Six Nations 2013: England team to play Italy

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Mako Vunipola will make his first start for England in Sunday’s RBS 6 Nations match against Italy at Twickenham Stadium (3pm, BBC One).

The Saracens prop, who has won seven caps off the bench, replaces Joe Marler in one of five changes from the side that started against France.

Danny Care and Toby Flood take over at halfback from Ben Youngs and Owen Farrell respectively; Tom Youngs comes in for Dylan Hartley; and James Haskell is named at blindside flanker in place of Courtney Lawes.

Tom Croft of Leicester Tigers is back in the England matchday squad for the first time in 12 months following his recovery from a neck injury, while Freddie Burns joins him among the replacements as Farrell needs more time to return to full fitness.

England Head Coach Stuart Lancaster said: “We were very happy with the way we finished the France game. The impact the replacements made shows that we have competition for places across the board and we have had to make some tight calls.

“Italy will be highly motivated for this game and we will have to perform for the full 80 minutes. I am sure those starting will seize their chance and the bench will also have a significant part to play as the game goes on.

“The support at Twickenham for the Scotland and France games was superb and I am sure the atmosphere will be fantastic again for our final home match of the Championship.”

England (v Italy, Sunday, 3pm, Twickenham Stadium)
15. Alex Goode (Saracens, 9 caps)
14. Chris Ashton (Saracens, 32 caps)
13. Manusamoa Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers, 19 caps)
12. Brad Barritt (Saracens, 14 caps)
11. Mike Brown (Harlequins, 14 caps)
10. Toby Flood (Leicester Tigers, 55 caps)
9. Danny Care (Harlequins, 39 caps)
1. Mako Vunipola (Saracens, 7 caps)
2. Tom Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 7 caps)
3. Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers, 38 caps)
4. Joe Launchbury (London Wasps, 7 caps)
5. Geoff Parling (Leicester Tigers, 15 caps)
6. James Haskell (London Wasps, 48 caps)
7. Chris Robshaw (Harlequins, capt, 15 caps)
8. Tom Wood (Northampton Saints, 16 caps)

Replacements
16. Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints, 45 caps)
17. David Wilson (Bath Rugby, 24 caps)
18. Joe Marler (Harlequins, 8 caps)
19. Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, 18 caps)
20. Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers, 36 caps)
21. Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 31 caps)
22. Freddie Burns (Gloucester Rugby, 1 cap)
23. Billy Twelvetrees (Gloucester Rugby, 2 caps)

What do you make of the changes?

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29 comments on “Six Nations 2013: England team to play Italy

  1. The two things that worry me here is firstly playing Wood at 8 against probably the best 8 in NH rugby when we all know Wood is really a 6, and secondly Billy Vunipola (I would’ve started him anyway) doesn’t get a spot on the bench because Croft is fit (just). Croft plays two games for Tigers and gets straight back in the team, but a guy who has played nearly every game for his club this season (and played brilliantly), and is a true 8, can’t get on the bench?

    Rant over, COME ON ENGLAND!!

    • 8 vs 8 isn’t really a head to head match up though, so Parisse doesn’t come into the equation when making our selection there, and Wood has actually done very well in the last two games. Croft has been in good form since his comeback and has credit in the bank from last season. It would be nice to see BV get a run out, but I don’t see that selecting Croft instead is some sort of scandal.

      • good point on the 8vs8 comment. also the only aspect that is different to wood while playing 8 is the scrummaging, he has to push with both shoulders, and control the ball at his feet. in this instance it is irrelevant who the other 8 is. the other backrowers have taken on other jobs (robbo fields the kicks) to allow wood to play his natural game as much as possible. so in reality, it only really matters that wood has an 8 on his back when it comes to scrum time. and as i said below in another comment, if the other 7 forwards can assert their dominance, it makes wood’s job a whole lot easier at the base.

  2. Should have started Woods at no 6 and moved him to 8 in the unlikely (?) event of Croft coming on.

  3. nice to see crofty back, purely because of how dark a place he had been in. shame for billy v to miss out though (wonder if the reintroduction of parisse had anything to do with it.

    otherwise its a pretty decent team again. wood isnt a natural 8, but he is doing alright there (lacks a bit of experience at the base of the scrum, but otherwise his play is very good) haskell should be pretty useful here. his time playing in in paris means he knows parisse and a few of the others well, he should be able to have a decent impact.

    bit of a shame they havent taken the chance to look at 12Ts and Tuliagi in the centres. hopefully they will have a look at 50mins. also i understand why they have kept ashton in, but i just feel he is being “rewarded” for not performing. clearly this (and the fact that we are playing a fullback on the wing) shows that the england management feel all other wingers are lacking something so much that a non-tackling (and non-scoring) ashton is still a better pick… anyway, roll on sunday, and lets hope for a good win for england, we need as many points in the for column as we can get going to cardiff.

  4. Hmmm.
    Looking at the team, I’m a little disappointed, but it is sticking largely with what we know can be effective.

    Rationalising, I think this is a selection with the 6nations in mind, rather than anything else – changing the half backs makes sense as both have been playing well, especially Care, and Vunipola gets his chance to show his form as Marler has been adequate but not anything special.

    With all the Lions absent in the Summer Lancaster will have the chance to look over all the fresh faces with a view towards introducing those who come through in the AIs.

    I would imagine that Lancaster thinks that with the (likely) ammount of possession coming England’s way it makes sense to keep the rest of the backs intact, to try to get the back 3 into some kind of form.

    Given the bench options are such a large part of the game, I’d like to see Twelvetrees, Croft and Lawes brought on at half time for Barritt, Haskell and Parling, to test out our young locks while giving extra options at the line-out, testing out combos rather than subbing like for like.

    I’d like to see the halfbacks given the whole game, though I can’t see Burns getting on unless the game is totally in hand or Flood is injured.

    • croft would be able to call the lineouts, allowing for lawes and launchbury to partner up. although croft’s lack of time in the camp may mean he isnt totally up to speed with the calls, but i would bet he is professional enough to have sat down with parling and got them all pretty sorted.

      i would like to see 12Ts and manu given a go. plus with flood its a midfield that has a lot of understanding from their time at tigers (they could even add ben youngs into the mix and get a former tigers 9, 10, 12, 13 going…)

  5. When will Ashton be dropped? He’s not performing and doesn’t deserve a spot. Following the same logic with Twelvetrees he deserves a starting place over Barritt who doesn’t offer nearly as much in attack. Tuilagi and Twelvetrees would be fearsome in attack, and would certainly not be weak in defence as is suggested would be the case should Barritt be removed.

    • you are preaching to the converted when i am involved. especially regarding the 12Ts and Tuliagi combo.

      however the issue of weakening the defence isnt so much to do with ability of the players to tackle, it is more about the defensive organisation, as this job falls to barritt.

    • Barritt is the organiser (and a bloody good tackler), and also SL has said that Barritt is part of the “leadership group”. Until Twelvetrees has spent some more time in the EPS I don’t think we want to be taking out the defensive organiser in the middle of a tournament. Twelvetrees is certainly a good tackler as is Tuilagi but without someone to organise and instruct the defensive line, it could easily be exploited.

  6. Pleased to see Mako get his first start, and going against Castro is a great benchmark to see where he’s at in his development.

    Don’t like the back row balance. 3 great athletes for work rate if we want to spend 80 mins in a war of attrition, however I would have much rather we picked a ball playing/carrying number 8 (Waldrom or Vunipola) and kept Wood in his best position. Billy Vunipola has been excellent all season, we already have more 6s than we know what to do with so having another one in the 23 at the expense of a fantastic prospect at 8 is a questionable call.

    Don’t like the back 3 balance, no running full back for Ashton to counter with and Brown is a better full back than he is a wing. Out of the EPS I think Strettle, Brown and Ashton would have been better if Foden isn’t match fit. Not electrifying, but better. 1 try in the last 6 games collectively for the back 3 is an appalling return. Back 3 counter attack, strike running and finishing is the main area I’m hoping to see us improve on this weekend.

    Was hoping to see 36 paired with Manu, but given we are minus Farrell’s aggressive defence I can see the logic of not taking Barritt out as well.

    • knowing the reputation of the italian forwards, i think we are looking at a probable war of attrition, in which case the backrow may be the right choice (as is was in ireland). but i do get your point about having yet another 6 in the 23, it seems silly that we are playing 2 6′s in the backrow, and have a 3rd on the bench. even so, i think that croft could have a good impact off the bench, and the starting backrow will definitely not be taking a backwards step!

      regarding your comments on the back 3, i completely agree. goode has not provided a dangerous counter attacking option. he isnt the fastest player, so he uses tricky footwork to try and beat people. its all well and good when he does beat someone, but it makes him a lot harder to run off as a supporter. ashton is struggling to run hard lines off of him, because he doesnt know where he is going half the time. a player like brown or foden at 15 runs hard, fast and straight, allowing ashton to run on the shoulder. if we are to persist with goode at 15 then we cant play ashton at 14. something has got to give. i think goode is a very good player, his positioning is 2nd to none, and in the wet he is the type of fullback you want to have playing. but foden and brown have to be the 1st 2 fullbacks england go for.
      regarding ashton, i think we may see more of him in attack now, as he has always been keen to take inside balls of flood (who loves to give them). this is something that has been lacking with farrell.

      • I’m sure Italy will want to make it an attritional war, I’m hoping however that we put enough pace on the game that prevents it from becoming one though. A dynamic ball carrying 8 would have been a better selection to achieve this in my opinion.

  7. Wood is doing very well at 8 for someone who is not an 8 at all. That is just because of the fact that wood is a class act. But it is a bit dissapointing as well because Lancaster takes him out of his best roll. So we have a world class player not on his favourite position and a good 8 not selected. Double trouble imo. For the rest it will be an easy win. England by 15.

  8. Very disappointed with Croft on the bench and Wood at 8 when we have an up and coming natural 8 in Vunipola who could have done with the experience

    • personally i dont think we should cap vunipola in the 6Ns. that way if the lions are to stick with their tradition of taking an uncapped player on tour, we will have both him and wade to choose from!

      on a more serious note, i agree that i think this would have been a good chance to look at billy. i cant help but think that parisse’s successful appeal may have cost billy his first cap.

  9. So from having an 8 warming the bench while a 6 plays his position to having no 8 at all. Masterful, I must say. This was a good opportunity to give any of the available 8s a run in advance of the Wales game. Not having an 8 has put England under a lot of pressure at scrum time and Lancaster is going to learn the hard way that you can’t just field your 15 best players, you have to select people for their positions. Play that backrow against any of the top 3 and you’re going to get found out pretty hard.

    • wookie, i know we have had this debate countless times before, but wood has been going ok. and the control at the base for an 8 is partly down to the other 7 forwards. if you are going forward, its a lot easier to control the ball. if going back it is near impossible, even the best 8′s in the world struggle to control it then. and lancaster player in the backrow for leeds over 100 times, so i would hazard a guess that he knows whats happeneing at the back of the scrum.

    • xxxwookie,

      “Play that backrow against any of the top 3 and you’re going to get found out pretty hard”

      It is the same backrow that played the last 25 mins against the AB’s

  10. I am quite relieved by the team he has picked.

    It is a strange thing that we outsiders (fans, press, pundits etc) are always looking for change – sometimes for the sake of change, sometimes because we think that it may make for a better team.

    We ponder the question of FB, the wings, the centres, the SH’s, the backrow etc, thinking that they can all be improved.

    And yet; the team is winning, and winning well. We pick on the smallest errors in a team who are generally not making many, and call for change. many of us call for Billy V instead of Croft, BUT, very few of us know how they look – set against each other – in training. The same could be said of Strettle vs Ashton – or Brown. And others.

    We do of course see them on a Saturday, and it is teh games that are the focus, but in reality, there is very little to choose between them when they do play, as we are not seeing players “all at sea” out on the pitch.

    I am not critcising anyone for their views, as I too have my views, I am just pondering the nature of us all (me included) calling for change, when the team may be better served by avoiding change where possible.

    On the flipside of course, this would be a very boring blog, if we didn’t all come up with our objections and subjections.

  11. Yes it’s good to see Croft return,but I think to rush him back in after so little game time seems a little ill considered.Along with Lancaster’s Ashton obsession I think it sends out confused messages regarding his picking on performance culture.It’s starting to feel like one rule for one…Also,could be the sort of game where Ashton runs a few in,is hailed as world class again and then is horribly exposed by the welsh.I probably sound a bit negative but I can see it happening.

  12. I personally feel we have missed Morgan these past few matches, so would love to have seen BV given a start (Hask plays better from the bench IMO). Not sure what is to be gained from playing Croft. Clearly the Mgt wont cap BV next week and I’m not sure a back row of Croft, Robshaw and Wood is right for the Wales game and it would be a risk to play Morgan, without any game time. Hopeing to be proved wrong…

  13. Agree with Benjit.We have missed Morgan and the back row needs a specialist 8,Croft and Woods are not as effective as ball carriers and despite what has been said by some on this blog I think it significantly effects the scrum.

  14. Little_badger March 8, 2013 at 3:35 pm -

    The interesting dilemma now is what if Ben Morgan is fit next week? He has been out a long time so surely it would be too soon to bring him back into the team short of match fitness. However watching the video about selection on the RFU website Lancaster did mention him as a consideration for next week.

    • If Vunipola can’t even get on the bench fully fit, I don’t think Morgan should be selected with no game time since the Scotland game. It would be harsh on other members of the team.

  15. I agree with the comments about playing an 8 at 8 but now we don’t have one i would rather see Haskell at 8 than Woods. Think Woods is better at 6 and Haskell pace and power off the base of scrum could be a useful weapon.

  16. SL hasn’t made too many changes which in terms of structure is a good thing. He may be looking to the summer to take a good look at the “next” generation, which is probably the correct call. Many of the existing team still need to add experience – only 5 of the 15 starters with over 20 caps. So with some changes forced on him I would say that this is about right.

    Would however add to the calls for an 8 at 8, meaning Wood at 6 and Haskell not starting! Not sure what Foden isn’t doing, but not sure that he has been as good as he was in the AP since injury so maybe just lack of form.

    Also hope we get an extended look at 12Ts and Tuilagi on Sunday.