Northampton Saints against Saracens saw a wealth of international English talent on display. Whilst Brad Barritt’s defensive display won him the man of the match award, Alex Goode certainly put himself in contention for a starting spot come November 10th. With the loss of Ben Foden the number 15 shirt is going to hotly contested between Mike Brown and Goode, and the latter’s integral performance against the Saints may give him the first foot in the door. Popping up all over the pitch, Goode started and finished off Saracens’ first try and was vital as his side’s last line of defence as they resisted Northampton and held out for the win.
Stuart Lancaster will be wishing this weekend never happened after the devastating affect it seems to have had on the England squad with a number of players limping out of action. However, as much as we like to be, being overly pessimistic isn’t entirely necessary. Whilst it is not ideal, there are some more than adequate and even exciting replacements. Matt Mullan, called up to replace prop Joe Marler, looks solid defensively and more than competent in the scrum as he demonstrated in Worcester’s dramatic win against Sale at the weekend. Three years ago Mullan seemed a shoo-in for the Autumn Internationals only to be dogged by injury and despite his single cap, he is a reassuring replacement to have in the wake of the weekend’s carnage.
The disbelief that resounded around the rugby world when Freddie Burns missed out on the EPS was only added to by sublime display at the weekend. The fly-half was outstanding from the kick off and got the scoring underway with an excellent grubber kick to send Charlie Sharples over. Another moment of magic saw Burns cross the line with a try completely of his own doing, as he chipped the defence before gathering to go under the posts. The debate will surely escalate now as Jonathan Joseph looks to be a doubt for the internationals; with Farrell’s ability to play at centre is it a worthwhile risk to call up another fly-half? Surely Burns deserves his shot?
I couldn’t help but have a wry smile watching Christian Wade in this one as the flying winger tore apart the London Welsh defence, or stop myself thinking this isn’t what Lancaster was hoping for. London Welsh may not have provided the sternest test for Wasps however the winger’s sheer pace and dynamic ability will have people questioning, once again, why? As Dai Young stated, “He is in the frame, but England are blessed with some real quality wingers. All he can do is keep playing the way he has been for us”. Wade’s stature may provide some answers to why he missed out to the likes of Sharples and Monye but the winger’s ability is unquestionable and it won’t be long before he gets his chance.
There was a real message sent out from Ireland this weekend ahead of the Autumn Internationals as Leinster and Ulster both posted impressive tallies over Welsh opposition. While the Dragons and the Blues were lacklustre, there were some really powerful performances from within the respective oppositions. Darren Cave, the Ulster centre, was one of these, exciting in attack and with a well taken try, it is easy to see why he is part of the form team in Europe. He will be hoping to add to his 3 caps when Ireland takes on South Africa in just over two weeks time. The question remains whether Ireland can take the recent performances of these individuals and turn it into something special.
By Jono Frank
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images