International Scout Notes: 4th March

tom johnson

Tom Johnson

With Billy Vunipola out injured and no extra specialist no.8 called up to the squad as cover, Johnson could not have timed it better to put in one of the performances of the season so far against London Irish at the weekend.

He made 80 metres, including a couple of scintillating clean breaks, and generally looked dangerous with ball in hand. He will fight it out for the England bench spot with Matt Kvesic, but this performance, allied with his ability to play across the back row, has probably edged him in front of the Gloucester man.

Manu Tuilagi

Much has been made of Tuilagi being brought back into the England squad this week, but all the noises from Lancaster and co. indicate that it will just be a case of reintegrating him back into the environment, rather than actually considering him for selection. In his first appearance for five months, Tuilagi did not look off the pace, but there were definitely signs of rustiness as he shot out of defence a couple of times in the first half, and was guilty of running too laterally with ball in hand.

There were some good signs, too, with some aggressive physicality in the tackle area standing out, as well as one or two good carries, but having not been with the England squad since the Wales game last year, the game against the same opponents this weekend is surely much, much too soon for him.

Alex Goode

This will not necessarily be a popular opinion, but Alex Goode was sublime for Saracens against Bath on Friday night. Told he was playing fly-half instead of fullback just 30 seconds before the game, he stepped into the breach without batting an eyelid and controlled the game brilliantly. In the process, it must be said, he outplayed opposite man and fellow England substitute George Ford.

Goode’s best position has long been mooted, but this was a big nudge to both the Saracens and England coaching staffs that it is fly-half. He played all his age grade rugby there, and was only moved to 15 on arriving at Saracens, but with the years catching up to Charlie Hodgson, he should be given more game time there next season. He has the vision, time on the ball and ability to excel there, while that half a yard of pace that he lacks matters less than when he plays full back.

Jon Davies

One of the stars of the Lions tour in the summer, Davies has been sidelined with a pectoral injury since November. Like Tuilagi, his performance for his club at the weekend, when he played 65 minutes, was a mixed bag. He broke the line with his first touch of the game, showing that he hadn’t lost any of the physicality of old, but there were three missed tackles in defence and his influence over the rest of the game was reduced.

The Scarlets coaching staff believe he is ready, and it may well be too tempting for Gatland to bring him back in so he can shift George North back out to his favoured position on the wing.

Rhys Ruddock

Peter O’Mahony is an injury doubt for the weekend and with the visit of Italy to Dublin providing (on paper, at least) far less of a challenge than the trip to Paris the week after, Joe Schmidt may well decide to rest the Munsterman. After his performance for Leinster at the weekend, Rhys Ruddock looks the favourite to take over. He showed good opportunism, not to mention strength, to barge and bundle his way over the tryline from short range against Glasgow at the weekend, whilst he also got through plenty of work, carrying 14 times and making nine tackles.

Cut from the same cloth as O’Mahony – he is the same height (6’3″) and weighs seven pounds more (17st 7lbs) – he seems like the obvious man to deputise.

By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

10 thoughts on “International Scout Notes: 4th March

  1. Alex Goode is a shocking full-back, as he lacks the instincts and the skill-set (he’s rubbish under the high ball and is a poor-counter-attacker). However, he is a truly excellent fly-half, one of the best in the country, and certainly better than Farrell- even given Owen’s persistent improvement in that position over the last 2 years.

    1. I don’t know what you’ve been watching for the last few seasons, but to say that Goode is rubbish under the high ball is ridiculous. He may not be the fastest counter attacker, but does repeatedly find holes in defences. If he was rubbish at both of these how would he continue to be selected at full back for one of the top teams in the Premiership. And how would you know he’s one of the best fly halves in the country, as he very very rarely plays there for Saracens?

  2. For Goode to be an England fly half he needs to go to a club where he gets picked as first choice. He could potentially be excellent there, but you can’t be 3rd choice for club and 2nd choice for country. Hodgson is still around next season (as far as I know) so there’s no way he’s going to get the game time for Sarries to gain experience in time for 2015.

    10 is probably the hardest position to play consistently well. You can show flashes of brilliance, you can have the occasional great game (James O’Connor for example), but to do it week in week out against different opposition in all sorts of conditions takes time, practice and experience.

  3. But where would Goode go? Leicester may have Burns on the way, Saints have Myler (who has really shone this season without any competition), Quins have Evans with Botica next in line. Ford is at Bath, Cipriani is at Sale and Exeter have Slade. Maybe he could take over from his namesake at Wasps?

    Even if there was a club that were open to the notion of taking him on as a 10, when was the last time a relatively young starting player at Saracens decided to leave?

    1. Very difficult one. It would take a massive risk from Goode to move.

      He starts week in week out for arguably the best side in the country, and is involved in most international squads under SL. Why would be risk all that?

      On the flip side, I think it is his best position.

      Harlequins may work, I don’t think Boticca is good enough to be their long term 10. Wasps would probably have a punt on him, we are dong similar with Joe Carlisle now.

      1. Short term there seems lots to lose and nothing to gain (trading a 23 shirt for a possible future shot at a 22 shirt). Wouldn’t be a shock if he looks at it post 2015 though (I’m assuming he’s going to miss the cut for the 30 man squad) and he’s young enough to still be in the mix for 2019.

        1. It depends how he pictures his international future. I am sure he must realise that he is not quick enough to play 15 internationally. There is no doubt that he is a fantastic footballer though.

          Could he go away and work on his speed? I know Mike Brown did exactly that and it’s gone quite well for him!

          I’d be surprised if he wasn’t in the WC 30 man squad though. SL trusts him so he will be in there.

          1. Ah Alex Goode, our favourite topic on here.

            As you say, there is no incentive to change positions because SL keeps picking him in the 23. If Brown gets injured suddenly, he would probably start 15 too.
            Even if he realises he isn’t a good international 15, the fact he is still in the squad won’t make him take the risk, as if he did switch, he’d be up against Farrell, Ford, Burns, Myler, Slade and Cipriani for the England shirt.

  4. I think if Foden and Brown can both stay fit, then Goode will get more chances at 10 with Sarries next season. Farrell spends a lot of time with the England squad, and if Brown and Foden are both fit, Goode may not be in the 23. Meaning he will be free to play for Sarries,, who rotate their players regularly if they have players to cover that position. At the moment with Farrell away Hodgson has been starting every game, so if Goode was not involved in the England squad, I think he could be starting at 10 for Sarries.

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