International Scout Notes: 10th December

miles benjamin

Rhys Patchell
Fly-half is an area of fierce competition for Wales, which would usually be a good thing – the issue is, however, that no-one has yet really grabbed the jersey and made it their own. If it is currently a three way battle between Biggar, Priestland and Hook, the Blues’ Rhys Patchell will surely soon have to be seriously considered as the starting fly-half. On Friday night, in a Cardiff team plagued by injury and shorn of many of its biggest names, Patchell orchestrated an unlikely victory over the much-fancied Glasgow Warriors. There was one booming penalty from within his own half, as well as a smartly-taken try that showcased his eye for a gap, as well as some impressive strength to barge over the line. If none of the squad incumbents really catch the imagination in the Six Nations, do not be surprised to see Patchell feature at some point soon.

Miles Benjamin
Before anyone gets carried away, we are not suggesting that Benjamin is ready for international rugby just yet. He has looked rusty in most of his outings so far, but against Montpellier on Sunday there were flickers of the old Benjamin – the player that had Tigers and England fans alike talking of a bright future when he signed a couple of years ago. Injuries have cruelly denied him a chance to fulfil that promise, but with a brace of tries against strong opposition, that showcased power, pace and excellent awareness, Benjamin is back on the radar. And when you consider the injury list England have in his position, if he continues to perform to this level there is no reason why he can’t play himself into contention for England’s Six Nations squad.

Luke Fitzgerald
It was a hell of a weekend for wingers. Fitzgerald is another that has struggled over the past few seasons with injuries, and it is easy to forget that in 2009 he was one of the pre-eminent wingers in the Hemisphere – he was a test Lion in South Africa, after all. On Saturday, in Leinster’s astonishing demolition of the Saints, Fitzgerald bagged a hattrick of tries. If the first was about capitalising on a shocking error from Ken Pisi, the third was all about Fitzgerald’s hard work off the ball, to get on the ball-carrier’s shoulder and accept the final pass. If he stays injury free, he will be firmly back in international contention.

Kieran Marmion
The young Connacht scrum-half is quite a prospect. It was an excellent weekend for Irish rugby in general, but their scrum-halves in particular impressed, with Eoin Reddan and Conor Murray both key cogs in their respective regions’ wins. If that means Marmion may not get a chance internationally in the near future, it is surely only a matter of time. On Sunday night, in Connacht’s historic win at Toulouse, Marmion’s opportunistic dart over the line made the difference. If he continues this kind of form Connacht will do well to hold onto him, as he looks towards gaining international recognition.

Freddie Burns
It has been a tough season for Burns. Playing behind a pack going backwards isn’t easy for any fly-half, but the Gloucester 10 has looked particularly out of sorts at times. It was hugely encouraging, then, to see him put in such a dominant performance at the weekend. He varied his game brilliantly, and when he chose to run he attacked the gain-line – there are few fly-halves that look so dangerous when doing so, certainly in England anyway. With rumours aplenty about where he will be next season, there is one thing that is for certain – England fans everywhere will want to see him play behind a dominant pack more often, whether that is at a rejuvenated Gloucester or somewhere else.

By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

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9 comments on “International Scout Notes: 10th December

  1. What was Burns’ kicking percentage at the weekend? In the PRL he is going at about 60%, which isn’t good enough no matter how well he is playing. Unless we have a Halfpenny in the back line somewhere, our 10 must kick goals.

    I’ve always been an advocate of getting Burns in the side, but the past few months I am beginning to change my mind. I’m not sure he will cut it. If Flood leaves, I’d like to see him go to Leicester where he may thrive. Or Wasps, but that’s more me hoping that anything likely or helpful for England.

    I’m a Farrell man now. I’ve accepted my fate as an England fan.

  2. Jack Nowell played brilliantly (again) but he also got praise on Twitter from his opposite number, one Bryan Habana on just how brilliant he was. Big game, big opponent, young man getting praise from a former world player of the year, I think he really stuck his hand up.

    • Think Nowell has been quietly impressing for a while now, really steps up and takes every opportunity he gets. Would definitely be one of my starting wingers for the 6N with May, think they would compliment each other well…

    • My only caveat/concern over him is how well he may do (or may not) in the current England set up. He seems to read a game very well, pops up everywhere and gets his hands on the ball a lot, i.e. thrives in the fast tempo and adventurous play of the Chiefs. The same sort of opportunities may not exist in an England shirt if the back play remains as ponderous as it has of late. Suddenly he could look about as effective as that other England winger who reads a game well and used to pop up everywhere ….

      In that respect I wonder if Benjamin will prove a better fit (assuming he’s on his way back to being fully match sharp) with a bit more pace/power.

      I’m just hoping that come the 6N squad announcement ‘good club form’, ‘credit in the bank’, ‘unlucky to miss out in the Autumn’, ‘deserves another opportunity’ and ‘David Strettle’ don’t get used in the same sentence!

      • I think he’s probably more suited to succeed in the current England team than pretty much anyone else.

        He has the same ability that Mike Brown has to beat a fuckload of defenders every time he takes the ball – he does not accept tackles. That will be very helpful as none of our wingers are going to be put into miles of space by our current half-backs.

        In the long run Nowell is probably a 15 and potentially a 13 anyway – I don’t think he has the raw pace to get around well organised defenses at international level.
        Could be wrong though… and he could certainly get quite a bit faster if he works with a sprint coach. (He may already have done)

        He’s also up there with the best defensive outside backs from what I’ve seen, and his stats from last season in terms of tackle completion are very impressive.
        Seeing him hold up Bastareaud in midfield for a maul-turnover was awesome.

        • I would have Nowell & May as my wingers for 6N as it stands, but I think there is some risk that he plays in an England team that does not allow him to succeed. Sure he’ll be better under the high ball than Ashton, tackle much better and maybe beat a few more defenders on a counter attack. But if he can’t get on the end of any passes or offloads in the middle of the pitch (because there are none to get on the end of) he’ll be just another winger not scoring tries. He’s only scored 2 premiership tries in his (fledgling) career thus far, so don’t think we should build him up too much and expect him to be the ‘answer’ to England’s attacking malaise.

          Ashton clocked up another couple of typical Ashton tries at the weekend, being in exactly the right place at the right time, he’s not forgotten how to do it. It’s just he can’t do it for England with some static back play, no strike moves and nothing created he can possibly finish.

  3. Also I feel I need to take back some of my hasty criticism of Miles Benjamin… Was much better this week, his two tries were both an example of individual excellence- power and pace to beat defenders and good awareness of the touchline for the second. Should have had a third as well.

    Still a long way to go before any England talk, but a massive improvement from his first couple of games.

  4. I don’t think it was unfair for anyone to criticise Benjamin so far this season – saying he has been rusty would be kind…

    If he can show that he’s solid defensively and under the high-ball whilst also troubling defenses and scoring a try or two then he’s in with a very good shout I’d say.
    I think he has quite a good chance of doing that now that he has Goneva back to hold the oppositions focus.

  5. So Benjamin gets another mention. I have to say that at the moment with Yarde injured, and although Strettle will most likely get the nod from SL, I would like to see Benjamin in the squad for the 6N.