England tour to New Zealand: winners and losers

parling

It was a series whitewash, so the negatives will always outweigh the positives overall, but here’s our take on some (note: not all) of the England players that either enhanced their reputation, or did the opposite, on the tour to New Zealand.

WINNERS

upGeoff Parling
Probably the biggest winner of the tour from an England perspective. The lineout was near flawless with him at the helm – it’s no coincidence that it faltered in the final test when he was out. A senior figure in the squad and one of Lancaster’s key men in the build up to 2015.

upRob Webber
Like Parling, a key part of the success of the lineout in the first two tests. He’ll have a bit of a fight on his hands to oust Hartley and Youngs from the matchday squad jerseys, but his consistently accurate throwing in New Zealand, coupled with some strong carrying, has set him in good stead.

upMarland Yarde
Two tries on tour is a good return for a man who needed to show that he was worth persevering with. They were good finishes, too, showing plenty of power on both occasions and he also handled well when he found himself in the midfield every now and then. Needs to shore up his defence, though.

upDanny Cipriani
Perhaps a slightly controversial one this, but Cipriani’s return to the England fold has almost certainly been a success. He didn’t get that much game time in the tests but showed some nice touches when he did get on, and he bossed the first half of the game against the Crusaders. That, added to the lack of any off-field misdemeanours, is a win.

Kieron Brookes
upThe performances of Brookes seem to have gone under the radar somewhat. Clearly a man held of in high regard by Graham Rowntree, given his ascension to the test squad even with Henry Thomas fit, Brookes showed admirable strength at the scrum and stood out with a couple of powerful bursts with ball in hand. Will add much needed competition to the tighthead position.

upJames Haskell
He has had his detractors in the past, but even they have to admit he’s playing the best rugby of his career right now. The ability to cover all three back row positions will make him an important member of the World Cup squad – his performance in the first test allayed all doubts that he can’t make it at the top level against the best.

LOSERS

downBilly Twelvetrees
Tough to judge a player on one game alone, but it was a bit of a shocker from Twelvetrees in the second test. It was a game he had to grab by the scruff of the neck and finally confirm himself as England’s no.1 choice at 12, but he simply didn’t do it. Poor tackles an inaccurate offloads framed an error-strewn performance.

downMike Brown
A caveat here – Brown is being judged against the standards he set in the Six Nations. And why not? We know what he is capable of, and he simply couldn’t reproduce it on this tour. His positioning left something to be desired at times, and he just seemed to lack a half a yard of pace to beat the first man as he did before.

Joe Launchbury
downSame caveat applies here as it did above for Brown. His offload in the final test was superb, but aside from that he didn’t seem to be on the shoulder of the ball carrier as much as usual, and he even fell off a couple of tackles he’d expect to be making. Undoubtedly fatigued after a long season, he’ll return next year fresher and stronger to challenge Parling and Lawes again.

downDylan Hartley
His performances on this tour were far from terrible, but he loses out primarily due to coming off a comfortable second best to Rob Webber. His lineout throwing was less accurate, and there were a couple of poor dropped balls. Won’t affect his status as no.1 hooker, though.

Kyle Eastmond
downWoeful in the last test but impressive in the first, it’s tough to know exactly how to judge Eastmond. Why did there seem to be such issues with defensive organisation in the last test with the same combinations that played in the first? Either way, he bombed in that third game badly enough to be taken off at half time. Not the end of his international road, but a definite speed bump.

Chris Ashton
downA superb domestic season, yes, but is this the end of Ashton’s international career? He wasn’t helped by the disorganisation inside him, but to miss five of his eight attempted tackles in the third test is simply not good enough, even up against a freak of nature like Julien Savea. Has been found wanting defensively one too many times now at this level.

By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

46 thoughts on “England tour to New Zealand: winners and losers

  1. I think Twelvetrees and Hartley were both struggling with fitness concerns and lack of gametime, while Launchbury and Brown were probably knackered after their seasons. Ashton and Eastmond were perhaps therefore the two biggest losers, as neither had much credit in the bank either, and both are in positions with no fully-established first choice.

    You could probably add Thomas to the list of losers as well. His form hasn’t been great for Sale, and Brookes’ gain is his loss.

    Thought Youngs might get a mention as a winner. Hasn’t played that well in a test jersey since pre-Lions. Hopefully he can go on a run of form leading up to the World Cup.

  2. Although limited to a few minutes in the first test and the game v crusaders, i think Joe Gray came out well too.

    Rob Webber for me has claimed that jersey. We were stronger with him on the field.

    Ben Morgan was another winner. With the strengthening of the Gloucester scrum for next year, if they get that rolling, he could be showing the form he was for the Scarlets, and he may edge out Vunipola. I think he played a bit more intelligently than Billy V did and again we were better with him on the field.

    What worries me, is that we have a limited number of games to ensure that we have the right combinations in all positions. We are none the wiser in the centres and have no clue as to who lines up on the wings with Yarde.

    The tour was always going to be a difficult one. But despite the score in the second test, we got further and further away from NZ as the series progressed, and for that, it has to be seen as an unsuccessful one.

    1. I think the other thing with Morgan and Vunipola is that Vunipola has played a lot more rugby. Consistently playing a full 80 for Sarries, play offs, quarter finals, semis and finals! They all add up, and Morgan wasn’t in the best form mid season (not helped by Gloucester’s lack of a good front five).

  3. Lancaster’s star faded a little perhaps? Mucking about with selections didn’t work, subbing Eastmond at half time could be a career threatening drop (Tait and Henry Paul come to mind), post-rationalisation seeming to include the fixture clash a lot. After 1st and 2nd test much was made of the development of depth, the fearless approach to selecting youngsters, etc. so I’m only thinking it’s faded a little compared to the height his rep seemed to be ascending to.

    He looked flustered and harried after the 3rd test in what should have been the culmination of the close encounters rather than a total bust. Tactically England were inept in that match and in those cases coaches come in for flak, as I know only too well. Also the inability to sort out a centre partnership is starting to look like bad organisation rather than just bad luck now.

    And he’s still, STILL picking Chris Ashton.

    1. Brighty every now and then the veneer you try and portray of rugby first tribal second commentator slips. You’re enjoying this too much.

      And btw Steve Walsh was entirely responsible for the 2013 win ;)

      1. I actually agree with Brighty here.

        The Tuilagi on the wing idea was insane from the moment it was mooted – it not only screwed with the selection process but the constant chopping and changing in the centres seems largely responsible for our appalling defensive structure in the last test.

        However – given England have won just twice in NZ over the last century and N Hemisphere teams just 6 times overall, the very fact that we are disappointed that we didn’t win a test shows how far this team have come under Lancaster. Whilst the last game was a disappointment, I am still encouraged by the way England didn’t just fold and gift the Kiwis a 40 point drubbing and further encouraged by the way the team stood up in the first test when everyone expected them to be blown away.

        Of course there are lots of points to fix – the wings, the centres, the re-starts and the way the forwards attacked (or rather didn’t attack) the rucks – but its getting there. 3 wins from 4 in the AIs (esp over Aus) and I’ll be even happier

        BTW – I would be interested to see cap comparisons between the 2 teams for this series. Does anyone have that info?

        1. Didn’t put Tui on the wing mean that the first time he and 12Ts were fit at the same time they again couldn’t form the centre partnership that everyone wanted to see tried out? A missed opportunity?

      2. Not to be deliberately provocative, but I tend to disagree with Brighty (and Pablito).

        Specifically on the Tuilagi wing thing. It didn’t work. But this does not mean that it should not have been tried, as the reasons for doing so were very logical.

        Burrell/Twelvetrees were great in the 6N. Tuilagi is a match winner on his day. Why not find a way to get them all playing together.

        I think the fact that it was tried, and the fact that it was changed for the third test, doesn’t reflect badly on Lancaster, but quite the opposite. Lets face it, it wasn’t quite on a par with Bergamasco at Scrum-Half (or Tom Wood at No8).

        I think also that it was not Tuilagi on the wing that failed, but the loss of Tuilagi in the centre.

        I believe also that picking Chris Ashton was the right call. Again, it wasn’t great in retrospect, but that doesn’t mean it was the wrong decision.

        Lastly, para=phrasing Andrew Mehrtens, writing in The Times,out of 6 halves played in this series, New Zealand only really outplayed England in two of them. One may argue that it was only 1 and a half, but either way, that is a relevent crumb of comfort. More so when you consider that England recovered their own game immediately after these periods of pressure.

  4. I think this tour has only muddied the waters further. We seem to have discovered further depth in areas we have been strong in, and no closer to answers for the problems before the tour.

    I saw somewhere that Lancaster was supposed to announce his EPS in July, but was trying to get it pushed back until just before the AI’s.

    Does anyone know what the outcome of this was? Or indeed which bright spark thought picking a squad 5 months before the games are due to be played was a good idea?

  5. In the last test, England were terrible in the first half, but came out and played a lot better in the second half, and arguably had the better of the game. It has been noted that (a bit like the second test) New Zealand took their foot off the pedal, but I don’t buy this. New Zealand are not a side to “relax” and “take it easy” in an international game, and I think this was proved with Savea grabbing his hat-trick deep into red time at the end of the third.

    I do struggle a little to accept that Eastmond was quite as poor as some commentators are saying, he certainly was not a Henry Paul (I remember that very well) but I do wonder why the coaches changed him, and not (only) the system at half time.

    In terms of Webber, I would be very surprised if he has not leap-frogged Youngs as No2 No2 (at least).

    Brown, Launchbury, Care, Vunipola, Wood, Marler (in the 3rd) all seemed to be running on empty, so in a bizarre way this is encouraging.

    Cipriani – from a distance – did appear to do everything right, so that will be interesting. If rumours are to be believed, this was to be his “last chance” and it looks like he took it.

    As I noted on another post (pre 3rd test) we do look all of a sudden well stocked at Tight Head, with Sinckler also looking a good player.

  6. I’d chuck Andy Farrell’s name in to the ‘Losers’ mix too. He’s had a good run with the squad as defence coach and the defence was, at times. woeful and shapeless.

    1. Agree re: Farrell. I think some of that was fatigue, the line speed wasn’t there, nor was the solid scramble defence. There were a number of times where the squad looked somewhat bemused as to what to do next.

  7. I still think SL learned some more about the team and the players, which has to be a positive.

    In some positions it is about finding the form players out of an existing group of decent players including loosehead, hooker, lock, 8, SH and fb. In others we have found extra depth, including tighthead, 6 and fh. We now know tuilagi isn’t a wing and is a nailed on 13, and that Yarde can be an international wing and now needs game time. So we are really only short one wing and a 12, which isn’t too bad and I for one would like to see what 36 can do with tuilagi outside him. Otherwise it’s back to Barritt.

    What does our pecking order look like now?

    Corbisiero, Marler, Vunipola
    Webber, Hartley, Youngs
    Cole, Wilson, Brookes
    Parling, Lawes, ?
    Launchbury, Attwood, Slater
    Robshaw, Kvesic, ?
    Wood, Croft, Haskell
    Morgan, Vunipola, ?
    Care, Youngs, Dickson
    Farrell, Cipriani, Ford
    36, Barritt, ?
    Tuilagi, Burrell, ?
    Yarde, May, ?
    Watson, Nowell, ?
    Brown, Foden, Goode/Pennell

    No doubt there are a few ? Marks in there and maybe some arguments with who I’ve put, but that isn’t the worst squad out there, but it would be good to settle some back line combinations so their not playing with new players every week which I’m sure led to some of the defensive problems in NZ.

    Personally for all the flak that SL has got, he must of learned a great deal about the players on this tour, for better or worse. It’s not his fault that we seem to have a general dearth of good players from 11 to 14 at present.

    Therefore fairly positive overall. I think most of us expected a 3-0 result. 2-1 would have been great! We got close in 2 tests which was one more than I was expecting.

    Probably not much between England Ireland and Wales at present, so it will be interesting to see how the return fixtures go in the autumn. Was it home advantage that did for the NH teams or are the SH really that much better?

    1. Forgot Wade! He has probably leapfrogged May. So on second thoughts, next backline to start is Care, Farrell, 36 , Tuilagi, Yarde, Brown and Wade. Youngs, Cipriani and Watson on the bench. Farrell to cover centre, but hey you can’t have everything!

      Also maybe being harsh on Eastmond. Inexperienced so maybe he’s still in with a shout.

      1. You redeemed yourself by remembering Wade who is the best wing since Robinson. Let’s hope he’s recovered or will recover from his bad injury last season

      2. I think the players listed there are all good calls, I’d have some listed above others, but that would be subject to change due to form anyway.

        Wade for me is a certain pick if fit, and I would want to see Watson during the AI’s too.

        1. There are some other wing prospects – Elliot Daly, Miles Benjamin, Jamie Elliot – but it would all rather depend on them having stand-out seasons and keeping free from injury

          f I were Lancaster, I’d also be keeping a close eye on Nathan Earle who rather shone in the JWC an Charlie Walker who was starting to show a bit of his talent at Quins last year – but these are guys are longer-term prospects

        2. Jonny, I would love to see Wade playing.

          I do wonder though, how he would have fared in defence, in place of Ashton in that last test.

          1. Probably not very well, but I would back him, given the opportunity, to make any defensive line in the world look very ordinary indeed with ball in hand!

      3. Yarde’s attack should definitely see him get a run at 11. Over the course of the series I think he was our second best attacking threat behind only Tuilagi. His defence was more from inexperience rather than poor technique (overrunning Jane as opposed to just trying to hug a carrier). Game time ought to help that.

        I don’t think anybody is in pole position for 12 or 14. Twelvetrees and Eastmond are both yet to have a run of games to nail themselves down the starting spot, but the former is still yet to have a fully fit outing with Tuilagi.
        As for 14 I think anyone of Watson, Wade or Nowell could put their hands up. I read that Wade would be having sprinting training during the summer if he didn’t get enough game time to tour NZ. If that’s true then I can’t wait to see him play next season, especially with Wasps doing some strong recruiting. If the he and Watson fail to show the spark they have at club level then I think SL will stick with Nowell merely to give him game time as Brown’s understudy.
        I’d also say Haskell is probably our second choice seven as well. He’s a very good all rounder that I think would be able to do a good job whether he’s teamed up with Wood, Robshaw or Croft. That being said Kvesic was very impressive behind a good pack, another player I can’t wait to see next season after some strong recruiting.

        Five days from the end of our season and I’m already itching for the next.

      1. Brighty, I think that this may well come under consideration given the issues that have come up over the winter.

        Personally, I hope that we can see Eastmond come again.

        1. I’d say Farrel at inside could be the key for England though. I don’t want to help them out but … Cipriani at 10, Farrel inside him for defensive line alignment and a safe boot when Cips has the odd wonky idea (which a creative talent will have, not knocking him for it), Tui outside Farrel. Eng can then play left/right heads up rugby – Aussi style when they used to have Giteau at inside. Seems natural to me – why bother with the, imo, frankly awful 12Ts at centre and the stodgy Farrel at 10 when you can still have Farrel’s boot, remove the inside centre problem and put Cipriani on the pitch.

          1. Why indeed?

            It may well be that there was an intent to go along this route anyway, but with Ford at 10. It seemed that they were drip-feeding Ford into the team – which given some of his end of season wobbles, balanced against his undoubted talent, is understandable.

            The “sudden” (re)appearance of Cipriani, may now put more momentum to this plan.

            We can but hope!

          2. Now Brighty. You have been fairly consistent in your attitude towards not picking players out of position. Farrell is a FH who can cover 12. 36 was brought in to help distribution which is not Farrells strong point. You’re also being too harsh on 36. He wasn’t fully fit after an excellent season playing largely out of position for a poor glos and he also had a pretty decent 6N. He isn’t perfect but calling him awful on the back of one game is ridiculous. By that yardstick, I could call most of the Welsh team awful and they’re not. However I did enjoy your suggestion that Lydiate should be dropped!!

  8. So many ‘winners’ & ‘losers’, so many head spinning combos.

    The focus seems to be on ‘if only’. If this or that player were in whatever posi, when surely it’s as much, or more, to do with coaching of basics & of choice of tactics or ‘reading’ of the game which caused England to come unstuck, in the end, in NZ.

    From 2 ‘tight’ tests, to almost dismemberment in the last game, the prev mood seemed virtually reversed after last Sat’s test.

    Guys like Ashton have been trashed whilst the implication seems to be that if say Wade had played it might have made a diff? Eastmond was also trashed after the last test, but talked up in the prev game. Can a guy be so bad or good after 2 games? Likewise with Yarde. Looked good going fwd, but missed 3 (I prev mentioned 2) tackles on smith & Jane x2 (in the last game), prev kicked waywardly & didn’t (just like Tui) fend the tackler thereby butchering a ‘cert’? That’s not to say that any of these guys are unworthy, (Wade e.g., really appeals as an electric winger) but I think they have areas to improve (who doesn’t?), but then so do the coaching & tactics of Lancaster.

    Seems Lancaster has had some bolters thrown up, e.g. Webber, Cip, although only because he couldn’t pick some players. But the real issue for England in the last test was that the backs got out of posi/shape v NZ. Surely this was due to a lack of sticking to ‘D’ alignment. Isn’t this down to coaching/drilling the backs? Afterall all the ABs mostly did was to pass the ball along their line. Not rocket stuff.

    Also, as prev mentioned elsewhere, the England pack were drawn into the maul, thereby denuding the defence more than had happened before. Also the ABs won the br/down, so they had more ball.

    There’s some talk of lessons being learned (isn’t there always?), but it’s important as to what
    those specific lessons are. Maybe e.g., a balanced b/row & getting a speedster to the br/down 1st, settling on whether England are going to play R1 through the b/line or be more creative & then picking his midfield to suit his chosen style.

    So for me it’s more about stlye of game, tactics, strategy, adaptability & pronto decision making & in ‘reading’ a game in real time rather than just about picking this or that player in this or that posi.

    England have plenty decent players & bearing the above in mind ,they can, in theory at least, look forward to Autumn with some optimism in their being competative. However, the SH are also gathering momentum for 2015 & Father Time is doing likewise.

  9. I think Jonny May should be in loser. Lancaster stuck by him in the 6nations, showed signs of improvement in the 1st test. But dropped from 2 & 3rd test only appearing in the midweek match playing as 13 replacement. Might be a sign Lancaster May is just a temporary solution until Wade appears.

    Another loser should be Chris pennell played less then a 1min in the 1st test, did not appear for any of the other test except the midweek match where he impressed. Now Worcester has been relegated i don’t see Pennell coming back into the england team.

    1. May was getting a lot of stick for cutting back inside in the 6N. He said to the press that he was going to back himself more in NZ. I think he did that, and barring a couple of errors (that miscommunication with Brown, and trying to run it from his own line at the start of the first half) I thought he played quite well.

      One area he did look a bit weak in though was the kick chase, and for someone who is reported to cover 15 too he seems a bit suspect under the high ball. That said, I wouldn’t be horrified to see him starting for England in the AI’s if he starts the season in good form.

  10. Can I commit sacrilege and make a point no one wants to make? Is Wood really so nailed on as the 6? What does he actually do besides lineouts and tackling? I have been a massive Wood fan for some time but he doesnt seem to be as prominent as he once was. There continues to be talk of needing more speed at 7 and Robshaw is called into question, but frankly on current form if you had to drop one of Robshaw and Wood surely it would be the Saints man to give way, with Robshaw moving to (arguably his natural position) 6? That being said I still remain unconvinced that Kvesic is the english answer to Hooper, and agree with Steffon remaining in exile – them’s the rules – so who would even come in?

    I also remain convinced that (more sacrilege here) at their current age the Lawes / Launchbury back row lacks a bit of grunt. Right now I’ll admit Parling may well have earned a sopt anyway, but over the next year I’d love to see how Slater would go with one of Lawes/Launch. I remain slightly convinced that the scrum’s struggles are in part due to lack of “engine room” that never seems to be a problem when the subs (ie. Attwood) come on.

    On the backs; winger remains a problem since – much as i hate to say it – is Wade really going to make it with someone like Savea running at him?? People say the Manu experiment in Test 2 didnt work and I agree that we missed him in attack, but Savea was contained…
    For me Watson must be given a chance in the Autumn. Ashton continues to prove he doesnt have it at this level, May looks confused, Wade for me is too small and Nowell I think will end up at fullback due to lack of top end pace. The only one that ticks all the size / speed / hands / lines boxes is Watson…..let him earn the shirt in time for the world cup.

    1. I’d argue that Wood was just as effective as Robshaw in that last test, and the previous ones. And he edges selection due to his lineout ability. There’s not much in it really. But I agree that our backrow is lacking, I do think Kvesic could be our guy, but he needs to show it.

      Launch is a big fella, ok, not as grunty as Attwood, but he’s still effective, and he’s filling the tight lock role quite well, whilst still maintaining his more flanker like abilities. Launch and Lawes just seems to work so well. Especially with both of them improving with carrying and offloading (Launch really seems to have nailed his offloads this season).

      As for Savea vs Wade, I’d trust Wade to give it more of a go than Ashton, and I’ve seen Wade tackle Opeti Fonua, admittedly he wrapped himself round one leg till the big guy fell over, but it worked, and he was willing to do it.

      1. I agree with Jon about Wood. I don’t think he was nearly as effective in this series as he has been in past games – perhaps another who played too much this season

        My general problem with him though is that he doesn’t offer too much with the ball in hand. I’d rather have a Kaino / Wilhem Alberts / Stephen Ferris type who tackles destructively and offers a heavy carrying option.

        At the moment I’d go with Haskell who although not quite in the Kaino/Alberts league is playing some of the rugby of his life. He hits rucks and tackles hard and carries well

        Still good options to have and although I’m not his greatest fan, Croft is still to come back. Not sure if there are any blindside talents coming through. Can Dave Ewers play there?

        Am also in agreement with the locks. Much as I like the Lawes/Launchbury combo it seems on the light side to me and I thought it noticeable that Retallick had the upper hand on both of them.

        Attwood generally seems to offer more grunt in the scrum and round the field. But that said, I think Slater could well play himself into the side and be a fixture for a long time. Again – all good options to have

        Finally, do agree with DanD on Wade who does seem to tackle with tenacity and toput himself in harm’s way – bit like little Shane used to do; anyone remember his try-saving tackle on Banahan?

        1. Blindside talents coming through?

          Not sure of his age but the bath 6 that looks like a doorman always seems pretty effective (forget his name). Leroy Houston as well.

          Not doing too well with names today, and probably a little more long term, but the coloured guy who captained the U20’s from Lock looks very special.

          Agree that Haskell must be really pushing now, and that Croft (I feel) still has more to offer. I do not buy the idea that he is a fancy-dan type hanging around waiting to run with the ball.

          1. Is Houston eligible? I’d throw Jackson Wray into the mix too.

            Maro Itoje is the U20 captain. I believe someone, it may have been on here, said that he was one of the most dominant players in the U20 since the Savea brothers. High praise indeed. I hope he gets some game time this season with Saracens. Same with Nathan Earle.

        2. I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree on Wood v Robshaw; for me I’d say Robshaw’s work in the lineout is still adequate, and his tackle count, carry count, rucks hit, and his work as a 2nd “pivot” in the loose carrying game puts him a cut above Wood in my eyes. As we say though, no one is pushing that hard right now in that “genuine 7” mould, though I agree Haskell is pushing right now.

          Have to agree with Pablito on Slater; he looks the real deal as a tight grinder, major force in scrum and a constant source of go foward carrying which frankly L&L dont offer. Launch is great when on song and carrying in the wide channels (and his offload for the try was brilliant) but he gets knocked back carrying a few yards out from the ruck, and Lawes still hasnt learned to get low enough. When you think of good carrying locks you think Botha, Sharpe, Thorne, guys that just take ball after ball all game and always get 3-4 yards over the gainline to help the whole team get moving. For me L&L dont do that, and we offset this by having a back row with an average weight of 17st – directly leading to complaints we lack speed at 7!

          on backs still think Watson on sheer size, speed and potential, but if Wade plays well start of next season I’m definitely in the “give him a try and see if he can hack it defensively” camp as he is undoubtedly the most exciting one. For me though its not even defence that scares me its how brutally the likes of NZ would target him in the kicking game, and the negative impact he would have on our own kick chase.

          One thing hopefuly we can all agree on; Webber has taken no2 from Youngs andarguably even 1 from Hartley at hooker. Marler continues to develop nicely; and I shoudl hang my head in shame for not knowing who Brookes was given he looks a seriously solid TH!

          1. We could definitely do with more heavy carriers in the pack, but I think Launch + Lawes take it as an all round team still.

            On high balls to Wade, teams try it, but I’ve seen him damn near leap over people. He knows his height will be targeted, so he’s learnt to jump really high. He won’t be winning clean ball, but no one else will be either.

            1. If teams want to kick to Wade, they had better get the kick, and the chase, bang on the money, or they would just be gifting counter-attacking opportunities to him.

              I remember the game against Leinster in the Amlin maybe last year. They targeted Wade with kicks and big runners down his channel. They did get a fair amount of joy from it, but pretty much every time they got it wrong, he tore them apart.

              I’m not implying he will certainly be able to do that at international level, but he has spent his career playing in a generally weak (for what they are used to) Wasps side. In an international set-up, he could do great things.

          2. Jon, with a lot of eyes on Sinckler, I think there were plenty of us who got a rather pleasant surprise at the appearance of Brookes.

            (if Tightheads can ever be a ‘pleasant surprise’!)

            1. Indeed; with Sinkler turning up too and Marler developing, once Cole and Corbs are back our depth in the tight five is getting frankly unfair. Always difficult to judge subs relative to starters because the starters have done the hard work first, but undoubtedly our sub tight five was smashing theirs. Same was true all 6N, it certainly looks like we can count on scrum dominance for the last 20 of every game…..if only Corbs coudl get fit we’d get it for the first 60 too.

              Re: Wade v Watson; at least we can all agree that no one else has done anything at this point to stop either of those two getting a shot in Autumn. If Wade gets the start then I’ll cross my fingers he holds up and we just get the lightening in a bottle side to his game! (Wasps fan btw, just a cautious one!)

              Could do a lot worse than Yarde, Faz, Burrrel, Manu, Wade, Brown with Cips and Watson on the bench if its attack you’re after!

              Or have I just sparked off both the centra debate and the Cips debate in one go! haha. Just to set my stance (Wasps fan remember) I’ve always been a Cips fan – his ankle injury was crushing – and with a seemingly more mature head on his shoulders he shoudl be nailed on No.2 as far as I’m concerned. With that bench you also have the option to take off a centre, shift Faz out and bring in Cips if you want to spread the game.

  11. Jon

    Did I miss summat here?

    ‘… our sub tight five was smashing theirs’.

    Didn’t ‘yr’ (were you on the paddock?) lot just lose a series 3 zip?!

    1. Ah yes the old jokes about “our” and how I’m not a squad member. Tired joke, everyone refers to sports teams as “our” ….. and given that the substitute front row consistently got the ascendency in the scrum in every test I’d say yes, OUR sub tight five did smash THEIRS (or should it YOURS?)

      As we all know, winning a scrum for the last 20 mins doesn’t necessarily equate to victory when the opposition are far more clinical in everything they do. Any other questions or can you retire to the gossip section of the Mail now where your unique brand of “debate” is likely to gain more traction?

  12. Are we using the right strategy and style to win the World Cup?It is said forwards win matches.Are we selecting enough grunt?are we playing too much like NZ and not enough to our traditional strengths?Should we play a tighter game?To me the answer is yes.How about Lawes and Attwood with Slater at 6 Billy V 8 andS Armitage at 7( break the rules Stuart!)
    That would give us the best chance of dominating NZ and Oz up front and parity with theBoks

  13. Love this thread but for some reason everyone seems to have Burrell down as a 13 or outside centre; he plays inside for Saints and his distribution skills and offloads are really quite good, to often, do we in this country assume that if the guy is a “big ‘un” that he is a smash and bash merchant Burrell is definitely not a one trick pony if given his head to allow to play to his entire array of skills (which in my opinion is in the mold of say Nonu) then he could form an awesome partnership with Tuilagi, which i for one as a Centre would not like to face whether defensively or in attack as they both have skills which could devastate defences. For some reason SL and the other coaches and pundits have dismissed this as a potentially one dimensional partnership but in this one man’s opinion it would work well especially with a a more adventurous 10 (which Farrell for all his positives is not) say Cip’s he may be a bit of a cock but he sure does look like he’s back to the player he was before. Luckily I can say this safe in the knowledge that SL will always pick Farrell as first choice and he will never partner Tualagi with Burrell (intenionally from the start of a match) so i will never be proved wrong.

  14. Jon

    Yeow! Defensive or what?

    The ‘smashing’ you talk of didn’t, as correctly you put it, ‘necessarily equate to victory’. Darn right.

    You read too much into subs. The ABs started slowly (don’t ask me why), as they did per the last Irish tour, with the forwards lacking cohesion, but they fixed things & by the end the pack out mauled England, held up in the scrum & had the better of the lineout. The scrum subs can only get better, otherwise they wouldn’t be there. Methinks you suffer from the 1 or 2 swallow syndrome. As aforementioned, you read too much too soon into this sub stuff. see how they pan out this season before writing them off.

    And it wasn’t a joke. It’s castigation for yr claiming unearned reflected glory. You, as Ritchie Benaud once alluded to, weren’t on the pitch. Or are you a lemming?

    Poor form old bean.

    And alas, the gossip section of the Mail turned me down, so unfortunately my unique brand of “debate” is unlikely to gain any traction whatsoever. Depressing.

  15. Should have read; The ‘smashing’ you talk of didn’t, as you correctly put it, ‘necessarily equate to victory’.

  16. Simon

    If, as you seem to advocate, England reverting to R1, aren’t you likely to become predictable & thus making them easier to read? Do you think the SH are going to simply let themselves be overpowered? They’ll likely flood the breakdown & deny England ball & also put numbers around the fringes in midfield to stop you.

    If England persist with an all round game, then they surely become more UNPREDICTABLE & therefore more of a threat. They can play it tight or open as needs dictate (that’s the hard part, deciding what to do when), esp with Danny Cip @ fly?!

    Personally, I hope they take yr advice.

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