England team to face South Africa in 1st Test

Stuart Lancaster has handed first starts to Joe Marler and Tom Johnson for Saturday’s 1st Test against South Africa in Durban. With Alex Corbisiero and Phil Dowson still recovering from injuries, Lancaster has selected the impressive Harlequins and Exeter stars for their biggest challenge yet. Mike Brown also comes in at full back, moving Ben Foden onto the left wing. Ben Youngs also returns at scrum-half.

15. Mike Brown, 14. Chris Ashton, 13. Manu Tuilagi, 12. Brad Barritt, 11. Ben Foden, 10. Owen Farrell, 9. Ben Youngs; 1. Joe Marler, 2. Dylan Hartley, 3. Dan Cole, 4. Mouritz Botha, 5. Geoff Parling, 6. Tom Johnson, 7. Chris Robshaw (c), 8. Ben Morgan


16. Lee Mears, 17. Paul Doran-Jones, 18. Tom Palmer, 19. Phil Dowson, 20. Lee Dickson, 21. Toby Flood, 22. Jonathan Joseph

40 thoughts on “England team to face South Africa in 1st Test

  1. Foden on the wing? Interesting decision. Personally I would have thought Brown would make a better winger, but I suppose Foden’s experience may be the edge. Still would have preferred to see an out and out winger there. Are Wade and Strettle both injured?

  2. Not usually convinced by moving full-backs to wing, but in this case I think it’s sensible – the Boks are going to be raining down high balls on the back three and they’ll have to think twice. Wade or Strettle or Monye wouldn’t give me quite so much confidence.

    1. A fair point, but Strettle is actually pretty good under high balls. I see your point though. But we haven’t even got another winger on the bench. Unless he’s thinking of moving Tuilagi to the wing if necessary?

  3. Dazza – as a Quins fan, I know that Brown, whilst an excellent fullback, is not a great wing.. reckon that’s been a factor in his non-selection for a while, not as many options to play him. but Foden’s pace as well as his high ball handling (agree, Hutch) makes him a good choice if you want to play both. Didn’t he used to play on the wing anyway? I like this combo.

    1. LynnB – As a Sarries fan, I must congratulate your guys on a fantastic season, and thank you for not letting the Tigers win again. And Foden used to play scrum half, but I’m not sure he’s played on the wing, certainly not at this level. But Hutch is right, under the high ball, I’d rather have him than Monye or Strettle.

      1. Foden (as far as I can remember) has never started a game for Saints on the wing. Used to be a scrum half and I think he’s played wing for England in an uncapped baa baas game as well.

        Test rugby is a tough environment in which to learn a new position but I would say that Foden is one of the few truly world class players in this England squad so I’m sure he’ll do fine. Would rather see him at fb though.

  4. Also impressed by the fact Joseph is on the bench. This team is nearly the exact team i would have picked (on current form and injuries respective). The only inclusion i’m surprised with is Youngs starting ahead of Care, and Tom Palmer on the bench (personally would have had Robson).

    1. Robson hasn’t had the chance to prove himself yet, but I’m sure he will play a major part in the midweek team, and hopefully put his hand up for test caps.

    1. He certainly has the pace and the step, and I’m glad to see him on the bench. But with Flood on the bench, and the choice of moving Farrell down the line, it would have been nice to see Wade on the bench. I think he could give Habbana a good run.

      1. I think Wade would get targeted with laser guided Steyn bombs, so although I would love to see him against ‘Dash’ I think midweek team is best place for him at the moment.

        1. Agreed, Matt – my nerves would be shot seeing Wade underneath kick after kick, and his defence would be another concern in a game like this. One for the future, but not for a 3-Test Bok series this month.

  5. Dazza – thanks, most generous, and you are most welcome, we were more than happy to deny them Tigers! Wing back up is interesting and how can I have missed commenting on the absence of Care?! I think he’s in fantastic form right now – even if Lancaster wasn’t going to start him straightaway, surely he warrants the bench place?

    1. I wonder if Lancaster is testing him by leaving him out for the first test to see how he reacts. He has been in great form, but Dickson has worked really hard in his (and Youngs’) absence, and Youngs probably suits Farrell’s game more than Care.
      Give Care a bigger role in the leadership group for the first midweek game and see how he handles that, and I’m sure he’ll be in for the second test.

  6. Thought Johnson’s performance against Barbarians was worthy of the starting Jersey even if Dowson fully fit.

    Foden on wing is a very good tactical selection, also very pleased to see Brown get his chance as we learnt so little about him during 6N.

    Can’t wait to see Marler, in his last 2 games he has faced Mujati, PDJ, Cole and Castro and I don’t think he was bettered by any of them, even when fresh off the bench.

    Harsh on Care to miss out but I think Dixon on bench is correct call. Big pressure game for Youngs as unlikely to be going forward with clean ball all game, so huge test of his temperament, speed of thought and decision making under pressure.

    If 10, 12 and 13 can have decent games in attack I think we may pinch this first test. Hoping for a couple of monster Tuilagi hits (legal ones) early to get him into the game.

    1. On the contrary, I thought Dowson’s performance against the Barbarians was worthy of the starting jersey.

      Struggle to see how Ben Youngs merits a place in the squad ahead of Care, and I agree with those above saying that Dickson’s game probably suits Farrell better anyway.

      1. Personally I would have gone for Care over Youngs, but either way I would still have Dickson on bench. I think with a non running 10 it is important to have running threat round the fringes to hold some defenders otherwise we will be too easy to defend against.

        It’s great to have so much genuine competition for these key places though.

  7. I’d say that the biggest gamble Lancaster is taking is picking Marler without a proper loosehead on the bench. PDJ is a great prop who can cover both sides, but he’s mostly a tighthead (just as Matt Stevens is really a loosehead). Lancaster is investing a lot of confidence in Marler here, and if he buckles at scrum time then England will be in big trouble.

    1. At least he’s prepared to make the gamble. We’re still learning what a lot of the players are capable of, and I applaud Lancaster for giving them a chance. Can you imagine what this team would’ve looked like if MJ was still in charge?

    2. I wish they would get the rules changed to have 23 man squads for internationals. Although a risk, not having tighthead cover is also a risk. SA have a 127 kg loosehead on the bench, so I think the planned sub will be PDJ for Cole at some stage. Marler had the better of Mujati and owned PDJ in the play off semi so I think he has passed every test of late. With no Stevens or Corbs I can’t see a better selection of 3 props.

      1. Totally agree re 23 man squads – given the pressures of the position and effect on the body it’s a safety issue as much as anything else – a full front row on the bench would reduce the pressure and also reduce the need for tired props to return to the field if one gets injured.

        Scrummaging well against tired opposition in an end of season club game is one thing but test rugby in your opponent’s back yard is entirely different, especially when much of this game will hinge on what happens at scrums and driving mauls. I just hope that Marler can step his form up to international level, otherwise things will become very sticky for him.

  8. no mention of out second row here, i think it lacks bulk.
    we only have parling as a main jumper in the lineout?

    1. It certainly looks a little lightweight, particularly compared to Eben Etzebeth who is 6’8″ and nearly 20 stone! Botha deserves his spot for his contribution in the loose and hopefully Parling will dominate the line out!

    2. A good point jimmy, but do we have any decent bulky locks? Can’t think of any who match the SA bulk?

      1. Im not sure we have.

        the saffer front row are always huge and rely less on technique and more on sheer weight and power.

        The key is Marler, who at 17 stone is comparatively small, but as most have mentioned above, hes got the technique.

        what a debut for marler: i cant weight for the first scrum!

        I like Johnson and Robshaw together – they both seem to be feisty!

        Morgan is going to have to have a huge game, good job we are not at altitude yet, apparently his fitness is only just getting there!

    3. Good point, at least it’s not Botha and Matfield facing us! The Parling M. Botha pairing went so well in the 6N I can’t argue against sticking to it. Robshaw seems to have developed as a lineout option for Quins so whilst no Croft or Wood I expect him to be used a fair bit. Hopefully Parling can poach a few in the air, probably the best chance we have of defending the driving maul!

  9. Anyone else struggling to see how we’re ever going to see Tuilagi at 12 and JJ at 13 when JJ is clearly the centre and wing cover. Unless the back three remains the same and barritt goes off. Flood would do better with manu inside and JJ outside. No care? Tough call after his electric form at the end of this season and in the prem final. I always have a problem with brown at full back, he’s not got the pace foden has. He seems to disappear a bit in an England shirt. Glad to see Johnson in, the guy would run after the ball until the lights were turned off and everyone went home (he’d still probably be playing with robshaw if that happened). I think we’re going to miss lawes, his athletic destruction would have been excellent to help exploit a SA back row which isn’t in much form and a back line dominated with kickers rather than finishers. Hell, not even little Aplon made the team and he would be a lot more creative than most of that boks side.

    1. Brown disappears a bit in an England shirt? How many minutes of international rugby has he played?

      I really like this team. Was surprised to see Brown start, but against the Boks it’s certainly the best choice. Foden might be able to use a bit more of his ability as well on the wing, I think. Youngs for me is the wrong choice, Care is a better player… especially if it’s Farrell, not Flood, at fly-half.

      Not so sure about the bench though – would have preferred a reserve centre, probably George Lowe, instead of the amount of forward options. Not sure how much you can do with just a seven-man bench though. I certainly agree with those who say a 23-man squad would be better for everybody.

  10. Like this selection a lot. No-one can accuse Lancaster of lacking balls, picking Marler for debut in South Africa! But his form justifies it so fair play.

    I’ve heard a rumour that Foden has been standing in at fly-half sometimes in training. With his hands and running threat, that might not be a bad option, starting on the wing and then filling in when Farrell is out of play or offering an option in the manner Austin Healey used to.

    Exciting stuff, shame I’m at a wedding when the game is on!

  11. I like it as well,

    Marler was outstanding in the final and during the whole year, he deserves a run. I am also intrigued by foden on the wing, I think he is one of Englands most creative pllayers and on of the few that runs at speed with his head up, he draws his man and gives the pass like no other in the team, much like Austin Heally use to do, I would like to see him come into the line and takk the ball as second or first reciever and create, it could be the solution to a rather static midfield.

    Nothing against Johnson he deserves a run but I would have liked to see Robshaw at 6 and experimented with an out and out 7 as the breakdown is a problem area. Stefan Armitage might be worth a try he never had a real one before.

    But over all a good selection, it will be a huge test for the English boys but I think all the fans are happy with the selection.

    1. A late Monsiour Wilkinson penalty means Toulon and Armitage are contesting Top 14 final this weekend. Shame, I hope he gets a chance in the AIs, I don’t believe you can be good enough to be voted best player in Top 14 and not be good enough to play for England in a position we don’t have much strength.

      1. Wilkinson has chosen to remain playing in France. I think that from 2012/13 season onwards, you must play in England to be eligible for an international squad. Hence Haskell (for example) returning for next season…

        1. As Armitage was discarded under last regime before he moved to Toulon I don’t think him plying his trade in France should preclude him from selection. It’s a different situation to an established international who already earns good money through international appearences heading off for a bigger club wage. I hope Lancaster does invoke his exception clause Armitage’s case if his current form continues into the Autumn.

        2. No offense but I think that’s nonsense. Players should be picked if they’re the best, regardless. I think it’s more a plan for the future than dwelling on the past.

          1. No offence, but it’s the RFU’s self-imposed rule, whether you like it or not. Yes, they have left themselves an ‘exception clause’ but they want to strongly encourage English players to play in England and this is what they’re left with, given the salary cap does not allow clubs to compete with others, for example those in France, on money terms.
            Having said that, I think there is also a firm move to only now consider players who have a realistic chance of being available for 2015, and that would almost certainly rule out Wilkinson. Many people have been surprised at the exclusion from the squad of Nick Easter, who’s been playing superbly for Quins since returning from NZ, but he won’t make it to 2015 either.

  12. Saffas will nudge it I think. England will put up a good fight but will concede penalties through Tiulagi and offsides and the Saffas will kick them. MornĂ© Steyn is a better kicker than Farrell or anyone for that matter. So is Pienaar. They lack open play skills. I think Ireland would lose by more however as we’d get battered up front. SA also have a slightly stronger bench and might be able to turn the screw later on. Fascinating dual though – the only Summer tests worth watching really: Aussies need to get rid of Deans, and Ireland can’t beat the AB’s.

  13. My concerns with the scrum have nothing to do with Marler or Cole – Cole is rapidly becoming one of the best tightheads in the world and Marler has the potential to be one of the best looseheads.

    My concern is with the weight of the locks behind them. Are Parling and Botha strong enough to counter the drive that will be coming through the huge Saffer locks?

    My other worry is whether Hartley will be able to handle Du Plessis. If he can’t then that will cause our scrum all types of issues – and with only Lee Mears on the bench, no way to resolve them

    Other than that, if Brown, Foden and Ashton can deal with the bombs that will undoubtedly come their way, I feel we are in with a decent chance

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