International Scout Notes: 3rd December

ford bath

Graham Kitchener
‘Kitch’ is a player many a Tigers fan feels hasn’t had the recognition he deserves. He is a supremely athletic second row, not dissimilar to Launchbury in style, who manages to get himself on the shoulder of the ball carrier with impressive regularity. On Friday night against Gloucester, he put in his best ever performance in a Tigers shirt, and with senior lock Geoff Parling set to be out for three months, Kitchener has the chance to turn himself into an integral cog in that impressive Leicester pack. On the basis of Friday’s performance, he is almost there already. With Parling out for the start of the new year, too, a run of good performances could well propel Kitchener into contention for a bench spot come the Six Nations.

Jack Nowell
England’s injury list on the wing claimed a further casualty yesterday when it was confirmed that Christian Wade would miss the rest of the season with a foot injury. Nowell’s excellent form for the Chiefs, then, has taken on extra significance with the possibility of a meteoric rise to the national team now far from unlikely. After starring in the JWC over the summer, he was propelled into the Saxons squad and EPS set-up at the beginning of the season, and with Monye, Yarde and Foden also set to miss at least the start of the Six Nations, why not give the youngster a go? Lancaster would have to look past the more tried and tested options of Strettle and Sharples, but as neither of them have grabbed their opportunities in the past, there is a strong case for including Nowell ahead of them.

George Ford
The regularity with which Ford is appearing in this column is forcing us to rethink our early season appraisal that he wouldn’t be ready for England this season. In fact, it is the maturity, game management and composure he has shown over the last two weeks that have been most impressive. A win at Adams Park, where Andy Goode usually reigns supreme with the boot, and eighteen points and a 100% record at home to Exeter, means Ford must seriously be on England’s radar by now. Freddie Burns has not hit the same levels with the same consistency as last season, while England’s attacking malaises with Owen Farrell at the helm were well documented over the autumn. Ford’s ability to get a backline firing has never been in question, and now, having added a previously absent level of maturity to his game, is it time he was given a go at international level? Certainly if he continues to perform as he did against the Chiefs, he will be hard to ignore.

Greg Laidlaw
In the battle of Scotland’s past and present kickers, it was the latter who came out on top as Greg Laidlaw managed to score 23 points to Dan Parks’ five helping Edinburgh cruise to a 43-10 victory at Murrayfield on Friday night. Laidlaw was at the heart of everything the Scots produced, distributing quick, clean ball to the likes of Ben Atiga and Nick De Luca who caused Connacht problems all evening. Laidlaw is one of Europe’s premier place kickers and again displayed his flawless technique in securing a perfect 100% in front of goal with five penalties and four conversions. The scrum-half’s continued fine form is critical to Edinburgh’s progression this season as they look to push on from a difficult start to the campaign.

Gareth Davies
A flawless kicking display from Gareth Davies ensured that the Cardiff Blues managed to come away from Italy with something, following a physical encounter with Treviso. Davies finished, along with his counterpart Mat Berquist, with 16 points, in a match that was dominated by the two fly-halves. As the Blues squandered chances on numerous occasions, it could have easily cost them the game if it were not for his two conversions and four penalties, the last of which came in the final minutes, to draw the sides level. Davies made the most of his opportunity with Rhys Patchell injured and Leigh Halfpenny away on international duty with Wales. He may be some way off the international radar, but after telling contributions in several big games this season (most notably scoring the winning try in that epic win over Toulon), he deserves a mention here.

By Jamie Hosie (@jhosie43) and Alex McLeman (@TodaysPlay)

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

17 thoughts on “International Scout Notes: 3rd December

  1. May & Nowell for the 6N wing berths for me, no point continuing with Ashton and with the injury lists these are the next 2 guys I would like us to take a look at.

  2. Think Ford needs to make slightly fewer mistakes if he is going to really break through as an International 10. He has the entire package and is already one of the best 10’s in the world at attacking the line and bringing other players into the game through his understanding of space.

    The only place where he would really find out about the need to minimise errors however, is in the international arena – so it’s a bit chicken and egg in that respect. Unlikely to get a serious chance before 2015 imo – which is a shame.

  3. I have to admit that Ford is improving all the time, and showing more maturity with every game…….but I don’t think the lack of back line innovation for England can solely lay at the feet of Farrell. Saracens have scored 25 tries so far this season, and with Hodgson injured for a large portion of those games, Farrell was the man in the 10 shirt for most of them. I think the coaching set up at England (namely in the attacking dept) must take a portion of the blame.

    I would love to see Nowell given a shot in the 6 Nations. He has real potential in attack, and from what I’ve seen does not shirk his defensive duties either. With Foden, Wade and Yarde doubts for 6 Nations a back three of Benjamin, Nowell and Brown would be interesting.

  4. This 6n is really the last chance to experiment. With Burns kicking at 60% we need to have a look at Ford. Flood has never convinced and if Farrell gets injured before the world cup what would we do then. I think Cipriani might be a shrewd choice for the Saxons given recent performances.

    It’s so depressing that both eng fans and management alike are so risk averse. We must not risk a young player until they are absolutely ready! Well life doesn’t work that way. Sometimes the timing is less than perfect. But you have to take these risks if you want to win. Look at George North. 21 yrs old and with 30 odd caps. Never would have happened if he’d chosen England. He’d probably still be in single figures.

    1. Wales pick young players out of necessity, not on whether they’re good enough. How else do you explain Tom Prydie getting capped during a Wales Injury crisis?

      Nowell is a great shout. Watson would be another good choice for the 6N, which is looking more like it will be an experimental tournament rather than one that we can realistically win. The “mercurial” Matt Banahan would be my other pick on the wing. No need to muck about putting him in at centre.

    2. It’s easy to see why England has been so impotent on attack. It’s because England play young inexperienced international players who 1) are adjusting to this level of play, and 2) are paired with equally (or more) inexperience players and are not used to playing with each other. Farrell, Twelvetrees, and Tompkins had three games together. Dickson has only 12 caps. Is it a surprised they struggled? I know that Farrell and Tompkins play together at Saracens, but Tompkins was uncapped at the start of AIs and hadn’t played with Twelvetrees before. Just training with someone is not enough. Would playing Burrell, Eastmond, or Trinder have made any difference? Maybe, Twelvetrees and Trinder because they play together at Gloucester.

      England’s management has failed in the sense that they should have gone with established club units instead from the start, but looking at the England/Saxon squads and the injuries, I think England had their hands tied. Plus, I think I would be safe to say that the clubs often play a English centre with a foreign one, with the exception of Gloucester and Bath maybe.

      Why is there so much emphasis on youth? Going with young players, doesn’t always pay dividends. Look at Australia and the mess that management created. England may have be better off looking at more experienced Premiership players in the backs (some who were capped way before they were ready or had a string of bad injuries, like Tait and Allen).

      1. Sy Australia’s problem did not come from trusting youth but having a crap pack. The Aussies are the masters at spotting talent and backing it early. It pays dividends. I’m not saying pick youth whatever but players like Nowell , Watson ans Ford have been to junior world cup finals and even won it. What more can we learn about Ashton Strettle or Flood? They’ve had plenty of chances and whilst I’d keep Flood and Ashton in or around the squad they have not proven themsleves worthy of first team picks so rather than replace them with journeyman lets roll the dice and pick on talent beit potential talent.

        1. No, I disagree about Australia. Their pack isn’t bad, apart from scrums, but they have been known to create parity with better scrummaging teams. The problem with Australia was the culture and environment that Deans created. Cooper called it toxic and I believe him.

          Deans did a great job finding young talent and capped them early, but they were not ready emotionally for it. Look at the sense of entitlement and immaturity that some of these players have shown. It really shows the need for strong veteran leadership, which Australia lacked. It hasn’t paid off. Cooper, Beale, and O’Connor have all been subject to international wilderness. Look at the debacle in Ireland a few weeks ago. In the last four years, Australia has only won Tri-Nations once and greatly underperformed in the 2011 World Cup.

          I think using the term “journeyman” is disingenuous. I don’t believe that being an international player is based on talent. There has been many talented players who couldn’t cut it at that level. It’s based on the mental and emotional readiness of the player. In general, younger player is more mentally and emotionally fragile, but there are exceptions to this. Sometimes, a player may never be ready. However, I wouldn’t ignore a player in their late 20s just because they were given a brief chance earlier in their career or never at all. Some players are late bloomers.

      2. Sorry got to disagree about clubs playing foreign centres (when all fit)

        Sarries- Barritt, Tomkins
        Leicester- Allen, Tuilagi
        Quins- Casson, Lowe/Hopper
        Saints- Burrell, Waldouck/Pisi (I know Pisi mostly)
        Bath- Eastmond/Devoto, Joseph
        Gloucester- Twelvetrees, Trinder

    3. I think you are right about North. He would have had a couple caps and dropped because he wouldn’t do anything in those matches because the units don’t gell and that doesn’t give any of the players the platform to perform. England would never allow him to grow and make mistakes because it’s a win now situation.

      The fans don’t allow young players to grow or make mistakes . If they don’t perform within a few caps, there is a call for that player to be dropped and the next “big thing” to get their chance. And, the cycle continues.

  5. There really is little point in playing Farrell at 10 with flood on bench. Farrell is amazing defensively and with boot but seems to lack the yard of pace and distributive excellence of ford or burns.

    Ford kicked 100% for bath and was strong defensively last w/e and he really needs to be given the chance to step up before 2015.

    I would play ford at 10 with Farrell on bench.

  6. Talk of Flood going to Toulon is starting to get serious now that the ‘transfer window’ is opening in January. I imagine he will make a decision very soon to give Cockerill the best chance of recruiting a new 10. Would love to be a fly on the wall for the convo between Lancaster and Flood. For Flood and England’s sake, he should really say that in 2 years, if everyone is fit, then Farrell and Ford will probably be his top 10s.

    Therefore if he does go, as he should, then Lancaster has an excuse to bring Ford into the squad for Flood without ‘dropping’ anybody mid-season, which doesn’t look like something he likes to do often. Ford is getting an armchair ride with the Bath pack dominance this season, but I honestly think, even at the age of 20, he is the best all round fly half we have. Before anyone says he is too young and inexperienced, Farrell was 20 and had two halves of premiership rugby under his belt. Ford has played in 3 finals, played well off the bench for the last couple of seasons and has been the form flyhalf for this season. Time for SL to bite the bullet.

  7. Another thing to consider is that a Sarries v Tigers prem final is a strong possibility depriving Eng of Farrell and Flood for the first test. SL must do some fwd planning and bring players from outside the top 3. Webber at hooker fir instance. If Bath get to the final then no worries as we’ll have access to one of tigers/ sarries/ saints. But 2 of Tigers/saints/ sarries in the final is more likely so we must blood some other players

    1. Good point. Webber I am not too worried about. He has had a whole 6 nations experience and a summer tour and has trained with the squad numerous times so he would slot in easily. I wouldn’t put him over Hartley or Youngs for any reason other than form for the 6N then.

      At 10 though- Saracens are likely to be in the final, as they are very likely to have a home semi, and they are very good at home. With Flood going to France most likely, Burns, Ford or Cipriani will have to start at 10 vs NZ. With Burns out of form (not only from the tee), one of Cipriani or Ford must be in the match day squad for the 6N to replace Flood. Cipriani would be okay to start against NZ given he is experienced and has played against a lot of those guys, not forgetting he has 7 caps already. Ford however, I would not give him a debut away to NZ.

      Centres and wings should be fine, given the options there that play for the likes of Gloucester, Bath, Irish and Wasps. Fullback is no issue given that, if fit, one of Brown, Foden and Goode will be available. Scrum half exactly the same. Loosehead exactly the same.

      If it is a Bath Tigers final, then Henry Thomas at tight head could be in for a torrid day. Unlikely to happen though.

      Locks- We will have two of Launchbury, Parling, Attwood and Lawes.

      If Quins get to the fins (unlikely IMO), then Kvesic can easily step up. If Saints Tigers, then we will have to play Haskell, which isnt bad. Hopefully Wood/Croft will be available.

      Gloucester 99% won’t make the final, so Morgan should be able to pack down at 8.

      Guess if you think about it, it shouldn’t be too bad if everyone not involved in the final is available. Of the players who really shouldn’t be in the final, its not a bad start.

      1. Marler
      2. Webber
      3. Wilson
      4. Launchbury
      5. Attwood
      6. Haskell
      7. Robshaw
      8. Morgan
      9. Care
      10. Ford/Cipriani
      11. Yarde
      12. Twelvetrees
      13. Trinder
      14. May/Wade
      15. Brown

  8. My concern with cipriani is that his brilliance is so inconsistent

    That said, he, ford and burns are the three that have the potential to match quade cooper’s amazing performance against Wales.

    Whichever is played, Farrell should be bench cover for 10 IMO

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