International Scout Notes: 5th November

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Danny Care

Not needed by England, the snub of his international selectors clearly spurred Care on at the weekend as he directed his Harlequins troops around Welford Road with aplomb. It may have been the forwards – the likes of Easter and Trayfoot – who took the plaudits with some incredible stats, but Care was equally as influential in getting the ball to them quickly, and in the right areas. While there were no flashy breaks around the fringes, it was perhaps even more impressive that he tempered his game a bit and managed the match well. It’s an area of his game that needed improving, and it seems to be. Will be pushing hard for inclusion against Argentina this weekend, especially after Dickson’s poor showing at Twickenham.

Christian Wade

A scintillating performance from Wade against Gloucester, bagging a brace of beautiful tries that showcased his dizzying sidestep and rapid acceleration. He has been slightly off the boil so far this season and as such calls for him to start for England have died down somewhat, but with this performance, coupled with the below-par performance of Ashton (and some, although not I, would argue Yarde), those calls are likely to start up again. It would be great to see him given a go against Argentina, but with Lancaster insisting he wouldn’t be making too many changes, it is hard to see Wade getting any game time this autumn – even if it goes terribly against Argentina, New Zealand is not the team you want to be making wholesale changes for. If he can continue this form, however, he will surely feature in the Six Nations.

Phil John

The veteran prop was given the honour of captaining his side on Saturday when the Scarlets took on Ulster at the Parc Y Scarlets. The experienced campaigner was playing in his 270th game for the region in what would be a very memorable performance. John led the way with power, steel, determination and heart, which his Scarlet teammates followed to secure an important win against the highflying Ulstermen. The 32-year old displayed all of the attributes the Welsh province needed to lift them against an Ulster side who have been laying waste to the PRO12 since they brushed off the cobwebs in the opening rounds. Led by John, the Scarlets controlled the ball, dominated the rucks and mauls while allowing no creative space for Ulster to utilise their speedy backs.

Duncan Weir

An impressive performance from Glasgow’s No.10 as the Scots maintained their unbeaten away record in the PRO12 this season. Weir, given the start with Jackson away on international duty, made the most of his opportunity slotting home a conversion and four penalties in a 19-12 victory over Connacht in Ireland. The fly-half dictated play, opening gaps and pulling the strings for DTH Van der Merwe to cross for the first try. The stocky 10 kept the Warriors in change of the match with an error-free kicking display, while shutting down any real Connacht threat.

By Jamie Hosie (@jhosie43) and Alex McLeman

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

38 thoughts on “International Scout Notes: 5th November

  1. Do you think there any chance of seeing care on the bench this weekend? Can’t help feeling his game is better than dicksons and after Saturday I feel youngs should start. He upped the tempo massively when he came on

  2. I was at the Scarlets game and can agree Phil John was immense, bullied John Afoa and even managed some dancing moves in the loose. Also he gave a good interview whilst walking off for half time in between blowing out of his arse!

    1. If we can’t create opportunities for Ashton to finish (which we clearly can’t) then we have to at least look at someone who can create something from nothing.

      Wade may not have been right at the top of the try scoring charts so far this season, but he’s also created some absolute beauties for others as well, I’ve not seen any evidence his form has dipped from last season.

      So he plays one excellent game for England, the assessment of which was:

      14. Christian Wade: 8.5
      Showed his searing pace as he cantered away and offloaded well to Morgan for the first try. Gained good ground for England and he had Argentina’s defence running backwards at times. A certain starter for next week and beyond.”

      On the back of his one cap he becomes the only English back 3 player to even manage as much as a Lions call up …. and then somehow falls down the pecking order.

      I didn’t mind Ashton having another chance, Ashton does read a game very well, and (as his long prem try scoring record suggests) he does know how to finish. But there’s no point playing him if we can’t use him. Wade may not be the world’s best defender, but if the argument for sticking with Ashton is superior defence then we are doomed!

      My argument for Wade is if not now then when? There are no more easy opportunities for introducing new players in this RWC cycle, we have AIs, 6N, tour to NZ, AIs, 6N, RWC warm ups, that’s it. We have to find out now if he can cut it at the top level and give him a run of games.

      1. I really want to agree – but is it really a good idea to drop Ashton for Wade right now?

        The experience in our back line would basically be nothing! Assuming 12Ts and Tomkins play in the centre – our centres and wings will have combined number of caps sitting at 10 before the game starts. A not-so-healthy average of 2.5 each.

        Whilst I really really want to see Wade given a chance – I think it had to be for Yarde is anyone at this point. In the 6Ns, when Tuilagi is back, and Youngs/Farrell continue playing together then maybe that’s the right time to drop Ashton?

        1. Agree it would be far more preferable to put him into a settled and experienced side, we lost the opportunity to do so by not picking him in the last 6N. We also don’t know who will be fit or what form they will be in come this 6N, so I’m just not sure we can keep waiting for the planets to align to give the guy a shot.

          1. I know what you mean. I’m pretty sure I’ve changed my mind a few times just today so I can imagine SLs going nuts over it!

            For entertainments sake, let’s hope he throws him in!

            1. Not ideal but as we discussed elsewhere Matt – bring in Foden on the wing for Ashton and put Wade on the bench

              We then replace Ashton with someone who is not only experienced but also safe in the defence and capable of creating and have the option of trying out Wade after 60 mins or so

              1. That’s a much better option than not having Wade in the 23! Would prefer the winger to start and the versatile fullback to cover. I’m just keeping my fingers crossed he doesn’t get released first of all though!

  3. Ashton’s position is simply entenable – if you want a solid player, pick a solid player – not a headless turnstile.

    And “If Wade continues this form”…?

    Really? He’s been scoring tries for fun for two seasons now.

    1. The problem is here Tom, can you drop Ashton for his defensive lapses and the put Wade in? Doesn’t make much sense.

        1. I think that’s massively harsh. People seem to judge Ashton on England matches – and everyone else on their Prem form – hardly fair.

          Ashton’s form at domestic level has been brilliant, and his try scoring record for years has been well up there in the league.

          Whilst I’m a big Wade fan – suggesting Ashton doesn’t offer anything in attack is quite far from true IMO.

          1. Ashton clearly doesn’t offer anything like what Wade does in attack.
            It would be silly to suggest he does, he was very effective… but that was a long time ago.

            If you want to compare them on premiership matches Wade comes out on top.
            Wade has universally better stats and plays in a similar defensive structure to the one England employ. (Narrow, backing the wingers pace to cover the outside gap)

            Ashton’s only skill is being able to pick a line that puts him into a massive gap that someone else has created – that is not happening in this England side.
            It would be ludicrous to persist with him.

            1. My real point was that was to Benjit saying Ashton provides “nothiong in attack”; that isn’t true. Obviously it doesn’t compare to Wade!

              1. I would agree that Ashton, currently, doesn’t offer anything in attack.
                I think he was lucky at the beginning of his career that the contemporary England team provided plenty of opportunity for him to showcase his one talent.
                Since the dissolution of that team/era he has been shown up for the limited player he is.

            2. Ashton (other than Wade and Varndell) is the only English winger that has maintained anything like a world class strike rate in the premiership over any period of time.

              He’s not useless in attack, but not of much use on his own, it’s a damning indictment that England have been unable to use a potent finisher for such a long period of time, but we can’t stick our heads in the sand and pretend it isn’t happening and persist in the hope that opportunities start presenting themselves.

              Insanity (as defined by Einstein) is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. So whilst it’s time for Wade to come in, it’s not entirely Ashton’s fault that it’s time for him to go out.

              1. I don’t think we disagree.

                Ashton is lethal in the right circumstances – but offers nothing outside of that.
                That’s not necessarily his fault.
                But it not being his fault, doesn’t change the fact that it isn’t working for him.

                1. I’m not trying to argue for Ashtons form last season – I do watch rugby.

                  But this season he has played well. 2 tries in 5 is definitely nothing more than average, but his form has been very good.

                  I don’t think Yarde did considerably more. One break from Yarde, what else am I missing? He also gave silly penalties away, which if it was Ashton who did that he would be getting slated on here for. I accept Yarde is inexperienced but still. Also, Yardes defensive positioning was woeful, far worse than Ashtons for most the match in fact, he was just lucky enough to have nothing lead to a try.

                  It’s pretty clear Ashton has had a very poor 12 months or so leading into this season, but he has picked up. But he has a commodity that very few English players have. Proven ability at the highest level. We may have to got back a year or two to find it but it was there, and if he is used in the right way I am sure he can be as useful again.

                  Can I point out again that I am not saying Ashton has to stay in the team; simply that his form is not as bad as people are suggesting.

          2. I cannot remember the last Eng match where Ashton looked threatening. Having watched the match on Saturday twice he just seems so lacking in confidence I don’t know why even his supporters would want him in. Unless Foden is restored to FB which won’t happen after Saturday’s game there is no point picking Ashton. Most of his best games came of the back of Foden s counter attacking.

            1. Again Benjit you are only looking at Ashtons England games, and comparing that do other wingers Premierships games. Hardly fair.

              Ashton started the season in excellent form for Saracens, assisting and finishing tries himself. I think we should question how England use him before we question his form right now.

              1. And how many times do you see proven club players not hack it on the international stage. Ashton and strettle are playing behind the most dominant pack in the premiership. They do not have that luxury for England.

                I don’t get your logic on not counting test form. Nick Easter is a case in point. Consistently the best english 8 in the prem but largely anonymous with the odd exception at test level.

                1. Nick Easter had an ok England career – he isn’t playing now because he won’t be around in 2015, and actually Vunipola is on better Prem form anyway so it isn’t that relevant anymore.

                  My point is, saying Ashton has played poorly for England so we should bring in unproven players doesn’t make a lot of sense. Ashton has a fantastic Prem record and still has a decent international try scoring record and has scored against all of the big nations. He still averages a try every other match. In what was it that useless?

                  I’m not suggesting Ashton is fantastic and can never be dropped – but let’s a bit more sensible in the criticism of him. He isn’t useless in attack and his form this year has been as good as any other wing in the Premiership.

                  His 6N form was very poor. But is there another winger on Saturday that could have done more than Ashton? Maybe Wade, but even he would have struggled with that little ball.

                2. I can’t accept that, Jacob.

                  Firstly – Ashton’s try scoring record domestically has been average at best this season and last. And he has scored 2 tries in his last 20 international games – poor to say the least.

                  Second – His form simply hasn’t been as good as every wing in the premiership, it’s just not quite as woeful as it was last season.

                  Third – As I pointed out yesterday – Yarde did far more than Ashton – that suggests that yes, there are wingers who could have done more than Ashton.

                3. Agree with the Ashton detractors. He has had plenty of chances but his international form has been awful

                  Yarde may have been out of position but at least he can tackle and he’s inexperienced. You cannot use inexperience for Ashton being out of position and / or being unable to tackle

                  He may look great playing for the top team in the premiership against weaker sides, but he has struggled recently to make the step up to the international level.

                  There weren’t many chances on Saturday but when Yarde got one, he burst up the line using bioth speed and strength to brush off 3 or 4 Aussie tacklers only for a fantastic tackle from AAC to stop him from scoring a certain try. When was the last time you saw Ashton do anything similar?

                  one thing from Sat sums up Ashton’s form for me. He took the quick tap which itself was a grreat idea. He then threw the ball forward and onto the ground and we were damn luncky Clancy did not call it as forward. The lack of basic skill from an international winger with a number of caps was shocking

  4. Agree totally. No sense in swapping a poor defender who can score tries with decent ball and has experience, to a poor defender who can score tries from nothing but very little experience. The good points of Wades game do not outweigh the bad points of Ashtons game. Wade had a great game against Argies in the summer, so let’s see if Ashton does the same this weekend. Hopefully Youngs will start at 9, which means Farrell should get better ball and actually bring the centres and wingers into play a bit better. Then we can see if Ashton needs to be dropped.

    Also if we’re talking about swapping wingers why not put Strettle back in? The try in the clip above was well finished, but the skill he demonstrated to finish for his other try was sublime.

    1. See your point on Ashton and I can see the reasons for sticking with him. I’ve said on here before that I don’t think that he played that poorly at the weekend; but I just want to see Wade in an England shirt!

      But Strettle? Really? He has proved enough times that he isn’t up to it. First test vs Argentina in the summer he was woeful.

    2. Wade is your Shane Williams. With that in mind you can see how mad it is that I think you’re not picking him… Defence, experience, form, Strettle … you’ve got one of the most exciting young wingers in Europe, you’re playing Arg, and you’re picking the northern chunter monkey for his experience or even countenancing putting Strettle in. English rugby is nuts sometimes.

      By the way, this isn’t saying Arg are poor, just that Arg are the right team to have dancing pixes out wide against if you want to try it out. It couldn’t be laid on better for SL to do the right thing, which is why I expect “credit in the bank” to win and for the middle managers of England to stick with the same XV.

      1. Exactly! I’m actually glad Shane Williams is Welsh, we never would have had the pleasure of watching him play if he was English. The Argentine wingers are more of the dancing, than bulldozing, variety themselves. If not now then when?

        Wade felled a 22 stone Tongan monster (Bayonne), the guy can tackle (made a try saving tackle in the same match). Yes his defensive positioning needs work, but lets put that work and investment in as part of the England set up, not by holding tackle bags for a day before going back to score more tries for Wasps.

        I just don’t understand how many tries you have to score (tries that no other winger in the NH game can score) to get a position in an England team that can’t score tries.

        1. And a shame that Sinbad is English. He’d have won a fair few Welsh caps – imagine him on one wing and Shane on the other when they were in their prime.

        1. Me too, Distressing isn’t it

          Would also just point out that when Jason Robinson was first chosen for England, people worried about his defence and positioning. Not saying Wade is the new Robinson, but that selection seemed to work out ok

    3. Jesus. Why not go the whole hog and recall Banahan and Tindall. Strettles time has well and truly passed.

      1. I’m starting to think we have all lost the plot completely. It’s as though wings win games on their own. My guess is that if the fwds do well, the half backs and the centre’s create space the wings all look good, period. Show me a wing who can look great every time without a platform? I think this continual debate about the wings is starting to become a dead end.

        1. I think that’s what we are debating Jay. We’ve had a prolonged period (take out the Fiji and second string Argentina games) where England have managed collectively managed 4 back 3 tries in 17 games (2 for Foden and 2 for Ashton) against meaningful opposition. It’s been abysmal.

          Now whilst the selection of players out of form, out of position or just a bit too ponderous for international rugby is no doubt a factor, the bottom line is our back 3 have been completely bereft of attacking opportunities under Lancaster (which is why we only ever get to talk about how many penalties they have given away or how many tackles they have missed)

          Hopefully, as you say, all the other aspects of play that enable the back 3 to cross the whitewash will start dropping into place and the problem will solve itself. But there is no sign of it happening.

          So we may as well take a look at the one back 3 player we have in the country that is significantly less reliant on opportunities being created for him, because he has crazy feet and express pace he can make his own luck! We don’t know he can step up to the top level (e.g. Sharples looked sensational against Fiji and out of his depth the following week against Australia), but he’s earned his opportunity.

          1. To be fair to Sharples they did play him on the opposite wing to that he is used to. I think that was quite unfair. Surely for any new cap trying to get used to int rugby you play them in their natural position and move the established player instead? I hope this doesn’t happen to Wade. For a player whom people already have concerns over his defensive positioning, to play him in a position he is not used to on home debut would be madness.

  5. as an ulster fan i must say Phil John was immense, it’s the first time since Afoa joined I can remember seeing him get clearly out scrummaged, John was also great in the loose too, he’s having a cracking year and the new scrummaging laws have really benefited him

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