Proposed England XV to take on Scotland

Courtney Lawes

Whilst I’m cautious of underestimating the Scots this weekend, England’s fourth Six Nations game represents an opportunity for Martin Johnson to adjust his side in search of improvement.

It would of course be a disaster if it backfired and Scotland ended the Grand Slam dream, but they haven’t won at Twickenham since 1983, and they have already lost to France, Wales and Ireland during this campaign, so England start as strong favourites.

Time is running out before Johnno needs to pick his squad for the Rugby World Cup, so is this not an ideal opportunity to make the odd change?

The midfield represents England’s biggest problem, where Shontayne Hape and Mike Tindall aren’t quick enough or skillful enough to threaten a defensive line, and they are limiting opportunities for Ben Foden and Chris Ashton to play a bigger part in the game.

If it were up to me, I would drop them both, and probably wouldn’t have started with them in the first place, but let’s try to keep this slightly realistic. Manu Tuilagi and Brad Barritt are knocking on the door, along with Brad Barritt, but I can’t see them being involved, whereas Matt Banahan seems to have done enough for Bath in the last few outings to warrant another chance in the midfield – but can he replace Hape at 12? You’d be left with Tindall and Banahan and without an inside centre. So would you drop Tindall?

That may depend on the back row selection, where captain Lewis Moody should be back in contention along with Tom Croft. Would Johnno learn anything new by reinstating two proven flankers to the side, or should he stick with Tom Wood? It might even be a chance to try moving James Haskell to Number 8 to give Nick Easter a rest, given that the backup 8s are slightly thin on the ground.

In the second row, Courtney Lawes should return ahead of Louis Deacon. We already know that he can do the job after his efforts in the autumn, but he’s short of game time and would benefit from more international exposure in what is left of the Six Nations.

I’d also reinstate Alex Corbisiero for the same reason, ahead of Andrew Sheridan at loosehead prop. Sheridan is feared by some front rows, whilst others have made him look pretty ordinary, so it seems sensible to continue the development of his potential replacement – and it doesn’t seem too much of a gamble.

And finally, I’d make a change at half-back. Danny Care and Jonny Wilkinson have both looked sharp when they’ve come on, and deserve a chance to run the game from the outset. However, I’d like to see Ben Youngs partnered with Wilkinson, on the basis that replacements have been made in pairs so far, but that might not always be possible in the case of injury, and with Toby Flood becoming so critical to England’s performance, he could well be targeted by the opposition and taken out of the game. Moreover, with Flood recovering from a knock, he would probably benefit from a rest ahead of the trip to Dublin, and starting with Wilko is hardly a risky option.

So with a hint of hope, and a slight touch of realism, here is my proposed England team to take on Scotland this weekend:

1. Alex Corbisiero
2. Dylan Hartley
3. Dan Cole
4. Courtney Lawes
5. Tom Palmer
6. Tom Wood
7. Lewis Moody
8. James Haskell

9. Ben Youngs
10. Jonny Wilkinson
11. Mark Cueto
12. Shontayne Hape
13. Matt Banahan
14. Chris Ashton
15. Ben Foden

Photo: Patrick Khachfe/Onside Images

24 thoughts on “Proposed England XV to take on Scotland

  1. Lovely bit of speculation but Johnno won’t change the team. Lawes and Moody on the bench which would actually be harsh on Fourie who I heard was outstanding for Leeds against Irish and looked very good when he came on against France.

  2. According to the Times moody won’t be fit to play against Scotland and possibly Ireland as well. Therefore the back row will stay the same as johnno tends to rarely change his side. However I do hope Banahan starts as he has been very good for club and country over the last few months. So with Tindall on the bench Easter will captain the side.

    But lets be honest, nothing will change as this is Martin Johnston we’re talking about! It took him 2 and a half years to get rid of Borthwick, that muppet who thought our marginal win against Italy last year was a good match.

    Team will stay the same with Corbisiero in for Sheridan.

  3. Hang on a sec…you say that you’re “cautious of underestimating the Scots” and then pick a team that does just that! :)

    Scotland are by no means a poor team and thankfully I’m pretty certain Johnno won’t be so daft. Injury permitting he’ll go with the same starting XV but with Corbisiero in for the crocked Sheridan. The only potential changes are to the bench where Lawes may come in for Shaw, possibly Croft in for Fourie and it’ll be interesting to see who the back up prop will be – probably Doran-Jones.

  4. I agree with the comment above which also annoys me. Tuilagi was OUTSTANDING against Sarries, at the breakdown, in defence and with the fantastic solo try we know he can run. Am i the only one who couldnt see Tindall doing half of that in one game with out throwing a rubbish pass somewhere and being beaten around the outside atleast three times before dragging his man down?

    Corbisiero should stay one his performances so far.

  5. Finally a 1-15 selection!
    Agree with the Flanker, ringing the changes to give people the run out suggests the expectation of an easier ride than a test match.
    I would like to see the centre pairing completely changed. It’s the only part of the field where we look uncertain. I’ve not seen any Premiership, but there must be more attacking combinations. I’d also like to see Shrimpy-Spaniel given his due as well.

  6. No offence but that team would fill me with dread, far too many needless changes in my opinion, especially against a Scotland team who seem to perform better on the road than they do at home.

    One of the reasons England have been doing so well is because of their settled XV and a chance for the players to develop together. Changing the spine of the team at this point would be a disaster, especially in the run up to the Ireland game when we’ll need our first choice in top form and battle-hardened.

    Sheridan is out of the Six Nations so Corbisiero has to come in (an improvement anyway). Deacon runs the lineout superbly, but I’d put Lawes on the bench, and possibly Banahan into the starting XV to give Tinds a rest. Apart from that…

    Oh and developing a backup number 8 would be nice but we’re low on options at the moment :(

  7. Until Waldrom can run out for England in two and a half years time I’d say so ;-) Haskell can do a job in an emergency but it’s far from his best position

  8. Firstly, let me make it clear that I do realise that this is a largely pointless exercise and that Johnno probably won’t make any unenforced changes. That addresses several of the comments.

    Secondly, I don’t want to underestimate the Scots, and I think these changes reflect that – bringing in Lawes, Moody and Wilkinson doesn’t seem risky, whilst Corbisiero and Banahan aren’t exactly unknowns are they? Granted it’s one third of a winning team, but it’s still fairly safe.

    Kemlo, I agree that it would be harsh on Fourie to miss out. He has played well and is arguably a better option than Moody on the openside.

    Dan, I’d like to see Wilko play with Youngs to enable a proper comparison with Flood, which I think would be interesting.

    Ed, thought you’d like the unusual numbering on this one.

    Jimmy, have you heard of a guy called Luke Narraway? Look him up – he could be the future at No. 8.

  9. Haskell is not a no.8, end of story.
    hutch – have you seen the Canterbury Crusaders match v the Tahs?
    they have Carter, SBW and Fruen @ 10,12,13.

    im already worried for TIndall and Hape!!

  10. I reckon Johnno will go with the old mantra: “If it aint broke, don’t fix it.”

    I suspect that we’ll see a very similar side running out with changes to the bench. If England settle into the game and have a solid lead at half time I’d expect to see some changes in an effort to expand the squad and make sure everyone can slot in easily. That means a solid 30-25 minutes of international rugby (completely different from club rugby remember) from Lawes and probably Moody who would get the nod on the bench ahead of Croft due to the experience he brings.

    Just to fuel the flames on the No.8 debate, Robshaw has been drafted in this morning and he has played 8 for Quins before, as recently as last week against the Falcons. Probably no potential for a Haskell, Woods, Robshaw back row, but it could be one from left field.

  11. Whilst on the subject of rash changes and No 8 have you guys seen that ML has picked Chabal and dropped Hari!!!?? Surely if there was one player on the Italian team you worry about it’s Parisse and to give Chabal the nod is lunacy especially after his performance against us.

    I think giving Flood a rest on the bench would be a prudent move we’ll need him against Ireland and as you say Hutch it’s hardly a risk starting Jonny! Lawes should start on the bench don’t think he should be rushed back.

    It’s worth noting that every team so far, irrespective of the final score, has put at least three tries past Scotland hopefully if it’s a dry day we should be able to match that stat little bit worrying if we don’t.

  12. Chuter, Dowson, Fourie, Hodgson, Marler, Payne, Robshaw, Simpson, Skivington & Strettle all released back to their clubs.

    Croft and Lawes have been retained…

  13. Will – I agree with you. We only have two test matches left before the RWC. Even if, like Johnno, you believed that Hape and Tindall is a world class midfield pairing, there is no one in reserve in case of injuries or poor form. He simply has to give some other guys a run out in a proper test environment. I think he needs to look further than Banahan too – Allen and Tuilagi for sure should be given an opportunity to impress. We only “discovered” players like Lawes, Wood and Foden because of injuries/intense media pressure – Johnno has to be more proactive now and show us that he’s learned something.

  14. Personally, i don’t think making a few changes is “underestimating” Scotland – but identifying a test match where you can give a few “future” players a run out so they can gain more experience. No test match is ever going to be easy, but i’d rather see it happening against the likes of Scotland/Italy etc etc, rather than NZ, AUS etc etc.

    As much of a fan of Moody as i am, i really don’t think he should be brought back into the team. We have found the next generation of England back rowers – lets give them the game time and experience.

    Quite like the idea of starting Wilko and having Flood on the bench, simply to save Flood as much as possible for the Ireland game – and lets face it, playing Wilko is not exactly a risky move. I’d also drop Deacon – yes he’s had a couple of good games, but lets face it, he’s not good enough to be in the England team, especially when we have the likes of Lawes available. Other than that, the only slight change i’d make is in the midfield

    My team – (made up from whose in the EPS and not injuried)

    1. Corbisiero
    2. Hartley
    3. Cole
    4. Lawes
    5. Palmer
    6. Wood
    7. Haskell
    8. Easter
    9. Youngs
    10. Wilkinson
    11. Cueto
    12. Tindall
    13. Banahan
    14. Ashton
    15. Foden

    16. Thompson
    17. Doran-Jones
    18. Shaw
    19. Croft
    20. Care
    21. Flood
    22. Hape

  15. I think Moody and Croft need to come back into this team. We’ve got to have an eye on the world cup and experience wins world cups. Wood and co. are the future – as in, after the world cup. Right now we should be playing the team that we’d ideally play in a world cup final.

    Yes, our main problem lies in the midfield. Without a doubt. I wouldn’t want Hape and Tindall starting a world cup final. So that needs to be rectified asap. What’s the latest with Flutey?

    I’d go

    1. Corbisiero
    2. Hartley
    3. Cole
    4. Palmer
    5. Lawes
    6. Croft
    7. Moody
    8. Easter
    9. Youngs
    10. Flood
    11. Cueto
    12. Flutey
    13. Banahan
    14. Ashton
    15. Foden.

  16. I agree that our midfield is substandard.

    Not worried about pack, thats been proven against the best, perhaps except SA in the autumn, when we were underpowered in our back row (ie moody/croft…..sorry mad dog!)

    Sadly we are only going to find out the hard way in the RWC, and that will be too late.

    Hape and tindal will get exposed against the best, as they did against NZ. If we played NZ again, im pretty sure the same would happen, ie we’d be competitive up front, but get exposed in midfield.

    we wont play anyone who will test out midfield, except perhaps Ireland if BOD is on form…..

  17. That’s exactly the problem – the ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ falls a little short when nobody tries to break it.

    As you said the other day Jimmy, the ABs have Sonny Bill Williams, Ma’a Nonu, Conrad Smith, that other Crusaders bloke that I’ve forgotten and probably a few others. They will break it, assuming France, Australia or South Africa don’t get the opportunity first.

    Just have to hope for the best, and remember that there are far fewer complaints now than there have been over the past 6 or 7 years!

  18. I think we should leave the team the same for the time being.

    I understand the need to make a change in the midfield, with Hape and Tindall not quick enough with the pass, or with good enough vision to exploit the minimal space against the better teams of world rugby.

    Sunday should be a bit of a dogfight, with the Scottish forwards fighting for everything. I just hope that we continue to try and play the more expansive game, and not go back to the England of old!

    No changes to the starting line-up for me. The back row looks great, with a bruiser in Easter and Wood working really hard. Haskell has come back into some form aswell, so the prospect of a fit Croft bodes well for the RWC. Moody coming back is also a plus, but this team have already proved they have the ability to win games at this level. The Grand Slam has to be the main aim and looking back to 2007, we should stand a greater chance in the RWC this year.

    Big fan of Lawes. But lets hope it is a day when the England engine room plays well, and lets not let the likes of Grey (who looks like a great player!) dominate in the loose.

    Come in England for Sunday!

  19. personally i’m relieved in a way that Sheridan’s absent. time’s running out for him, IMHO, to make a real mark as a top-drawer international. yes, he’s very strong, he gets talked up something rotten by mr jones in the sunday times on a weekly basis, and he’s really marmalised the Aussies a couple of times… but he doesn’t consistently deliver and i’m not sure he ever will. i’m sure he’ll stay involved up to the end of the world cup, but he’ll be 32 by then and i wonder if other alternatives might thereafter be preferable…

  20. Just throwing something out there…

    What about a 10,12,13 combo of Wilkinson, Flood, Manu Tuilagi.

    Wilkinson’s passing is crisp and precise at the moment, Flood can pass behind the tackler beautifully and makes Greenwood like breaks,Tuilagi runs good lines with power to break tackles and puts in big hits in defence, enough to worry any oncoming attacker!


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