England team to face New Zealand

The headline news is that Topsy Ojo will make his well-earned debut this weekend against the All Blacks in Auckland – what a way to start your international career.

Olly Barkley and Mike Tindall form an interesting centre partnership that should be able to live with the sheer enormity of Ma’a Nonu and provide Charlie Hodgson with another kicking option.

Tom Palmer gets the nod at second row, which is a slight area of concern for me, and James Haskell, Tom Rees and Luke Narraway form a pacy back row.

What are your thoughts on the selection?

M Brown (Harlequins); T Ojo (London Irish), M Tindall (Gloucester), O Barkley (Bath), D Strettle (Harlequins); C Hodgson (Sale), R Wigglesworth (Sale); A Sheridan (Sale Sharks), L Mears (Bath), M Stevens (Bath), T Palmer (Wasps), S Borthwick (Bath, captain), J Haskell (Wasps), T Rees (Wasps), L Narraway (Gloucester).
Replacements: D Paice (London Irish), T Payne (Wasps), B Kay (Leicester), J Worsley (Wasps), D Care (Harlequins), J Noon (Newcastle), M Tait (Newcastle).

3 thoughts on “England team to face New Zealand

  1. Well, you compare the teams for Eng and for NZ, and on paper we don’t really stand a chance do we! The pack is solid enough, though with potential fallibility in the pacey new boys in the back row. Rees and Haskell were simply awesome in the Guinness Premiership final, but the All Blacks will be a far sterner test. Narraway at no.8 doesn’t inspire a whole load of confidence. The backs are simply lightweight (Tindall aside) and with hodgson at fly-half you never know whether he’s going to bottle it or not. I see Barkley will take on the kicking duties, which is preferable to Hodgson, but Barkley himself is prone to a few jitters in the big games – take the Guinness semi-final against Wasps as an example, when he fluffed his first few conversion attempts.
    Fingers crossed for a close, hard-fought game, catching NZ at their weakest state this century, but all likelihood is for a walk in Eden Park for the All Blacks.

  2. I’m in fairly broad agreement with one or two exceptions. Firstly, although Palmer is in good form Nick Kennedy has been the best line-out forward in England and the ABs dominated this area against the Irish. I’d have given him a run. Also, I’d like to have seen Croft at 6 with Haskell at 8. Along with Rees I can see this being a back-row combination to see us through a number of years, and what better place to gain experience as a unit than New Zealand?

  3. I think I agree with you both too. It might have been different if we’d had the chance to have first crack at them as I think we might have done a better job than Ireland (but I stress the word might as we’re a bit of an unknown quantity).

    As it is, they’ve had a warm-up game and got some bad rugby out of their system and a win under the belt. They’re now at home against a new-look team so you have to fancy them to beat us.

    NZ did dominate the lineout but you have to say that a large part of that was down to Ireland completely imploding, and the officials not seeming to realise that a lineout throw has to be straight (on one throw, Williams actually reached outwards to get the ball!). I’m a big fan of Palmer, but even I would pick Kennedy for this one, because aside from what I’ve said above, NZ were strong in the lineout.

    Hodgson is the key man really. He’s always capable of a good couple of games, even if he does struggle to sustain it. In theory, Barkley at 12 will take some pressure off him, but I’m still mentally scarred by the 2005 6N game against France at HQ. CH and OB played a game of “anything you can do I can do worse” with their place kicking and gifted the win to France despite us scoring two tries to none.

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