England Saxons team to face O2 Irish Wolfhounds

James Gaskell will lead England Saxons for the first time against the O2 Ireland Wolfhounds at Exeter on Saturday (5pm).

Gaskell, 21, captained Sale Sharks last season and leads a side with an average age of just 24 years and four months at Sandy Park. It includes senior internationals Delon Armitage, Matt Banahan, Ugo Monye, Matt Mullan and Paul Doran-Jones in the starting line-up.

Centre Matt Hopper, half backs Freddie Burns and Ben Spencer, and No. 8 Thomas Waldrom feature for the Saxons for the first time with more newcomers on the bench in the shape of hooker Chris Brooker and wing Jonny May.

England Saxons:

15 Delon Armitage (London Irish)
14 Ugo Monye (Harlequins)
13 Matt Hopper (Harlequins)
12 Billy Twelvetrees (Leicester Tigers)
11 Matt Banahan (Bath Rugby)
10 Freddie Burns (Gloucester Rugby)
9 Ben Spencer (Saracens)
1 Matt Mullan (Worcester Warriors)
2 Joe Gray (Harlequins)
3 Paul Doran-Jones (Northampton Saints)
4 Matt Garvey (London Irish)
5 George Robson (Harlequins)
6 James Gaskell (Sale Sharks, captain)
7 Andy Saull (Saracens)
8 Thomas Waldrom (Leicester Tigers)

Replacements: 16 Chris Brooker (Harlequins), 17 Rupert Harden (Gloucester), 18 Kearnan Myall (Sale Sharks), 19 Tom Johnson (Exeter Chiefs), 20 Paul Hodgson (London Irish), 21 Ryan Lamb (Northampton Saints), 22 Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby).

24 thoughts on “England Saxons team to face O2 Irish Wolfhounds

  1. Exciting team. Garvey & Robson especially in the second row looks promising. Probably won’t be the first to say I’d have rather seen Jonny May start over Matt Banahan. Eyes on Saull, Spencer, Hopper and Mullan.

    1. Jonny May should definitely be in instead of either Armitage or Banahan. Especially as Armitage is such a liability in the tackle these days, and Banahan has been playing nearly all season at 12!

  2. Thanks, Saxons, take *both* our starting hookers! It’s not like we’re going to be playing Leicester at the w/e. Oh wait……

    Seriously, though, that’s not a bad looking side. Should make for a good game….

  3. Looking forward to this game now. Hopper and Twelvetrees could be an interesting partnership – particularly Hopper in the absence of much creativity.

    It’s also an opportunity for Saull to stake a claim – when England realise that they need a proper 7, he might finally get the call up.

    The good thing with the new management is that you feel like a good performance in the Saxons could actually result in selection for the seniors – there was never much chance of that happening previously.

    1. Totally agree with that last comment. I think there are a few guys in this team, who are not far away from the first team already. And Hopper and Twelvetrees looks positively mouthwatering.

    2. hutch for once i disagree.

      there have been a few threads and lots of comments re England getting a proper “7” or “fetcher” or whatever.

      We have a class open side and leader, his name is chris robshaw.

      I agree that class sides have a fetcher, break down merchant. RWC winning sides had 03: Back, 07: burger, 11: Maccaw.

      One thing unites these guys and it isnt physical size, its attitude and technique.

      Is saull a “fetcher” because he is small or is he one because he has good technique around the tackle ‘ / breakdown area?

      Ive not seen him do much this season, and not just because JB keeps him out of the team!

      We seem to have a fixation with a 7 being small and therefore (i suppose) low to the ground and therefore a fetcher. this just isnt the case, see mccaw and burger above.

      Its all about technique and attitude.

      Robsaw plays 7, Easter 8 and Faasavalu 6. Nick Evans recently said Robshaw was like mccaw and i think hes the closest we have to the master.

      Robshaw can play seven and he can also carry. I dont see Saull ever playing for england.

      So my back row would include Wood and Robshaw – 2 of Englands best players.

      But who @ no 8?

      1. A fairly convincing argument Jimmy, and I hope you’re right. I’d shove Ben Morgan in at 8 and see how he gets on.

        I would have probably had Wood at 7 and Robshaw 6, but I’d like to see Saull play well on Saturday and challenge for a place.

      2. Narraway? He showed some lovely touches against Toulouse. If only he could stop getting injured

        think they will go for Morgan though

  4. Spencer must be pinching himself. Never been selected for England at age level, get’s selected for the under 20’s a couple of weeks ago, and now finds himself starting for the Saxons. It just goes to show that being thrown in at the deep end, is exactly what some players need.

    This should be a cracking game!

    1. That’s a good point. And to me it shows the benefits of playing regular rugby rather than getting clogged up in the academy system where lots of young players go weeks without playing a game. You learn the game by playing it, he got the call from Cambridge to cover for injuries and has taken his chance. Good luck to him.

  5. Echoing some of the points above, would have loved to see May start instead of Matt Banahan. Rugby is a thinking game and whilst Banahan can bash through anyone, all of the world’s greatest wingers have had innovation and creativity.

    Matt Hopper must be on cloud nine. This time last year he was playing for the Cornish Pirates, now he is likely to be pushing Lowe for a starting spot at Quins and has Saxons honours as well! Very happy to see that!

  6. A lot of people moan about england not selecting an out and out seven but, to be honest, there isnt even a genuine seven that warrants a full international call up. Andy Saull has some of the most questionable defence ive ever seen for a back row, the kid needs to learn to tackle, he doesnt turn over that much ball for Sarries, so hardly an effective seven, hes far from being the finished article. Robshaw is, of course, a six. Everyone knows this, yes he does good work at the breakdown, but he isnt an out and out seven, same with Wood. Kvesic and Seymour are, in my opinion, the two best english open-sides we have available to us, but they’re just a few big performances from getting some international recognition, plenty of time for the next RWC.
    WHY! did Lancaster feel the need to pick five blindside flankers? FIVE! Dowson is an excellent player, but why is he being included when he has no international experience and probably wont be playing that much longer. Callum Clark the surprise inclusion seems to have a great love for giving penalties away at saints. I like the EPS but some guys from the saxons should be in it such as twelvetrees, mullan, gray. It wouldnt have hurt for Easter to be in there as well seeing as Morgan is the only specialist eight in the squad. im going to have to stop this rant now, sorry lads, hope some of you agree

    1. Agreed – there are some notable absentees in the senior squad. I think they see Wood as the 7 with Robshaw at 6 – pretty sure Wood played 7 for Worcester and has done so for Saints.

      It’s difficult to judge an openside until you see how effective they are at international level, so the next couple of weekends should be interesting.

    2. Maybe Lancaster is considering Robshaw or Dowson as an 8? or at least as cover for 8. But i agree 5 blind sides is a bit weird.

      1. Dowson has played 8 a lot for Saints during his time there, and has been unlucky not be considered before. Although he doesn’t have Easter’s control at the base of the scrum, he has a lot more pace to attack from the base. Then again I think my mum has more pace than Easter these days.

  7. I agree there is no point in selecting someone just for the sake of it. Pick the players who are good enough and tweak your tactics accordingly. There are ways of playing effectively without an out and out 7 just as there are ways of playing without a running 10 or without a bosh merchant in the centre.

    However Dean Ryan argued quite effectively on TV the other day that the way to make a player believe that he is good enough and to get an idea of whether he is is to include him in the squad to get the experience and learn from people around him in order to speed up his learning process. We could easily have sacrificed a blindside (probably Clark as Dowson covers the whole back row) in favour of a young 7. You don’t have to play him but it could speed up his development so he might be ready in 6 months or a year’s time.

    What I think is beyond doubt is that none of the players earmarked as ‘out and out 7s’ are up to international standard yet.

    1. Do you mean Armitage, Banahan and Monye? Monye is the best out of the three. The other two have been demoted, and with good reason. It’s the midfield that will be impressive in this game.

  8. will be itnerested to see how ben spencer gets on.looks the real deal.

    in think england will hump the irish, dont thjink the irish have the front 5 to match us.

    Also eyes on billy 12trees, i think hes classy.

    1. Totally agree there Jimmy. Spencer has been thrown in at Sarries, and like Farrell, has not been phased at all.

    2. Based on the Heineken Cup I wouldn’t be so sure. Wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the Irish win this. I think we’ll also see that Ireland’s 3rd or 4th choice 7 is better than our best out and out 7 which will be slightly embarrassing.

  9. Interesting centre partnership for the Saxons. Neither are bosh merchants and both rely on speed, timing and an eye for a gap

    If the big fellas in the pack blast some holes in the Irish defence, the Saxons certainly have the speed to make the most of it

  10. Nothing to do with this game, but interestingly Joel Tomkins has been named in Sarries squad for Sunday’s LV Cup game. Another potential England star of the future.

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