Lancaster trims England squad ahead of France clash


Stuart Lancaster has named a 26-man squad to prepare for Saturday’s game against France.

The big news is that Chris Ashton and Ben Youngs have been dropped, with uncapped backs Luther Burrell, George Ford, Jack Nowell and Anthony Watson all included in the squad.

What do you think? Is this the right selection?

David Attwood (Bath Rugby)
Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers)
Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints)
Joe Launchbury (London Wasps)
Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints)
Joe Marler (Harlequins)
Ben Morgan (Gloucester Rugby)
Matt Mullan (London Wasps)
Chris Robshaw (Harlequins)
Henry Thomas (Sale Sharks)
Billy Vunipola (Saracens)
Mako Vunipola (Saracens)
Tom Wood (Northampton Saints)
Tom Youngs (Leicester Tigers)

Brad Barritt (Saracens)
Mike Brown (Harlequins)
Luther Burrell (Northampton Saints)
Danny Care (Harlequins)
Lee Dickson (Northampton Saints)
Owen Farrell (Saracens)
George Ford (Bath Rugby)
Alex Goode (Saracens)
Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby)
Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs)
Billy Twelvetrees (Gloucester Rugby)
Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby)

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

34 thoughts on “Lancaster trims England squad ahead of France clash

  1. Big calls by Lancaster. I am genuinely excited by his squad, fantastic to see ford, Watson, nowell and Thomas in there. Shame that Eastmonds has been dropped to the Saxons. Apart from that I am happy!

    Goodness, can’t believe we have an Ashton free team! Watson and May for me to start

    1. It’s been widely trailed that Nowell and May will start. Hope Watson is on the bench not Goode but think SL might balk at having 2 debutantes on the bench and ano on the pitch plus May with his one cap.

  2. Wow. I know Young is not in the best of firm but I’d pick Bergamasco ahead of Care.

    Right awaiting the usual training ground injury that sees Goode and Barritt back in the squad/ team!

    Still Ford on the bench is a good call. Dare I dream that England will play some rugby this year!

    1. Care’s been playing well for Harlequins for a while and while he’s not been mind-blowing for England neither has he been awful. Ben Youngs has suffered a complete collapse in form of late and Care is most definitely the next cab off the rank at 9. We’ll see how he does but I’m not despairing.

      1. Care is often eye catching but his game management is shocking. So often makes the wrong decision even for Quins. Poor kicking, running up blind alleys and getting turned over and then there is his awful passing sideways crabbing!

      2. Although Care does occasionally produce some magic moments, his basic scrum half skills (particularly his box kicking) are nowhere near the level of Dickson, Youngs or even Wigglesworth. And to be honest despite the magic moments I would have rather seen Youngs or Wiggy in the team. Against France in France there is no room for basic errors, or running off with no support (another Care favourite), so I think Dickson has to start and Care only comes on if we’re losing and we need some magic, or we’re 30 points ahead with ten minutes to go.

    2. Completely agree with Dazza and Benjit here. Danny Care is not an international 9.

      He can produce moments of unbelievable skill, but he can’t manage a game from 9 or box kick.

      I can think of about four or five other 9s I’d have ahead of him, absolutely gobsmacked but this decision.

      Ashton not so much, I can see the logic there and there is adequate replacements.

      Ben Youngs has the most complete skill set of any of our 9s, and whilst not on form, should at least be on the bench behind Dickson.

  3. Very exciting backline but how much can we expect? Very inexperienced. Might be sacrificing this 6N in search of world cup glory.

    1. Well we sacrificed development last year to go for the championship and look what happened. We lose nothing defensively from the AIs and barring the odd mishap we were sound then without the blessed Barritt. If the forwards can provide a platform we could be in business. But this really is the last chance to experiment and it is so open this year.

      1. Fair comments. Just hoping we aren’t all expecting to win the 6N with this backline as they will make mistakes and take wrong options while they are learning, which might mean some lost games. Obviously hope not, but it will be a steep learning curve. Remember how shell shocked Yarde looked on occasions last year. He will be great in the future, but it’s a serious step up in intensity and speed.

  4. Pretty happy with this, especially if Nowell, Burrell and May start. I that’s the case I’d actually rather have Goode than Watson on the bench- need some experience as a back up option, especially with Ford being another rookie. Think we have been quick to critice Goode (I will be the first to admit that) but he has worked on his speed and is looking a much better player than the ponderous 15 of last 6 nations. Only really quibble is youngs. He is the ‘best’ scrum half we have (in terms of all round game) but just not in form. I think it’s an error to drop him as he should be the 9 for the World Cup (providing he gets the form back) and we are running out of chances for him and Farrell to gel as a partnership.

  5. Generally positive. Prefer to see Eastmond (or Watson) in a 23 shirt to Goode, accept Goode may have got a little quicker but still nowhere near the pace you would want from an international back 3 player and still lacks physicality, the head to head against Foden earlier this season exposed all of those deficiencies again.

    Slightly concerned over the halfback selection/possible combinations. I don’t think Dickson and Farrell work together and Care seems to undermine all his good work with serving up some perfect counter attacking ball with his box kicks. I can see Dickson and Ford as a good pairing (Ford to make use of the faster service) so I would have retained Youngs as I think he’s makes the best pairing with Farrell and we should be capping that unit together as many times as possible in my view. Youngs may not be at his absolute club best, but I didn’t think his form had gone off a cliff either.

    Ashton had to be cut. A 36/Burrell midfield may start playing in a way that brings Ashton into the game, but there isn’t an option to continue handing out the caps waiting for the magic to happen. One of the main reasons all our alternative options have no caps/so few caps is because we’ve kept handing them out to Ashton.

    Lets not stick too much expectation/pressure on Nowell (assuming he gets the shirt). I’m sure he’ll do great under the high ball, not be a turnstile in defence and hopefully be industrious with the ball in hand. I don’t think he’s scored a try this season though (only 5 prem games and 2 HC games I think), and just 2 premiership tries in his fledgling career. Great prospect, but he’s not going to be a one man solution to our blunt attack.

    Tighthead resources are a bit thin, especially as Domingo has owned Cole on their previous encounters. Domingo was always great at applying power after the hit so I’m concerned he’s a bit too well suited to the new rules. Thomas seems to be more of a ‘good in the loose’ prop than a scrum animal so don’t think we’ve got an option to ‘sure it up’ from the bench if needed.

  6. Overall happy with the squad, would’ve liked to see Eastmond in but you can’t have it all!

    I think SL might have both Goode and Watson on the bench, with Ford out of the 23. Only reason I suspect that is Goode and 36 cover 10, Faz covers 12, May could slot into 13, obviously Goode covers 15 and Watson the wings. With Ford and Goode on the bench you have 4 potential 10s which seems overkill.

    Really happy the pack is seemingly settled, provides stability and hopefully will win some good ball to unleash some exciting (read try scoring) back play.

  7. Telegraph and Mail, both fairly reliable (though given 4-5 different squads in the last 4 days), are reckoning on Barritt being on the bench and not Ford, I guess to replace Burrell should he turn out to be another Tomkins. 36+Goode to offer 10 cover should we need it.

    Ashton and Youngs both needed to be dropped, Youngs has been in terrible form, and his passing has been woeful. Care has been looking lively, and whilst his box kicking isn’t great, at least he offers a threat in the form he’s showing. Real shame if the predictions are true, since it means Dicksons fast service won’t be going to Ford.

  8. The pack will be great. The backs won’t.

    SL has been too conservative with his backline. He’s preferred the likes of Farrell, Barritt, Ashton, Goode, Strettle and Brown rather than Burns, Cipriani, Eastmond, Wade, Foden etc.

    Fair enough, injuries and loss of form have deprived him of certain players at various times but now there isn’t enough time to blood players sufficiently before the RWC.

    It’s all very well keyboard warriors like ourselves throwing together lists of promising, talented players but it’s no substitute for said players actually playing enough international rugby to get up to speed.

    Come the RWC – how many caps will Ford, Wade and Watson have? Not many.

    1. Potentially over 20 apiece if the selection remains reasonably consistent and there are no horrendous long term injuries. That’s not a vast amount but is far from nothing

  9. WOW!! He’s dropped Ashton. Nowell and Watson must have really impressed!! So with this announcement what would you starting back line look like? I think I would start with 9. Dickson, 10. Farrell, 11. May, 12. Twelvetrees, 13. Burrell, 14. Nowell, 15. Brown – 21. Care, 22. Ford, 23. Watson.
    I think SL will pick Barritt over Burrell, but apart from that I think I should be pretty close.

  10. So Barritt and Goode on the bench as insurance. I guess I can see the logic. Just hope that Ford gets a chance against Scotland if the newbies do ok. He needs experience prior to the summer tests when we will likely be without Farell for the first test.

    1. I can see the logic, but we don’t currently have any alternative/backup to Farrell (with Burns being out of sorts). Not having Ford on the bench just means he’ll have one cap less come the RWC. There’s always the risk of injury and I don’t like the idea of someone like 36 or Goode trying to ‘do a job’ for any significant amount of game time.

      If they don’t think Ford is ready then I would have gone safe and picked Myler, leaving the 23 shirt for Watson (or Nowell depending on who starts)

      1. Matt I agree Ford should be on the bench, I just see why SL has done this. I had hoped that after last year SL had realised the error of playing people out of position. 12t is probably less of a stretch than Wood at 8 or Brown at 11 even. But is he international class? Hmm. Not so sure.

        1. You guys are talking as if the 23 for France have been selected and Ford is not in there? Am I missing something?

          1. It’s been heavily trailed in the telegraph and mail. Usually this means they have been briefed if previous announcement s are a marker

            1. Ok, thanks for that. I can understand why you wouldn’t want to Have Ford on the bench away to France. First cap and all. I really hope (and think) we will see Ford in the later games though.

              1. Don’t understand it.

                Why would he leave Ford in the 26, if he wasn’t going to be in the 23. After all, his ONLY position was the No22, unlike the other two who will drop out.

  11. Can’t imagine the thinking behind Ben Youngs being dropped for Danny Care. Youngs has the most all round skill set of any of our 9s, by quite some distance, and whilst Dickson is currently in better form, dropping him completely just appears short sighted.

    I just think back to Care’s box kick against Italy last year, which from our own 22, actually went behind where he was actually standing!? How does that even happen in international rugby? Only last month I was at the Stoop to watch him gift Clermont three try scoring (or very good attacking) opportunities in the first half alone.

    I really hope that this doesn’t come back to embarrass us, as France have a back three that absolutely will not let him get away with it.

    1. As a Tigers fan I’m fully behind the decision to drop Youngs. He does have the most rounded skill-set but he has been terrible recently. His passes are not going to hand, he seems hesitant to make the breaks he made his name for, and his box-kicking has not been up to scratch either.

      While Dickson and Care are opposite ends of the spectrum, I’d rather see the former start and the latter come on if we need someone to change the game, than have Youngs’ confidence knocked further by another poor performance on the bigger stage. Give him a game or two away from the limelight in the LV and let him boss things again, then get him back involved.

      1. I hope they’ve got it right and being dropped doesn’t knock his confidence further otherwise it may take a lot longer than a couple of LV games to build him back up again.

        1. Matt, to be honest if a seasoned International is unduly affected by being dropped, then I am pretty sure that it is the right decision.

          They are not kids, and being dropped is not a punishment, but a reflection of someone not being at the top of their game, or no longer being the very best in the country.

          One would hope that the result is not a damaged confidence, but an increased desire to return to his best form. From what I see of the Youngs brothers, I would imagine that Ben is not one for feeling sorry for himself.

      2. Completely agree that Youngs form has been poor, he looks almost tired when I’ve watched him play, in his passing and his sniping runs as well. I’ve chosen to use the word tired over lazy.

        I still would rather have him in the squad than Care.

        My worry is similar what you’ve noted in the England Preview Jamie, Dickson and Farrell as a pair are not ideal. Neither offer a running threat so it makes defending the fringes a lot easier, and make the centres job even harder as they have less time and space.

        Farrell will definitely start. Meaning that either we play Dickson, and our options in attack are somewhat limited, or we play Care. And well, I won’t go further into why that pains me.

        1. 100% with you there, sticking with a pairing that have had a reasonable amount of time together and we know doesn’t work that well doesn’t seem too sensible. Einstein defined insanity as trying the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result, so you have to wonder ;)

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