hate England to become a South Africa..

  16. The official squad:

    Forwards: C Clark (Northampton Saints), A Corbisiero (London Irish), D Cole (Leicester Tigers), T Croft (Leicester Tigers), D Hartley (Northampton Saints), J Haskell (London Wasps), T Johnson (Exeter Chiefs), J Launchbury (London Wasps), C Lawes (Northampton Saints), J Marler (Harlequins), B Morgan (Gloucester Rugby), G Parling (Leicester Tigers), C Robshaw (Harlequins), M Vunipola (Saracens), T Waldrom (Leicester Tigers), D Wilson (Bath Rugby), T Wood (Northampton Saints), T Youngs (Leicester Tigers).
    Backs: C Ashton (Saracens), B Barritt (Saracens), M Brown (Harlequins), F Burns (Gloucester Rugby), D Care (Harlequins), L Dickson (Northampton Saints), O Farrell (Saracens), T Flood (Leicester Tigers), B Foden (Northampton Saints), A Goode (Saracens), J Joseph (London Irish), D Strettle (Saracens), M Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers), B Twelvetrees (Gloucester Rugby), B Youngs (Leicester Tigers).

    Not a bad squad. Perhaps a bit conservative. My only real question would be why has Lancaster included 5 and a half blindsides, with Lawes and Lannchbury also able to play there, making it 8 players who are capable of playing blindside in the squad. It would have been nice to see Kvesic included as an out and out openside option.

    Other than that the squad continues to evolve. Excited by the 6 Nations now

  17. Overall it’s a good squad, with much firmer foundations than 12 months ago, but Wade’s ommission in particular is disappointing.

  18. A message for Brighty: I take your point about the brothers comment, and ok I did mistake your meaning, but also in Hutch’s original comment he was talking about two sets of brothers, only one set of these was not born in England. Both Ben and Tom Youngs were born in England.
    Interestingly Mako was born in New Zealand, and Billy Vunipola was born in Australia.

  19. Start the Welsh game with Youngs. 9 Burns 10 Twelvetrees. 12 Barritt. 13 Tuilangi And Brown on the wings Wales will need two men to cover. Tuilangi leaving gaps that. 9 10. 12are the best to exploit unpredictability that’s what we are lacking With Farrell. and Flood. And Burns can kick as good as anybody then we can look forward to an English win with a bit of Zest

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