England’s backline: Jones v Woodward

Elliot Daly

Sir Clive Woodward picked an England backline for the South Africa tests in his Daily Mail column the other day. The world-cup-winning coach opted for: Alex Goode, Chris Ashton, Elliot Daly, Owen Farrell, Christian Wade or Jack Nowell, Danny Cipriani and Dan Robson.

Based on his Six Nations selections, and considering the injuries to Anthony Watson and Jonathan Joseph, Eddie Jones’ first-choice backline would be something like: Mike Brown, Jonny May, Ben Te’o, Owen Farrell, Eliot Daly, George Ford and Ben Youngs.

There are two players common to both selections – and only one in the same position. You could also make a case for Woodward’s 50/50 choice of Nowell being a similar probability with Jones as well, but the rest are miles away from being picked for England under the current set up.

It is a bit of a cliché, but they say the hardest part of being a coach is the selection. This is perhaps even more the case with the England national team, given we have the largest player pool in the world. Now the size of the pool certainly doesn’t directly equate to quality – see New Zealand as your counter point – but I would argue it certainly compounds the selection problem. There is always another player, a new exciting talent, the option to cut your losses if someone is out of form rather than persevere. At around 130,000 senior male players, England have a player pool of around 11 times the size of Scotland, six times the size of Wales or five times the size of Ireland’s resources.

I know, I know, next I will be explaining how the RFU’s income is tough on the accountants.

But if we decide Woodward is not being deliberately provocative (after all, it does not make for an exciting column if he says ‘yeh, I’d pick the same team as Eddie’), we then have two world class international coaches picking backlines that are wildly different from each other. No wonder we get selection wrong sometimes.

Now Woodward’s selection is compromised in part by his selection of Chris Ashton – who, while in excellent form having broken the Top 14 scoring record, cannot be selected as he is playing abroad. The same could soon be true of Cipriani, who is leaving Wasps at the end of the season but is yet to confirm where he will be playing next. But let’s leave that ‘playing abroad/no selection’ debate aside for one minute – it was done to death over Steffon Armitage.

Woodward’s is certainly more of a form selection – for example, Cipriani is many pundits’ pick at fly half in the various teams of the season, and Ford has often struggled for both Leicester Tigers and England – while Jones tends to stay loyal to players who served him so well in those previous two record-breaking seasons. Indeed, Woodward went as far as to say ‘it would be an utter disgrace — in fact a tragedy’ if Cipriani doesn’t tour South Africa.

However, Jones recently admitted to Sky Sports that, in retrospect, he might have done things differently during the Six Nations: ‘I think I should have refreshed the side … I should have probably brought some fresh blood in, sharpened things up.’ So, there is certainly the chance we will see a changing of the guard when Jones names his squad for the South Africa tour tomorrow.

Depth needs to be found in certain positions like fullback and scrum half, while some of the forwards need a break. Regardless, for any new blood or returning prodigal sons, a resurgent South Africa on their turf will be a brutal baptism.

Which England coach’s selection do you prefer? Ford or Cipriani, Brown or Goode, Youngs or Robson? Or do you hope someone different is selected to play the Springboks?
How about giving a young star like Marcus Smith or Joe Simmonds a chance, Jason Woodward a run at full back, Henry Slade a go in the centres or bring back some physicality in the form of Manu Tuilagi?

What would be your backline selection for that first test against the Springboks?

By Henry Ker

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

33 thoughts on “England’s backline: Jones v Woodward

  1. Alex Goode *sigh* a fantastic club player, no arguments, but he has never really hit the same highs on the international stage. This is reflected in the amount of caps he has. What is the point in taking Goode to South Africa if he’s unlikely to be part of the World Cup squad?

    Also, with no disrespect to SCW, I’d argue the game has changed immeasurably since he last dipped his toe in the coaching waters. Could this be the reason for his vastly different side?

  2. Have to second Egg-Chaser’s comment on Goode…good in the prem but found wanting at international. Time and again.
    I’m not sure I like either selection entirely, but a mix of the 2 starts to give my preferred backline.
    Nowell on one wing, with Daly taking the other merely due to lack of options (imo). May has a good record but I still think hes too one dimensional. Tuilagi, if fit, has to be considered and could partner Farrell in the centres.
    The one area that is a worry is full-back. England still haven’t found a credible replacement for Brown and with Watson injured there are even fewer options to try out in SA.

    1. I don´t think Goode´s International career was helped by the fact that he was always in and out of the side, rarely getting more than a couple of games at a time and never played as part of a really settled back three. Like Cipriani, I think players tend to focus on his perceived weaknesses rather than his undeniable strengths. Also like Cips, I think he needs good players who understand his running lines around him to really thrive. Having said that, while I would pick them both I don´t think either of them will be within 3,000 miles of South Africa this summer. Personally, I´d have them both with Harrison and Simpson as my 9´s. A shame that several of the best scrum halves in the Prem are overseas players. I would also give Yarde another chance. He has been scoring for fun since he left Quins and looks rejuvinated. Perhaps several senior Quins need the same challenge. And as a real of the wall selection, how many other wingers fancy taking on Matt Banahan in the sort of form he´s in at the moment. I think we have some decent bcks to pick from, but the real problem lies not there but in the back row, which has lacked any sort of balance ever since BV got injured and EJ tried to shoe-horn an extra second row into the side.I would go experimental and try Willis, Morgan and Simmonds as a combination.

  3. Not sure how any quins players can be considered for this squad??!! Absolute Zero form, and if there for their experience only, surely a rest before RWC season would be a smarter move? (Brown, Marler, Sinks, Robshaw & Care)

  4. I keep hearing about this ‘resurgent’ South Africa side, but what is that actually based on? They’ve yet to play a game under Erasmus, they only won two of their four Autumn Internationals and now Marx has been ruled out of the tour, depriving them of arguably their best player. The Bulls and Sharks in Super Rugby have improved, but to balance that out the Lions have gone backwards and the Stormers are standing still. I’ve no doubt that they will be much improved under Erasmus and they are always a tough nut to crack for anyone at home, but people – and not just you, I point out – are happily banding about the fact they’re resurgent without any real evidence to show so.

  5. My back line for the tour would be:

    9 Ben YOUNGS
    10 Owen FARRELL (c)
    11 Jonny MAY
    12 Manu TUILAGI
    13 Henry SLADE
    14 Jack NOWELL
    15 Elliot DALY

    with the bench of:

    21 Dan ROBSON
    22 Danny CIPRIANI
    23 Denny SOLOMONA / Joe COKANASIGA

  6. Youngs needs the playing time with England after missing out on the 6N. Robson over DC off the bench as we need to develop depth at 9, as we’ve learnt the hard way with Wigglesworth (lol) getting got call up. Ford’s form has picked up and over the three games I would probably play him at some point (if Eddie rests Farrell completely he will start). Eddie loves Jonny May who has established himself as a starting winger, Jack Nowell on the opposite wing with a well overdue run of starts. Tuilagi at 12/in the squad altogether is wishful thinking but Slade definitely deserves his places and the two would complement each other nicely. Finally Daly should get a run at 15 as Brown should now be done, Watson has proven to look miles better in the 14 jersey rather than 15 and I don’t like the idea of Woodward – the least amount of foreign players in the squad as possible please (rich coming from the person calling for Tuilagi at 12 but he’s already capped so he gets a pass). I really think Cipriani has to get a call up due to form and the last spot between Solomona & Fijian Joe: Denny’s efficient try scoring impact vs Cokanasiga’s rare bulk in this England back line.

    1. Don’t feel like you have to lump Tuilagi in with the rest. He’s been living in the UK for at least 14 years.
      You can add Solomona to that pile though, pure merc.

      1. @Jake agreed my thought process was just that if you look down a team sheet of Tuilagi, Cokanasiga, Solomona it doesn’t shout England. Might as well be a Pacific Islanders XV

        1. Cokasaniga. Moved to England age 3 with his Dad who was in the British Army. Can we please not pick and England team based on absurd views of what an Englishmans surname should be?

          1. Jacob you must be joking.

            Names have always said alot about the nameholder. They are supposed too.
            Smith in this country used to mean that somewhere in the not too distant past your ancestor was a Smith. A great job too!
            Rodriguez, as a Spanish speaker myself, would mean you are of Spanish or hispanic descent.
            Of course it MEANS something. It has for 2000 years or more and will do so for another 2000 yrs! In fact it could be interpreted as INSULTING in some circles to suggest otherwise or that mention of a name (one’s own proudly) was not allowed! Bloody cheek!
            We do not want any more taboo subjects in this country thank you very much. There are already so many elephants in rooms that parts of this country already closely resemble zoos with the surveillance cameras as included fixtures!
            More talking is required not less about anything and everything….so lets have a sir/second name talkathon and get all the intricacies of NAMES off our chests. This is positively Pythonesque!
            The result of not talking about things and indeed having SAFE BLOODY ZONES is to invite in an Orwellian nightmare. I know that Corbyn and his Momentum are still on the scene but he’s not for me for most of the above reasons. I prefer thinking for myself, appreciate self-expression and abhore centrist nanny states.
            Funnily enough three countries where no rugby is played at all are china, North Korea and Cuba. There was up until recently also one state in India that cherished Communism! None of these places are where i would like to be or where you can play rugby and then go down the pub after and talk freely about names to your heart’s content in a boozy post match love in.
            Recitations of Mao’s little red book would be required more like!

            1. Alex what have you been drinking

              RE: Smith – Key words USED TO MEAN i.e. no longer relevant unless you are researching your family tree.
              Then there is the strange use of not to distant as in most cases we are talking over 4 generations (smithing isn’t exactly a popular career choice these days)
              then there is the small matter that family names are usually only passed down the male line of the family so if your mothers name is Smith and your Father is Rodriguez and you were born in the UK does that make you Spanish?
              As for the next 2000 years comment that is clearly ridiculous as advances in transport over the last century has made migration much easier and more and more people are choosing to live elsewhere i.e. surnames don’t mean anything anymore.

              I agree more talking is required as someone needs to explain to you why you are wrong

              1. Leon
                Alot can be read into or inferred from a name. Of course it can and will ever continue to be the case.
                The two given examples were just that…examples.
                So yes ‘Smith’ stands on its own merits and Rodriguez would be spanish-speaking at least. I’m not Spanish, no!
                You are correct there. Don’t think i ever claimed to be!
                I do speak it and maintain that anyone with that name would be…..wait for it….from the spansh speaking world or yes have married into it.
                I think the original point made by Olly was about PI’s.
                Yes if your name is Manu Tuilagi or Solomona there might be a slim chance of the holders being polynesian! No surprise there i don’t think! Similarly someone named Horst Wessel might be assumed German or at least Austrian!
                Its a bit like adding 2 and 2 and coming to 4! Maybe not fulproof every time but a rough guide!
                Nor was there any RACIST inference in the original comment of Olly’s. Likewise talking about the origins of my own name would not be taken as an affront by myself! It could easily be deduced as Scottish. That man would….
                1. Get an ice-cream for being correct
                2. Not be accused of racism if he got it wrong and said English!
                Certainly not on a rugby blog where context is 99% of the rule i.e most people’s concern is the rugby not colour.
                Context and intent are the two key tests for the latter (racism detection)
                The assumption of it is a pernicious modern reality in this country – never to be encouraged!

                1. you seem to have completely missed the point and inferred your own.

                  Smith does not stand on its own
                  Wayne Smith, Aaron Smith, Conrad Smith and Ben Smith aren’t English or Scottish but are likely have had a distant relative who was. The name may show where someones family was from but with increased migration it doesn’t show when the person is from. Much like the complete irrelevance of names to professions in 100 years time someones name will bear little or no link to where they are from. You are living in the past and need to get with the program.

                  At no point did i call you racist just I just said you were wrong

                2. Reply to Leon’s comment dated May 15 below as there was no link….

                  I don’ t think so.
                  By definition we are both right!
                  You are talking about certain socio-economic groupings whilst i’m on about others.
                  If you are majoring/phding on immigration and immigrants then the anglo-saxon ‘rules of heritage and names’ will have less of an influence…obviously. Nothing new stated there.
                  That doesn’t mean everyone will marry an immigrant/newcomer. Are you supporting some kind of nationally enforced marriage service?
                  Many communities or socio-economic groupings (white middle class to specifically name one) will choose to go their own way by marrying/partnering off with their kind. Its called personal preference! Nothing wrong with that and BTW thats existed for centuries (it also cretaed the class system of today whether you agree with it or not…it is a fact and a reality)
                  I really do feel i’m mentioning the A. Bleeding obvious
                  B. Poinfing out perfectly legal recourses vis a vis marriage/breeding or ‘family planning’ ……whatever the bleeding heck you wish to call it….probably just living actually in our own way and in our own time!
                  We do not live in Leon’s fascist or communist state where it is defined for us by an individual or the state who we marry/partner off with to suit a prescribed politico-cultural vision for the country. That would be a bit Orwellian or Hitlerian depending on what side of the fence you sit.
                  However if you came to my wedding you would be suitably impressed by the diverse cultural backgrounds of the party!
                  I look forward to reading your reply.

                3. Incredible you completely missed the point again.
                  I am not suggesting some sort of Orwellian marriage system merely pointing out that this will happen naturally because not everyone is into inbred marrying within a class culture. Our Dear prince Henry is marrying a mixed race American with a German Surname FFS

                4. No one at any point used the word racist…

                  It is clear to most however that trying to make some “less English” based on their surname is completely wrong.

  7. Jake and Olly

    But then the ABs have been fielding 15 mercs for the past twenty years at least. I speak of their pacific islanders and the repartee of mine with Don P that was pretty much won and dusted in this writers favour!
    My last count with with Don stood at twenty odd PI’s fielded by the ABs in 15 aside and 7 aside in recent times. Had my research been extended that number could have been doubled.
    My point?
    If England or indeed any other country for that matter can get a Brad Shields or Soloma to play for them coz of A. Residency or B. Grand-parents then good luck to them! No crying or whingeing i’m afraid from the ABs….that doesn’t wash as the horse bolted twenty years ago (ref to AB widespread usage of PI’s as if they were their own)
    The easy qualification grounds of PI’s for AB playing consideration are a joke. Pacific Islanders have BROAD families and that is not in ‘ our’ or even the average kiwis sense of the word ‘family’ (even if he is a pakeha)!
    A PI family extends to 20-30 people including cousins twice and thrice removed. When one PI is living and playing for a NZ provincial/club side he is at liberty to legally invite the other 29 in! i’m not strong mathematically but you can soon grasp the idea of how the PI influx/takeover of NZ rugby has gone of late. Don’t get me wrong. I’m neither saying its good nor bad for NZ rugby. I wouldn’t dream of telling NZ how to conduct their social and sporting affairs!
    The rest of us, however, if everything is to be a level playing field (unintended usage of the pun on ‘playing’), are just following in the NZ wake of getting ‘others’ to play for ‘us’. Much better to decide internationally what and who constitutes the ‘us’ early doors (like back in 1990)
    rather than A. Whinge about player drains afterwards when they are going against you (in the case of NZ now) and B. after the chickens have left the hoop.
    My advice: Play the ABs at their own game and use the Brad Shields and the Solomas of this world. Not to say we play 15 of ‘them’ at the same time (like the ABs)…..i think we Brits have more self respect than that! But a few of them wouldn’t hurt. Besides Shields has every right in a free and democratic world to play for whoever he wants when he has Brit grandparents or is parents?
    It its parents somebody PLEASE tell me what the bloody hell is the problem?

    1. It is indeed his parents through whom Brad Shields qualifies. Steve Hanson and the NZRFU certainly don’t like it.
      They don’t want to be seen making too much noise because of the charges of sheer hypocrisy that could be levelled against them.
      Case of chickens coming home to roost!

      1. Someone should remind NZ of the case of John Gallagher. Born in Lewisham to Irish parents, and yet somehow found himself playing for them for 41 games, (18 test matches)?
        It was a long time ago so the stipulations for playing for a country you weren’t born in were probably non-existent but, all the same, I don’t see how they can complain about us asking Shileds to represent the country of his parents birth?

        1. Dazza

          Exactly! There speaks the voice of reason.
          Newzealanders invented this modern farce of player poaching and have done, as far as i can see, nothing to resolve it.
          Clearly in their case it would mean putting a stop to their own poaching Pi’s and that’s not going to happen any time soon (biting off your own nose to spite the face!)
          All the white boys at NZ schools (as my linked article by a kiwi journo printed in a kiwi newspaper about six months ago showed)
          They opt out as mummy’s too scared of them being hurt or encourage them to play soccer, rugby league or sometging else.
          Mr Hansen can’t proverbially say nothing!
          I tell you when and if he does i’ll laugh and rub my hands.

      2. The Justin Marshall comments are pretty comical: “Smacks of desperation from England”. Yet starting to feel a sense of bitterness from the NZRU et al.

        1. Jake

          The ERFU and Eddie should go for the jugular and poach a dozen more!
          Sit back and then enjoy the reaction from Marshall, Hanson et al!
          Comical!

          1. Reply to Leon’s 5.15 16 May post

            I don’t think we are going to agree on this one Leon!
            I get your point. It’s not a very subtle, nuanced or even intellectual one! Broadly speaking you are talking of what has been referred to as ‘the brownification of Britain’ (as deduced by your ref to Ms Markle).
            You haven’t volunteered any personal cultural or ethnicity details of you own so i cannot argue about specifics with you (obviously arguing against an unknown quantity is difficult – 1st rule of an honest intellectual argument is to introduce yourself, say who and what you are and what your agenda is!) So far you have volunteered very little about yourself! We are all animals of our upbringing! Forgive my suspicions but there seems to be a hidden agenda here unless you can come clean.
            Me…..ive already said on here countless times. White English (i’m not British but English – the latter distinction is of quite some importance) and possibly a ‘sassenach’ if that means anything to you.
            Raised in a lower-middle class family of army background. Now you know who and what i am (all normal social etiquette where i come from!).
            It sounds like you are championing TOTAL IMMIGRATION e.g an extreme form of NO BORDERS BRITAIN! Post Brexit i would argue YOU are BEHIND the times and not with the current curve. I’m fully on board the train and its already left the platform!
            A clear democratic majority voted for out and therein control of our own borders. I was PROUDLY one of those voters. A firm rebuff to more political correctness and all its hidden agendas of which there were many.
            ‘Total Immigration’ (a kind of complete eradication and trampling of the native populations of european countries as opined by Douglas Murrray in his erudite book ‘The Death of Europe’) is a thoroughly irresponsible and, i would argue, even Racist, agenda-driven policy.
            Most of the population (52% – a clear and democratic majority – unless you are unfortunate enough to have been a Bremoaner) have realised that some form of control is needed! The Aussie points system is the best IMO! The latter a lovely country, a nice country and well worth the visit.
            The comments of “inbreeding” are immature, incendiary and wholly unacceptable on a public blog.
            To conclude…in a post-brexit world the facts, not the myths as promulgated by yourself, would dictate that things will most likely go in my direction.
            All things being equal i am not worried…are you?
            Once again look forward to your erudite response.

            1. You keep trying to change the conversation
              Names change because by convention names are passed down the Male line therefore while someone with a PI surname will almost certainly have a PI descendant it doesn’t mean they are from the pacific islands. Whether you like it or not migration will always occur so even in post Brexit Britain the dilution of names and the national identity of individuals will only increase, thus rendering your argument that Ben Smith is a British blacksmith or that Danny Cipriani is a Greek Cypriate or an Italian devout follower of Saint Cipriani mute. What matters is how someone views themself. I am white born in England lived in England all my life and the descendant of at least 3 generations of English people so my case is pretty simple but for Billions of people the lines aren’t so clear cut.

              1. Leon

                Will immigration continue to increase?
                The evidence says….i repeat… says it has gone down! These are official facts and figures.
                I would bet that it continues to do so in the current political climate. You seem very opinionated on this but i posit that is all it is…OPINION! Of course you are welcome to it!
                I can only go on giving you facts that you blithely choose to ignore. If you don’t believe me then check them out!
                A further fact…the total percentage of ethnic minorities in Britain…yes the whole of Britain…. is 10% give or take 1 or 2!
                Where do you live?
                If its in London like i dothen you will know that that figure rises disproportionately to 52%
                The media (politically correct and liberal to a T – especially the BBC) like to give the impression the rest of the country is formed of the same 52-48 percentage split.
                When was the last time you last visited the countryside e.g good old Dorset, Devon or Somerset? We could travel in the other direction to Yorkshire or heaven forbid even Scotland. Last time i looked they all looked pretty white! No polemics there or charges of racism…phew!

                So NO and NO again we live in a very white country still and will continue to do so whilst the Tories are i power for sure.
                I would worry if Corbyn got in poeer though!
                A question for you as i’ve had the decency to answer so many of yours.
                What political party do you vote for?
                Me….the Conservatives.

            2. Correction….Douglas Murrays book is entitled The strange death of Europe. I thoroughly recommend it.
              Written by an ex-vicar and now a political writer, speaker and author.

  8. Jesus, thought I’d confused the link to the rugby blog and ended up on the Wright show!!! Any chance we can talk rugby!?!! Thanks
    John Smith

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