POLL: Who should start for England in the opening game of the Six Nations?

Lancaster England
Next week Stuart Lancaster will announce his starting line-up for the opening match against Scotland on Saturday 2nd February. As we all know, every rugby fan has their own opinion on who should make that line-up. Select your team from the options below, and leave any comments underneath. We’ll publish a ‘Readers’ XV’ next week prior to Lancaster’s actual announcement.

A couple of pointers: Calum Clark was not considered due to today’s announcement that he needed surgery on a knee injury, and would miss the tournament. Mouritz Botha, Matt Kvesic and Ugo Monye are all in the running, after being added to the squad last week. Injury doubts, such as Tom Johnson and Manu Tuilagi, are also there, given that they could be fit for the opening game.

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47 thoughts on “POLL: Who should start for England in the opening game of the Six Nations?

  1. really like the voting system works well wish u had it more defined between wings fullback, inside and outside centres, and props. especially if this is a test run for a bigger lines poll. love the blog by the way.

  2. Lancaster has a real selection quandary here.

    It would be hard not to bring Foden back into the side whether at fullback or wing as he has always played well for England and is a very good counter-attacker.

    On the other hand, how do you drop Mike Brown? On great form for Quins in attack and defense, he showed he could step it up against the big teams over the autumn. Not only safe under the high ball, he has a huge boot and the ability to spark an attack from nothing.

    I can’t see Lancaster dropping Ashton -although its possible that a spell on the bench would do him good. So who does he choose from the remaining 3?

    Personally, I’d have Goode on the bench as cover for fullback, fly half and centre, play Brown at fullback and Foden on the wing.

    However, if Lancaster goes with Farrell, Barritt and Tuilagi, will it be necessary to keep Goode in there to come in at second receiver and try to spark the back line?

    Would love to see a line up of Care, Burns, Barritt, Tuilagi Foden, Ashton, Brown but don’t think it will happen

    1. The FB choices provide a real quandary don’t they. Even though it is hard to discount one (or both) of the others, I do like Goode at FB. IF it was to be Brown and Foden picked to start, I think that I would prefer Brown on the Wing.

    2. Goode can’t cover centre i’ve never seen him play there.

      Does anyone else think we could see all 3 of the fullbacks on the pitch at some point? I’d rather that than Strettle or Monye on the pitch.

      1. I said centre Nick as I see no reason why he couldn’t fill in there in a pinch

        He did quite a reasonable job filling in at scrum-half during one of the AIs so I don’t think centre would be beyond him

        1. Whilst i don’t think it would be beyond him i think Foden, Brown, Farrell, Flood, Monye or Burns (depending who’s in the 22) would cover center before he would.

  3. Interesting choices, and it’s even more surprising to see that, Danny Care aside, the team voted for so far is the same as the one that beat NZ…

    1. I kind of rushed into the voting and just put Cobisiero expecting a seperate tight/loosehead column before i realized you were supposed to choose both props. This skewed my vote perhaps others did this as well.

  4. Just seen that Johnson is out for the whole of the six nations. And also Corbisiero is out of the first two games at least. Johnson wouldn’t have been in my team anyway but Corbs would. That puts Vunipola in pole position for loose-head I would say.

    Very interesting to see Hartley/ Youngs be so close. Also, in the back three I would definitely have Foden and Ashton on either wing. Dependent in Goode’s fitness, I would probably have him at FB. That is really unlucky on Brown, and I am a massive fan of his, but I think Foden/ Ashton are the best two finishers we have, and therefore play. And I think that with a Barritt/ Tuilagi centre partnership, Goode is a useful asset.

    1. definitely agree here.

      although based on the england mentality of “having credit” and Foden being seen as an X-Factor player (no pun intended about him skipping sale training to go to auditions once…) it is likely that Brown will get the nod at 11 and Foden will be the bench man for at least the first game. that is of course if Goode’s shoulder is sorted (he is being released for LV action this week). Therefore it would not be too big a surprised to see Goode not in the team, in which case foden 11, and brown 15 for me. I think Foden has the finishing prowess for the wing, and brown is just unstoppable under the highball, plus he has more of a kicking game than Foden.

      I do think that if Goode is not fit, then we could see 12Trees sooner, however it sounds as though Manu is struggling with an ankle problem, so it is probably more likely that we will see Barritt and JJ in the centres.

      My genuinely opinion on the T. Youngs vs Hartley is that i really would have no issue with which player starts. although i do think that T.Youngs is the one who is MORE SUITED to the “impact sub” role (although he makes a great started IMO).

      I also think that Farrell is a starting flyhalf. Burns is the kind of player you want to say either “go out and have fun” or “we need you to win us the game Freddie” too. Farrell would only be useful off the bench if you want to see out a game, like Ireland seem to do with ROG.

      regarding the 3 fullbacks, I personally think we should take a leaf out of the Aussies’ book, and play one on the wing. it doesnt matter to me that they are 15’s at club, and i personally thing both brown and foden are more dangerous threats than strettle.

  5. No coincidence that the voting selects almost exactly the same XV that started against NZ.

    I haven’t checked but I think BenYoungs/Care might be the only selection that is different?

    For hooker.. Hartley is often said to be within the ‘leadership group’ so I would probably put my money on him getting a call up ahead of Tom Youngs.

    1. Given that whoever starts in the front row is likely to be replaced I suspect that Vunipola may well be the better bet as the replacement. I am not overly fussed with the term “impact sub”.

  6. I’d be inclined to go with the team that started against NZ, injuries aside of course.

    I think in terms of Loose Head, it would be Mako Vunipola over Marler, given that Corbisiero is injured (I’d have Corbs in to start if fit).

    For me, T.Youngs did enough to hang on to the hookers jersey, although if Hartley is back in then I wouldn’t complain.

    Tight Head is a no-brainer. Dan Cole has to start.

    2nd row should be Parling and launchbury. I can see in the future it being Lawes and Launchbury, with the Wasps man being responsible for running the line-out, but for now, he needs to just play and cement his place in the side.

    Back row should be Robshaw 7, Morgan 8 and Wood 6, with Croft to cover from the bench.

    Scrum Half I would go for B.Youngs, as I do think he shades it as a player ability wise over Care, and he is in decent form.

    10,12,13 I’m going to lump together. If Tuialgi isn’t fit, then the line-up should be Flood at 10, Barritt 12 and Farrell 13 (Farrell and Barritt are interchangeable). If Tulagi is fit then he goes to 13, Barritt 12 and Farrell 10.

    Back 3 should be, injuries permitting, Ashton 14, Brown 11 and Goode 15. If Goode is injured then Brown to 15 and Foden 14.

    While this is not my most ideal side, this is the side I think we need to pick to start the game against Scotland. Get points on the board and then bring in the likes of Twelvetrees, Joseph, Lawes, Croft, etc off the bench.

    Apologies if this is long winded. Just wanted to throw my tuppence worth in:-)

  7. Agreed Peter Cook! But he’s only just started running again following injury so maybe he won’t quite be ready. Still would be better than Strets on the wing even in his current state. Back 3 should be Foden/Ashton/Monye for Scotland. Harsh on Brown but he’d get game time off the bench.

  8. On the tight calls I’ve gone for:
    – Hartley over Youngs for better lineout percentages, plus I like the idea of injecting Youngs’ dynamism as an impact sub.
    – Care over Youngs on club form.
    – 12trees over Barritt. This is down to wanting to get Foden back in, so needing to improve the playmaking/distribution from 12 if Goode is not joining the line.
    – Foden over Goode, for more pace and strike running.

    I had voted Corbs unaware he wasn’t available for the first fixtures, I would start Vunipola over Marler. Marler has been temperamentally suspect of late.

    What about the FH bench spot? I think I would go with Burns over Flood, what does everyone else think?

  9. Interesting results on the votes here. Farrell clearly preferred over Flood and Burns. I would like to see the same back three, with Foden on the bench, but I think Goode is still carrying a shoulder injury so might not even play in the first game. Barritt & Tuilagi with Joseph and Twelvetrees on the bench, with Twelvetrees covering 10 and 12.

  10. The sensible thing to do is to get the likes of Burns, Twelvetrees, Joseph and the returning players from injury time off the bench. Best laid plans and all that. What is encouraging from and England fans perspective, is that the players being discussed here all seem to viewed as being of sufficient quality to take England forwards to 2015 and hopefully beyond. Obvioulsy there are a few positions where the quality isn’t where we would like it to be, but overall things are looking positive, and we haven’t yet spoken about the likes of Eliot Daly, Billy Vunipola, Wade, Eastond and the like in the Saxons.

  11. I’m a big believer in equal opportunity at grass roots level (without game time how can anyone improve?) But at international level the players that are achieving consistently good individual performances (if even they are on the losing side) should keep there place as a starter, until there positional rival finds better form.

    P.S Haskell is very underrated. He should be nailed on for a starting position.

    1. i think haskell is unlucky to have been seen more as a 6 by england. and at wasps he plays in the backrow with two superhumans, meaning he ends up at 7.

      I personally think that haskell would be better used at 8 for england. I feel is he is seen more as an 8 (who plays flanker) then he could push ben morgan and billy v for the shirt. I also feel that haskell is VERY dynamic off the base, and he has scored some great tries off the back of a scrum. he also brings a “dallaglio-like” view that he is not going to loose when he steps on the pitch. some people see this as arrogance, i personally think that it is a huge factor in making a very competitive player.

      1. Haskell has been given plenty of chances at 8 and has so far failed to take them.

        He doesn’t have the nous, control or skills for 8. Which is a shame as England could do with the competition there (seeing as they are ignoring Easter)

        1. haskell has started a handful of tests at 8, thats hardly plenty of chances…


          2 mins in… this shows his control at the base, on a scrum that is rapidly wheeling. it also shows his dynamism off the base.

          as for not having the nous or skills…

          easter is no better a player than haskell, and the only reason he is playing well now is because he feels he has a point to prove. to quote will greenwood on easters form “its like the chicken and the egg. is he on great form but is not being selected by england, or is he on great form BECAUSE he is not being selected by england”

          Its easier to play well when you feel you have something to prove.

          1. I agree I think Haskell has had plenty of chances not always from 8 but hes never really developed and i don’t think hes really a player to take us forward.

            Simo (sorry to keep disagreeing with you on here) your videos don’t really prove anything.

            On the pick and go… he doesn’t even touch the ball with his feet before he picks it up. It just pops out a meter away from the try line and he dives over. That’s the easiest try from a pick and go you could get. At the time I was embarrassed by the NFL style celebration for such an easy score, he should have been congratulating his props. Haskell’s failure from 8 is his inability to carry out effective 8 to 9 plays. Or picking the ball running an intelligent line before giving a soft past or a dummy where necessary. This is the skill/nous he doesn’t have.

            The chip and chase… Whilst clearly a fantastic piece of play it hardly highlights his grasp of core 8 play. If i was really critical i’d say he gets a lucky bounce as well.

  12. i think, at least for the start of the 6N’s that Croft is going to be making his comeback slowly, therefore i feel the best sub option is haskell. Not only does he cover all 3 spots, but he is a very dynamic and combative player, just the kind of guy you want to come on and have an impact. I rate crofty when fit, although i do agree that he is shaded out by Wood, as woody works more in the tight, and does not spend his time running on the wing… that said, croft is a great man to get on for the last 20 mins of a test! i think (with his new bulk after injury) that he may be used as 2nd row cover if anything happens to Lawes, Parling or Launchers.

    1. Corbisero/Marler (In for Corbs when injured)
    2. Hartley
    3. Cole
    4. Launchbury
    5. Parling
    6. Wood
    7. Robshaw (C)
    8. Morgan
    9. B. Youngs
    10. Farrell
    11. Brown/Foden (When good is not fit)
    12. Barritt
    13. Tuilagi/Joseph (in if Manu’s ankle does not get sorted)
    14. Ashton
    15. Goode/Brown

    16. T. Youngs
    17. Marler/Vunipola
    18. Wilson
    19. Lawes
    20. Croft/Haskell (in until Croft is deemed fit enough)
    21. Care
    22. Burns/Flood (if Burns is not fit) – Similarly I could see 12Ts here, i think he may not be ready to cover 10, having said that, his heiniken and saxon’s debuts both came 10 mins after he was told he would play, and he has stormers in both, so maybe pressure drives him.
    23. Foden/Joseph/Twelvetrees (If bother JJ and Foden are in)

    Initially I was very happy with the EPS, however there are guys i have looked at a bit more, and i personally am not convinced by a few of them. I think Tom johnson plays out wide quite a bit, but lacks the athleticism of croft. therefore think Kvesic should be in over him. not convinced by strettle, i dont think he is enough of a finisher. i also think Dickson was lucky to keep his place over simpson, but he probably has the limited number of changes to thank for that. Botha being callled in for clark is a disappointment. i would have preferred Robson, Kruis, Garvey or even Attwood over Botha. I have not been hugely convinced by him in any england appearance.

    1. Not convinced by Botha in an England shirt. He was brought in as an enforcer style of player because Lawes was injured. Check his tackle stats, and I think you’llbe surprised. His work around the pitch and athleticism in the line out are not easily matched.

  13. Boys, boys, boys – one decent game behind a dominant packed and suddenly we all forget about Farrell’s obvious limitations. Is that how we want to be playing the game going forward??

    Flood is our best attacking option at 10. And his combination with Youngs helps too. Poor guys gets picked, then not picked, then plays at 12, then injured, etc etc. Give him a decent string of games and he’ll prove that he’s the guy to lead us in to the 2015 world cup. Suuuuurely i can’t be the ONLY one to think this?

    Flood strikes me as the perfect balance between Farrel and Burns.

    1. i agree, i think flood is a good 10. however, the england setup values “credit in the bank” of which farrell will have quite a bit due to the NZ game. on top of that, his recent performances in the Hcup have been pretty decent, especially against Racing.

      on your comment of flood being a mix of burns and farrell. i dont this england want someone like that. Farrell is a calming influence, who kicks his goals, makes his tackles and plays steady. Burns is the guy who pops the chip and chase over, throws long passes and threaten the gain line with his pace. my personal view is that you wont players who are contrasting, because if one isnt working, then the other has to give it a shot. flood being “a bit of both” means that he is neither all the bad, or all the good.

      the problem with farrell during the autumn internationals is that he is the type of guy you want to either start steady and grind a team down, or to come on and see a game out. at no point was he given that opportunity during the AI’s, because we did not get far enough ahead for him to see a game out. as i have previously said, burns the the type of player to change a test match, and that is the kind of man you want on the bench. a starter should be a rock, and the closest thing we have to wilko is farrell. unfortunately, in my opinion, although i think flood is a decent player, i think he is too much of a “jack of all trades”. farrell and burns compliment each other perfectly in terms of two test flyhalves. (much like how northampton have Myler who is a solid, if not unexciting player, as opposed to the erratic, but potentially devastating ryan lamb)

      1. Not sure I completely agree with your analysis Simo. People are too quick to put players into false dichotomies.

        I actually think Burns is a better game manager than Farrell who is made to look good by Sarries excellent kick chase/organisation.

        As for Farrel ‘credit in the bank’ I don’t really go along with that either. After re-watching the ABs game paying particular attention to his performance I think he played rather poorly. He had an absolute armchair ride. He always stood too deep negating any momentum, kicked good ball directly into the hands of Jane and Dagg, missed touch on at least two penalties and gave away the penalty that lead to the AB’s first try. His goal kicking was good but not flawless. I’ve written about this before on here.

        I think dismissing Flood because he isn’t one of the extremes is ludicrous. Why wouldn’t you want a fly half with a rounded game?

        1. the “credit in the bank” comment was more one that comes from the england setup, as this is a statement i have heard a few times, especially about farrell. I agree, he did have an armchair ride, and his kicking from hand is made to look good by the sarries kick chasers, but noticing that the two sarries wingers where the only two wings in the initial EPS, i assumed that there was a big hint at farrell being at 10.

          I did not say to discard flood due to his rounded game, i did however say that if you want to strike the ultimate balance, then you should go for someone like farrell and burns.

          in my opinion, if you want flood to play at 10, then you should not have another 10 on the bench, much like england did with wilko, having catt who could cover 10, but mainly came on in the centres. therefore i feel that in a matchday 23, to stike the right balance it should be burns and farrell, or flood and maybe 12Ts. and based on the fact 12Ts is yet to be capped, i dont think he is ready to cover 10 in a test…

          in regard to you saying Burns has better game management, i think you may be right here, as it is an area that he has much improved. however based on the fact that he calls it “the boring part of being a flyhalf” i tend to view him as a guy who likes to play with ball in hand.

          in reality i would be perfectly happy to see any of the 3 men wear the 10 shirt. I personally feel that each player has great strengths, and each has some weaknesses stopping them being world class at the moment. I would however wholeheartedly agree that flood is the most complete player of the 3. however i feel that the other two working in tandem could offer more than flood can on his own.

      2. Absolutely agree with you here Simo. Farrell has the aggression and ability to knuckle down and do the dirty stuff that maybe 10’s shouldn’t have to do. He doesn’t do anything fancy, but he . Mr Dependable in the back line. His kicking stats have been fantastic in the HC recently, and his attacking skills have definitely improved.
        Burns for me is definitely the guy I would like to see on the bench to come on when the opposition are tiring and speed the game up.
        For me Flood has almost had his day. Too incsistent in an England shirt in the last couple of seasons (and injury prone), and with the emergence of players like Burns and Ford, I think Flood will not even be in the squad for 2015.

        1. agree with your comment about farrell doing the dirty work. in fact (cant believe i forgot this) i remember that farrell won at least a couple turnover during the Racing game, because he decided to counter ruck. show me another 10 in world rugby who decides to counter ruck and then successfully gets the turnover…

          i do think he is the least creative of the 3, and maybe in years to come we will see him being used more as a ball playing 12 who goal kicks, allowing burns to play at 10 and do the kicking from hand. although i do think that 12Ts is the long term option for 12, and Barritt is not exactly mr inconsistent!

    2. Have to say I agree with you Matt. For me the only thing Farrell does better than Flood is defend, and is that really what a fly-half should be picked on? Flood to start with Burns on the bench would be my choice.

  14. regarding the comments on haskell as an 8. not sure if we watched the same video, as he used he right foot to tap the ball and keep it under control. he then picks up, 5 meteres out, and uses his explosiveness (which all other english 8’s lack at the moment) to get outside of the blindside and number 8 from wales. having spent most of my youth playing number 8, i can tell you for a fact that these are essential parts of being an 8, and he executes them very effectively.

    regarding the kick try, i will grant you that he gets a lucky bounce (i knew someone would bring that up ;) !) but the main point of that clip was to illustrate his nous to track back and sense a scoring opportunity, as well as looking past the men infront of him (again a skill lacked by most english forwards) and spotting the space behind them. had haskell not gained a lucky bounce, the ball would have pooped into the defenders arms, and haskell would have carried him over the line for a 5m scrum.

    I can tell you, again having spent time playing at 6, that the skills of a 6 and an 8 are usually very similar, excluding the controlling from the base of the scrum.

    also regarding your comment of haskell playing 8-9 moves off the scrum. i have found that these are becoming more and more of a rarity now-a-days anyway.

    the fact is, haskell would have been a number 8 had he not begun his career at wasps, playing with arguably the greatest english 8 to have played the game. then he would have had plenty of chances to develop, instead of occasionally filling in at 8 now and again.

    1. We did watch the same video (2 minutes in first link right?). I exaggerated when I said he goes over from 3 meters. I’m arguing that it was the way the scrum wheels that gives him the advantage and that any 8 should have scored that try. The English tight head gets the shove on rotating the scrum tacking the Welsh flanker and 8 on that side out of the defense. Look at the way the flanker has to break his bind to stay anywhere near where the ball goes. He doesn’t have to power past them because the scrum has wheeled so much. Also Haskell never actually touches the ball with his feet its controlled under the 2nd row’s foot he picks it straight up from there. Admittedly he does exactly the right thing in this scenario so it is good 8 play I’m being a bit pedantic. However generally i stand by the claim that Haskell always fluffs thing up at the back of the scrum.

      I completely disagree with you that the link play between 8 and 9 is becoming less valued in the game.

      PS I can’t believe its half twelve and i’m analyzing Haskell’s ability to control a ball at the base.

      1. I agree with your comment that any 8 SHOULD be able to score that try. the fact of that matter is though, that most english 8s lack the explosiveness to ACTUALLY score the try.

        i will conceed that the ball spends most of the time in the 2nd row, however it does come out before he picks it, and he puts his right foot there to keep it in (whether he touches it is debatable, but the fact that he puts his foot there shows he understands what to do.)

        also i think you misunderstood my comment on the 8-9 interplay. i said it is becoming more of a rarity, not less valued. in my eyes, especially if you have a fast 9 like england do, 8-9 moves are an extremely effective and dangerous move. but unfortunately most no8s these days are such “bosh merchants” that if they are going to pick and go it is because they want to run it and have a go themselves.

        i agree that the tight 5 do most of the work here, but as i say, the main think haskell has here is explosive speed off the mark. this is something that i feel is lacked but big “bear-like” no8s like Easter, Morgan and Waldrom, even Billy V. isnt quite as explosive as Haskell.

  15. Personally I think that Haskell has benefited from his tour around the world, and probably the new England management. Haven’t really heard of Brand Haskell for some time – which is a very good thing.

    Still think he is a good bench player as he brings a dynamic cover for the whole of the back row. Still not convinced about his rugby intelligence, which is why I wouldn’t want him starting.

    1. i agree that his little tour has done him the world of good. he has also had the chance to spend time with very good players. while at stade he played with Parisse, and the ABs came to visit, he spent the afternoon picking the brain of a certain number 7.

      i think that the management are having a good effect on him, and he has also learnt a huge deal from that world cup. he is still a joker, but i think he knows where the line is, and understands that it should not be crossed.

      i do agree that he is a good impact sub, probably better than he is a starter. but i feel he is a good 8, and thats why i think we should bring him on at 8 more, because taking robshaw or wood off is more of a loss than replacing morgan with haskell.

      thinking about all the things that have been said on this post, england have a pretty decent situation right now in terms of their backrow, which i think is fantastic. just hope we can begin to find depth like this in other positions.

      1. I am actually a fan of Haskell, but when he was brought on for morgan against NZ he came on at 6 and Tom Wood played 8 on the scrums

        1. i noticed that too, and its why i feel that england view haskell as only a 6 (maybe a 7).

          another thing that this made me think of at the time, is that maybe the england management see Robshaw, Wood and Croft as a potential backrow, in which Wood is the man to play 8… i can see the positives of a backrow of those three, however i think it lacks a really destructive ball carrier like Haskell, Morgan or Vunipola.

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