International Scout Notes: 22nd Jan

Lloyd Williams
Simon Zebo
Despite the rumblings amongst the pundits that this will be France’s year in the Six Nations, I’m slightly more inclined to back Ireland. Although up against 14 men for a large part of the match, Munster’s win over Racing Metro 92 may well be a precursor of things to come. With Simon Zebo notching a hat-trick and dumping rivals Leinster out of the Heineken Cup in the process, Irish fans will be licking their lips at the prospect of an exciting and rejuvenated back line. Zebo will be looking to build on his first three international caps gained during the Autumn Internationals and cement himself in the Irish line-up.

Peter Horne
Glasgow inflicted a painful defeat on Northampton at the weekend, with Peter Horne scoring an amazing last minute try that justified his call up to the Scotland squad and sent their opponents out of the Heineken Cup. Starting within their own 22, Glasgow took the bold decision to run it. After a few solid phases making important ground, the ball came to Horne who threw a dummy and then beat three tackles to make the final 50 metres and score one of the tries of the tournament. With a number of debutants in the Scottish squad there is certainly scope for Horne to make himself a prominent figure during the tournament.

Lloyd Williams
A much-needed win, spearheaded by the returning Lloyd Williams who scored a try and created another, will restore some belief not only within the Blues but also within Welsh Rugby as a whole, as the Six Nations looms on the horizon. A consummate display from the young scrum-half suggests that, while Wales will be lacking upfront, they have plenty of firepower in the backs. Whether Williams will start over Mike Phillips remains to be seen, but Wales will be certain that they have a sure pair of hands and quick mind at scrum-half.

Chris Ashton
Love him or hate him there is no denying that, at his best, he is one of the top finishers in world rugby. From a poor display last week to the accomplished one he gave against Edinburgh, Ashton will undoubtedly remain in the starting 15, purely for what he is capable of. As Saracens boss Mark McCall stated: “It was great to see Ashy score a couple of tries and get back to what he really does best.” England fans will be hoping that this game can be the starting point from which the winger gathers some momentum to take into the Six Nations.

By Jono Frank

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9 comments on “International Scout Notes: 22nd Jan

  1. “Chris Ashton : Love him or hate him …” What, there’s an option? Who “loves” him? Even England fans who admire and praise his ability think he’s a pillock.

    Wales lacking up front – heard this a lot this week. “Weak front five” etc. Here is the probable front five

    Jones, Hibbard, James
    Ryan Jones, Ian Evans

    Given form of players that’s probably 1 player short of our first choice front V (Ryan Jones). Jones/Hibbard/James won’t be a pushover for anyone. So I just don’t see where the idea that we’re going to be weak up front is coming from? Add Gethin on the bench (a week off the French pies should help) … then add Matthew Rhys, Paul James. Where is this front five any weaker than what we usually put out? The Os pack (which this mostly is) have been bullying people all over the place all year.

    • I think that you will find that England fans love Chris Ashton when he scores tries and hate him when he doesn’t. Everyone else just hates him – so I think that love him or hate him is probably justified.

      Not sure about your front five. Admittedly sometimes an injury to an incumbent can be an opportunity for a player in form waiting in the wings, so you might be right. Thought R Jones was poor in the AI’s though. Gave away far too many penalties and didn’t really put himself about the paddock.

      In a couple of weeks we will know!

  2. I love the fact we have one of the best finishers in world rugby. But then again, young exciting wingers are popping up all over england, Ireland and wales at the moment. Warren gatland will be spoiled for choice. A few off the top of my head; harry Robinson, eki walker, christian wade, zebo and there’s the established ones, north and Cuthbert, Ashton, bowe, max Evans. I’m sure I’ve missed plenty too. England have a genuine open side in the squad now. Helps us where wales have tipuric and Warburton, Ireland henry, and Scotland have the outstanding Ross Rennie.

    • I strongly disagree with this “true” openside stuff.

      What makes Robshaw not a 7? He has more turnovers than Warburton and not far short of Rennie in the past 12 months.

      Its more a question than anything. Why do people not think he is a 7? He has more than proved himself to be one for both Quins and England.

      • have to agree slightly here. I do think robshaw has shown that he can be a great 7, constantly topping the stats for many areas of a 7′s game.

        Although england and in pretty good shape at the moment, because the backrow is not so much about the presence of a out and out 6,7 and 8, but it is about balance. that is why tom wood and robshaw make such a good combination, they work well together and they balance well.

        having said this, i am glad that Kvesic has been given a call-up. I would like to see him given a bit of a chance, maybe against italy. i say this for 2 reasons. Firstly, it would be nice to see what he is capable of at this level, and see how he goes. Secondly, Robshaw has played A LOT of rugby over the past year and a bit. it would be nice to give him a bit of a break. Similarly, i think guys like parling and cole should get a bit more of a break, not only to keep them fresh, but also to give an opportunity to next-in-liners to develop a bit. If we do it in ways like this then we can control it more, instead of being left with a bit of a sink or swim situation like Tom Youngs was in in the AI’s. (Fortunately he swam, and england now feel confident about the 2 shirt.)

        I fear that tighthead is a position of real weakness for england. beyond cole there seems to be a gap to the level of the 2nd choice. Wilson (who is currently 2nd choice) needs to be given the opportunity to develop a bit more in case cole gets injured. he is fortunate that this is likely to come in the summer, when cole is likely to be with the lions.

        • Some good points there, especially re tighthead where the cupboard is pretty much bare after Cole

          As for this ‘true’ open-side rubbish, you’d have thought Robshaw’s stats and performances would have settled this one by now. Obviously not.

          To add my tuppence-worth, you can have the best open-side in the world on your side, but it matters not a jot if your opponents counter-ruck to ensure that he has no time over the ball. Witness the Kiwi v England match. England were at every ruck in numbers, whether offensive or defensive, and were driving the ABs off the ball, ensuring that McCaw was absolutely nullified.

          If the England forwards do this in every game (and stop their previous habit of hanging around in mid-field or on the wing a la Tom Croft and leaving the rucks to one or two people), then it doesn’t matter a jot whether they are playing against Tipuric, Dusautoir, Rennie, McCaw or Pocock.

          • good point well made! a 7 is only as good as the opponents allow him to be. the same can be said of any position.

            another important point i have to add at the moment is to take an idea from my rugby coach back in my school days. he said first and foremost you need to pick your best 15 players, then you slot them in. granted test rugby is a bit more complex than that. but in this country we lack a truly proven “openside”. Robshaw has done a damn good job there at the moment, and as long as he continues to be better than any other english 7 (and please dont start bringing S. Armitage into this, because that is a whole other kettle of fish) then the 7 shirt is his.

  3. Never particularly liked the idea of Robshaw at openside to start with but he has proved that he is an international 7 and seems to captain and lead the side well (a few well publicised headfreezes apart!). One of the first few names on the teamsheet for me now. The others will have to displace him. Not sure about resting players against Italy. Shows a bit of disrespect, and it is the 6N. Give them a proper chance in the summer.

    • we dont necessarily have to rest the likes of Robshaw, Parling and Cole, as i do agree it can be seen as disrespectful. also no team, even italy, can be underestimated. But maybe Robshaw and Parling (who both play 80 mins for club and country every match) should be subbed off after 50 if the game is going well. similarly, cole seems to always put in a good 65-70 mins for england (he at least gets more time off at tigers) so it would be good to see wilson have more than 15mins (again if the game is going well).

      this is a really important situation, not only to see the potential of some of the younger guys, but also to begin making contingency plans in case one of these guys, in a position that is lacking depth, gets injured.

      Dallaglio recently came out saying that when england won the grand slam in 2003, they used 36 players in the 6N’s. maybe we could go for a grand slam here, but we definitely have the opportunity to create depth in EVERY position, so at least come 2014 or 2015, we have plenty of players for the 6N and RWC. In an ideal world we want 2 or 3 players for each position. I feel that we have that at 1,2,6,8,9,10,13,15. We need to work on depth at 3,4/5,7,11,12,14. Because we currently have a good player in each of these shirts, but are lacking a decent backup. Wing is a big worry for me at the moment, and i think we need to be looking at people like Wade and May. I even feel that JJ may find more luck on the wing for england. With Manu, and tomkins (who seems to be going well) as well as the likes of Lowe, Hopper and Trinder. I like Elliot Daly’s ability to cover lots of outside back spots, plus his monster boot and absolute gas means he will surely be with england soon, the question is where is he best for england?