International Scout Notes: 1st April


Owen Willams
The young Welsh fly-half is really starting to make waves in the East Midlands. Indeed, with Freddie Burns set to arrive at the Tigers next season, there is no guarantee the incoming Englishman will be first choice at Welford Road, such has been Williams’ prominence in the Tigers’ recent victories. Against the Saints he ran the show magnificently, bringing dangerous runners the likes of Tuilagi and Goneva into the game, while also ending with a 100% kicking success rate. With more uncertainty surrounding the Welsh no.10 jersey than any other, surely Williams must travel with the squad to South Africa this summer and get a chance to prove himself on the biggest stage?

Danny Cipriani
It’s always risky including Danny Cipriani in these articles, but there’s no doubt that his increased maturity and the consistency that has come with it has played a major role in Sale’s unexpected charge for the play-offs. There was nothing too flash about his performance against Bath on Friday night, but he pinned the hosts back, brought his big outside runners into the game and over the gainline, and kicked his goals. And while there was nothing to suggest he is ready to leapfrog Farrell and Ford in the England reckoning (even if he did comprehensively outplay the latter), if he can keep up this form for the rest of the season then there is no reason he won’t be in contention for a squad spot soon.

Cory Allen
The young centre has recently returned from injury and is wasting no time in reminding Warren Gatland that his options extend far beyond Roberts, Davies and Williams. Against Ulster there were several glimpses of the quality that has got many a Cardiff Blues fan excited, as Allen carried the ball strongly over the gainline. He was also solid in defence, including one vital tackle as Ulster threatened to break out in the second half. If he can stay fit, he should travel with Wales to South Africa this summer.

Jackson Wray
England hardly lack for back-row options at the moment, and Jackson Wray is certainly throwing his name into the ‘promising youngsters’ hat. He is unlikely to get a look-in before the 2015 RWC, but if he keeps performing as he did against Wasps at the weekend then he will likely play some sort of role for England in the future. He showed great awareness for his try to track centre Duncan Taylor after his break, and no shortage of pace to outgun the fullback to the line. Can play both six and eight, which will help his cause.

Ben Youngs
It has not been a happy season for Ben Youngs, who has freely admitted that he has struggled for form since the Lions tour. In recent weeks, however, he has looked someway back to his best. Against the Saints one moment summed this up best – picking up quick ball from the base of a ruck on the five metre line, he rapidly assessed where the space was before fizzing out a pass off his left hand to Anthony Allen who just had to flop over the line. It is that sort of speed of service and vision that will play himself back into the England reckoning.

By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

22 thoughts on “International Scout Notes: 1st April

  1. A list of very good players here!

    Cipriani for me, must tour with England this summer. If SL wants to stand by the form argument on selection, it is difficult to leave him out. Youngs needs to be on the bench for England, and whilst Care will start after his excellent 6 nations, I still think Youngs is the better 9. Nothing against Dickson, but I think Care and Youngs offer significantly more than the Saints man.

    For Jackson Wray to get a look in, there has to be a lot of injuries. A more relevant back row option that has caught the eye in recent weeks is the somewhat forgotten man, James Haskell. After a year or so of niggling injuries, Haskell has found some real form recently, amongst a Wasps pack that has been really poor. He has matured into a real leader for Wasps, and crucially, appears to be keeping his penalty count down. The guy has 50 caps for England, and should still be getting a look in for England in my opinion.

    1. Agree with all that. Developing some experience behind Farrell has to be a key objective for the summer tour, given that Cipriani seems to be doing everything that’s been asked of him I agree he should tour.

      3rd choice tight head is still a big concern (especially with Cole out), getting yellow carded for repeated scrum infringements after being on the field for 3 minutes wasn’t a particularly special contribution from Thomas. Shame Brookes has got himself a ban (not sure when it runs to) as I would rather we take a look at a big lump who can keep his face out of the dirt.

      1. Agreed on third choice tight-head but nothing I am massively worried about. I still think Thomas is ok, and getting better. Remembering that only two props will be needed for the WC leaves me with hope that Cole and Wilson will be fit and it is then a strong position for us.

        Slight sideways one, but, if only two loose-heads go to the WC in 2015, and all are fit, who do you take?

        1. It’s a much better position to be in than teams that are reliant on one tight-head staying fit, but with warm ups and (hopefully) 7 world cup games there’s a fair chance we’ll need to have another option at some stage. Thomas did fare much better off the bench than I expected in the 6N so hopefully he’ll continue to come on over the next year. I just prefer immovable objects in a 3 (or 18) shirt to good-in-the-loose props.

          On the other point Corbs needs to prove himself under the new rules before he jumps ahead of the others. So I don’t think just being fit makes him an automatic inclusion. But if he’s anything like as effective under these rules as he was in the old then it’s probably Mako he would displace. Although Mako’s ass isn’t seen out of the scrum as much as it was last year he seems to be struggling for upper body strength and looks like he needs another summer in the gym to adjust to the different physiological demands.

          1. There certainly is a lot of games, so the more options the better. For most positions now, you can name three players, and probably all in order as well. That probably excludes TH and fly half.

            In that respect, England have generated real strength in depth, but more importantly, consistency.

            On the loose-head options, I still think Corbs would be in if fit. I can’t see how the new rules would have effected him, as his technique is what was so impressive, not just the hit, like for example Adam Jones. He has had issues because the new rules benefit the more technical of props, not the guys the relied on the hit.

            1. I know there’s not a lot to go on, but I didn’t think Corbs looked that great in the early season games for Saints. I agree with you there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be able to adapt, but I do think he’ll have a lot of catching up to do on the guys that been scrumming under the laws all season.

        2. I agree that Thomas is OK. Some work/improvement is needed, but given he is 22 it is liekly he will improve. The big concern for Thomas is getting game time. He has not been starting recently and is not getting a huge amount of game time.

        3. I’ve often wondered over that myself. Corbisiero is a must if fit but choosing between Marler and Vunipola is difficult.
          Marler’s scrummaging is improving with every game and he can now match most world tightheads, very impressive considering the beating he took last year. He’s also no slouch when it comes to tackling and carrying. Probably England’s best all rounder at loosehead.
          Vunipola is one of the best rugby playing props on the planet and easily the better impact player off the bench, but is a liability in the set piece.
          Right now it’s an absolute conundrum, hopefully in 12 months time it will be easier to choose, but hopefully not for the wrong reasons.

      2. On last night’s showing Thomas isn’t going to get selected at club level for the rest of this season. Being only 22 is fine if you aren’t getting shamed by a 21 year old as part of a 2nd/3rd choice Saints front row powered by a makeshift second row. Doesn’t deserve to tour as back up to Wilson.

    2. But it’s not about form, it’s about culture, consistency and form. With both Henry Slade and Stephen Myler in the Saxons they have to be a head of Cipriani in SLs thoughts to tour surely.

      1. So what more does he have to prove on consistency and culture to get back in the mix? Can Ford or Burns (for example) be ahead on consistency?

        The talent has always been there, but the temperament has been questionable. He seems to have matured and knuckled down and has earned an opportunity.

        1. From the outside it looks like he has matured and he deserves praise for that. But for someone to be picked someone has to be dropped and have either Slade or Myler palyed so badly that they don’t deserve their chance?

          This isn’t a comment against him but for the other 2. BTW By consistency I meant consistency of selection but you are right it does also apply to playing.

          1. For international selection, you don’t get in just because you are the incumbent. You have to consistently perform to a standard that demands inclusion.

            There are exceptions for players that have proved international class on many occassions, but Slade and Myler do not fall into this category.

            Therefore, they have to be playing well to get in. In fact, well may not be good enough. You have to be playing better than everyone else in your position in the whole country. Cipriani is currently out-performing them.

  2. I’m not entirely sure that Cipriani “comprehensively outplayed” Ford on Saturday.

    I thought that Cipriani was very solid, whereas Ford had a bit of a nightmare with some of his kicks at goal. The game was really decided by the excellent Sale defence, of which Cipriani was part, although not terribly significant, and Sale’s clever management of their scrum.

    Having said that, I do think he should go to New Zealand, as it would be interesting to see him play with some of the form England backs.

    1. Blub, what you just described is Cipriani outplaying Ford. You are just arguing semantics. I would have said it was comprehensively. The difference between them is exactely what Cipriani has learned in the last 2-3 years. When he was not able to “create” opportunities, he kicked well and allowed the rest of his back line to do the work by supplying decent ball.

      Ford had a bit of a ‘mare against Saracens as well. Great players will play well in the big games, and adapt when teams target them. This can be as simple as not letting the attention detract from the teams performance. Shipping the ball safely and quickly because you are drawing 2 defenders may be all that is required.

      I am a fan of Ford, but he needs to learn from a couple of these games and work at how he plays when he personally is under pressure. He is still young and there is time.

      1. I am not sure that I am arguing semantics Mike. I am simply pointing out that Ford kicked poorly at goal (although some of his kicking from hand was very good).

        That, as much as I could see, was the difference between them. I am not sure that is comprehensive.

  3. I think Cipriani should go on tour if Sale make the play-offs, as he will need to perform in their remaining games to ensure that happens, and that would constitute a credible run of form to merit his inclusion (but equally making the play-offs may rule him out of the first test)

    Agree with what Jacob said re Haskell, but again he needs to keep up a high level of performance until the end of the season.

    Owen Williams has looked really good the last few weeks, but that has coincided with the return of Allen and Tuilagi. Not to slight him in any way, as they obviously have no bearing on his goal-kicking. I wouldn’t put it past Leicester to win the title this year, which considering the injury list they have had to contend with, would be nothing short of remarkable.

  4. I can’t see Williams going – quality is there but Gats will be sticking with Biggar/Priestland and looking at domestic options for development. We do still have a “play outside Wales and you are disadvantaged for selection” policy, we just don’t have the depth or cash to turn it into as hard a rule as England have.

  5. Can’t really believe that I am saying this but cipriani does seem to be playing himself back into contention for a squad spot. I did say that if he proved his play and temperament over a season he should be considered – I just never expected him to be able to do it!

  6. Two words: Jaime George. It is time for him to start training with the England squad, and he should go to NZ later this year. While not as good as the incumbent England hookers yet, I think he will be pushing them hard after the world cup (or before if there are injuries).

  7. I agree on Williams .South Africa is not the place to blood him ,realistically the only option would be to give him a go in the midweek game on tour but that may be needed to blow away some ring rustiness for Biggar/Priestland and an untried outside half isn’t going to be thrown in against the Boks .

    If his performances continue to merit perhaps the Autumn might be the time to get him involved with the squad and go from there .

    Warming to the Williams theme another one for the Autumn could be Jordan Williams down at the Scarlets .There is something of the “Shane ” effect about that boy in that when he gets the ball you just don’t know what the hell he is going to do ,about the same size too . He just doesn’t need to read too much about the new Shane stuff though and would need to convince Gatland by prodigous talent as Warren isn’t one to pick a small backline .

  8. Youngs has to be back in the mix. Care should start on form but Youngs offers more off the bench than Dixon, I think he is better than Care but it is close and Care deserves the shirt at the moment.

    People are talking about third choice tight-head but I am worried about 10. Farrell is 1 but i am still not convinced. Leaving him aside, we have nobody to come in in case of injury. Are we saying we are going into 2015 with a number 10 with just 1 or 2 caps sitting on the bench, Jesus. Ford is a great talent but he was struggling against Sale, he chocked under pressure several times. Not that he should be discounted. I would leave Farrell at home and give Cipp and Ford game time on this tour. Cipp is has been blooded at international level and he would be my bench player for the world cup, more mature and experienced that ford and He can change a game coming off the bench if we are desperate.

    Give Cipp 3 games in NZ to show he is for real.

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