Six Nations 2013: England team to play Wales


Owen Farrell returns to the England starting line-up for Saturday’s RBS 6 Nations title decider against Wales at the Millennium Stadium (5pm).

The Saracen takes over at fly-half and will be joined at scrum-half by Ben Youngs, while Leicester Tigers team-mate Toby Flood and Danny Care (Harlequins) will be among the replacements.

There are two changes to the pack that started against Italy with Joe Marler (Harlequins) replacing Mako Vunipola (Saracens) at loose-head prop and Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers) starting at blindside flanker in place of James Haskell (London Wasps).

England Head Coach Stuart Lancaster said: “We have come a long way through the QBE series and the Six Nations and we want to finish well on what will be a fantastic occasion in Cardiff. It will be a great experience for our English team. Every single player, whether they are in the 23 or not this Saturday, has contributed to getting us in this position and they should be proud of that.

“The support of the country has been great throughout the tournament and I am sure they will be right behind us come 5 o’clock.”

England (v Wales, Saturday, 5pm, Millennium Stadium, live on BBC One)
15. Alex Goode (Saracens, 10 caps)
14. Chris Ashton (Saracens, 33 caps)
13. Manusamoa Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers, 20 caps)
12. Brad Barritt (Saracens, 15 caps)
11. Mike Brown (Harlequins, 15 caps)
10. Owen Farrell (Saracens, 15 caps)
9. Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 32 caps)
1. Joe Marler (Harlequins, 9 caps)
2. Tom Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 8 caps)
3. Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers, 39 caps)
4. Joe Launchbury (London Wasps, 8 caps)
5. Geoff Parling (Leicester Tigers, 16 caps)
6. Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers, 37 caps)
7. Chris Robshaw (Harlequins, capt, 16 caps)
8. Tom Wood (Northampton Saints, 17 caps)

16. Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints, 46 caps)
17. David Wilson (Bath Rugby, 25 caps)
18. Mako Vunipola (Saracens, 8 caps)
19. Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, 19 caps)
20. James Haskell (London Wasps, 49 caps)
21. Danny Care (Harlequins, 40 caps)
22. Toby Flood (Leicester Tigers, 56 caps)
23. Billy Twelvetrees (Gloucester Rugby, 3 caps)

What do you make of the changes?

96 thoughts on “Six Nations 2013: England team to play Wales

  1. Goode still there, huh? Hope Lancaster’s picks prove me wrong once again! Would have been great to see Brown or Foden at Full Back. Would also have been nice to see a flat out ball carrier in the back row, but good to see Croft. Not too sure about the selection, hopefully Lancaster proves me wrong!

  2. I would have quite liked Mako to keep his starting place, but Farrell and Youngs back in is a great positive – Care seems better off the bench, and we need young Faz’s composure.

    Launchbury is out though, contrary to the article. Lawes starts in the second row.

  3. I thought Mako deserved to keep the shirt ahead of Marler.

    I’d take Croft over Haskell any day but it doesn’t really balance out the back row as we still have no proper 8.

    I probably would have gone Twelvetrees over Barrit.

    I’m nervous

    1. I wonder if they’re anticipating a Wales back-row of Warburton, Tipuric, and Faletau and have thus gone for mobility? Mind you Haskell’s no slouch when it comes to getting around the park.

      Will be interesting if they pick Coombs as that would give them several fairly massive ball carriers.

  4. I assume Marler has been brought back in for scrumaging reasons – but my worry is that it takes another carrier out of the pack. The pack really lacks a ball carries without Morgan around, so T Youngs will have to shoulder a lot of this on Saturday.

    Also very disappointed to see Goode keep his place. I’d have Brown at full back and have bought Strettle or Foden on the wing.

    Otherwise, can’t really argue with selection.

    1. Yeah – I’m not sure about Goode either, and to be honest I don’t think I’ve ever been convinced with him. Foden hasn’t really been showing the form we’d like from Saints, so I guess it would have been better to bring in players with test experience like Strettle or Sharples?

      1. Yeh I just want to see my full back run the ball back to the opposition, maybe beat a couple players or something! Goode has never done that.

        I would have Strettle simply because he has played on the left wing, and I felt Sharples was caught out a bit defensively when he last played.

  5. Can’t understand Mako being dropped back to the bench, or the continued exclusion of a genuine 8? Nice to have Croft back, as he does offer something different, and will take the ball up with more pace than Haskell or Wood, but I would rather see an 8 in the team.

      1. I reckon that croft has been chosen as the ball carrier of the backrow. As much as many of us have called for him to be working a bit tighter, as all 6’s tend to do, we have a guy at 8 who is doing that job. Therefore croft will be expected to be running out wide, using his pace. The main reason number 8’s have such good carrying stats is because they often run at backs, and gain plenty of meters when they go over/through them. Croft should be used to do similar, although he won’t be going over/through them, but more likely round them. It could be a pretty decent move, as long as croft is used in this way.

  6. Not a great looking backrow. I don’t get Croft – why do you want a back playing in the back row? I hope Wales probable of Tips/Fale/Warbs will be able to get the upper hand in the breakdown.

    Very surprised to see Marler there – be interesting to see how he fares against Adam Jones.

    Wrong forum I know but I’m already going to say that I am edging nervously towards a Wales win by 2 or 3. Not enough though. Darn it. Honestly though it’s too tight to really call. If you told me you had England by 5 I’d have to agree it’s within the probable spread.

    The bench looks a little light – no real gameplan changers there, just like for like replacements?

        1. I have a plan!

          Play 12ts and barritt in the centres, shifting Manu to 8. Then there is good balance in the centres, and an out and out ball carrier at 8!

          I should point out that is is a joke, unfortunately it is not possible to convey tone of voice in writing…

      1. I think Phillips will be Croft’s biggest problem – Croft’s pace and size won’t bother the Welsh out halves. A lack of intense match practice also won’t do him any favours?

        1. He’s had a good 5 or 6 games for Tigers now. Perhaps not battle-hardened but I don’t think he’d be there if he wasn’t ready.

  7. Poor selection in my opinion, but I think it’s because we were painted into a corner with the Italy selection. With the need to change the half backs and only a 6 day turnaround with just a couple of training sessions it was going to be minimum change.

    Even so I would have preferred to have Vunipola going toe-to-toe with Jones, having a small loose head and a small hooker against Jones and Hibbard gives the Welsh a big advantage in the tight. Thought Vunipola looked to be our best ball carrying forward, so we have again reduced our ability to get over the gain line.

    So Croft gives us more line out options (potentially an issue for the Welse) but given we’ve already got Wood and Robshaw I’m not convinced this is solving a problem we have and further reduces our ability to make the hard yards. If we are up against Warburton and Tips decreasing our effectiveness at the breakdown also seems odd.

    So a selection that solves some problems we don’t have, reduces our ability to get over the gain line, reduces our strength in the scrum, reduces our ability at the breakdown and doesn’t solve the glaring issues from last week doesn’t fill me full of confidence.

    That said it’s a grand slam and championship showdown ….. so enough pessimism …. come on England!

    1. I don’t agree with the changes creating problems in the scrum – Marler is a far superior scrummager thatn Vunipola, and in my opinion that is why he is in.

      I do think that we lack ball carries though.

      1. I think Marler may be the more technically proficient, but Vunipola has the size, raw strength and power. If Vunipola is second best in the hit we wrestle back poor ball, if Marler is second best in the hit he folds and we concede a penalty. Millenium stadium is going to be going completely nuts at the sight of an England scrum retreating or folding, and I can’t see us getting close to parity.

        A bit off topic (OK completely off topic), but I think Marler should convert to hooker, since he’s been adding bulk to anchor a scrum he’s lost effectiveness in the loose, but he looks to have the physical attributes of a rampaging hooker if he can learn to throw the darts.

        1. Marler has been praised as being one of the only loose heads in the prem (along with ayerza) at being able to handle a tight head who binds on the arm. He uses his shoulder strength and flexibility to pull the arm back up and get under his man. It’s very impressive, but I do agree that vunipola adds more bulk and power. I am surprised that mako was dropped, I thought he was one of the best against Italy. Maybe they think he adds more off the bench than starting

          1. I just hope we have a ref who is actually clued up on the scrum, because these two teams will both look to use it as not only a weapon, but also a way to prove a point to gatland.

            I watched and Exeter game recently, and Craig Mitchell came on at tighthead. For EVERY single scrum he bound on the arm of his opposite man, and began to pull down. He even did it when the ref was stood on his side. The ref did nothing.

            I think this is a big problem of the game, because any loose head who is trying to play positively will fight to keep the scrum up, but in reality they are being punished for doing so, because the ref is not awarding penalties for the infringement, and they are not getting the potential dominance that they could at the scrum, because the tighthead is cheating…

            And while writing this comment I have just checked who the ref is… So both sides can await a day of awful scrums and penalties award against the side in the right!

            I think any game that Steve Walsh refs, the two teams should agree in advance not to bother contesting the scrums, because its not like Walsh knows what’s happening anyway!

            My prediction for the game, be ready for a penalty fest boys!

          2. Yep, it’s the Steve Walsh show. Get ready for 80 mins of him prancing around with stupid facial hair, running into players and making pointless and unnecessary decisions.

            I’m not sure how he’s allowed to be an international referee with his past.

      2. Marler the more proficient scrummager? Tell me that’s a joke? Every time he plays our scrum is marched backwards. His bind is poor, he tries to bore in and often sacrifices forward drive because of that. He is poorer in the tight and the loose than Mako.

  8. I think Wales will have to go Warb/Fal/Tips – We need coombs as lineout cover, and shingler is probable as back row cover in my opinion.

    I think Wales will have to move the English boys around, i dont think Tips has the physical capabilities to impose himself. Excellent as a sub when the opposition has been softened up a bit. Maybe that is what Lancaster is anticipating?

  9. Marler got taught a harsh lesson by Mas 3 weeks ago, Vunipola on the other hand made Castrogiovanni stand up, twice. Definitely think Vunipola should have started, especially against Jones.
    Surprised that Goode has retained his shirt, the three biggest no show players last week were Care, Flood and Goode, only changing 2 from 3 seems a bit daft, especially when (as far as I know) Foden is fit.
    Croft seems a daft inclusion as well, yeah he’ll be good in the lineout but at what cost to the breakdown? It’s going to put a lot of pressure on Wood/Robshaw/Cole to work EVEN harder in that regard, especially when they’re up against an in form Warburton there.
    Another Croft doubt is the balance to the back row, if Croft were to be included, I think it should have been Wood he replaced, not Haskell. Haskell is a better ball carrier than Wood and given his physicality, I think he would make more metres and bring more balance to the back row at #8 as opposed to Wood.
    Personally I’d have B.Vunipola over both. I came across a little statistic that highlighted the necessity of a real #8. In the two games against NZ and Scotland, Morgan alone made 96 metres. That’s 48m per game.
    In the three games since his injury (Ireland, France, Italy); the entire back row made 120-something metres, that’s about 14m per game, per person. Less than a third of what Morgan made.

    1. I’ve heard (but not seen evidence) that Croft has been doing a lot more work in training on his breakdown cover.

      Agree with you on the Haskell/Wood front though. I think what has kept Haskell on the bench is his temperament, as he does have a habit of losing it in big games especially. And because I’m in no doubt this could be a very frustrating, error strewn & tense affair for both teams, I think Haskell is better off the bench if needed.

      1. On that point is anyone else a bit concerned about Farrell’s massive meltdown in the French game? If the Welsh can get under his skin then it could be a big issue!

        1. I think that’s a good point Ben, I was thinking this morning that composure will be a big part of this game. If I look at the two teams I see the following as the sort who can go off the rails if you wind them up in the right way or the match isn’t happening as they want it to.

          Wales – Phillips … possibly Biggar but it’s been a while since I’ve seen him lose it.
          Eng – Farrel, Brown, Ashton and Hartley if he comes on.

          I’m not saying this makes a Wales win a sure thing but I think on this measure of the teams Wales have an edge. Of course all the Eng players could keep themselves composed and this could come to nothing, but all of those I’ve mentioned have a track record of toys out of pram moments when under the cosh.

          1. I would agree on Farrell, Ashton and Hartley. But i would say Brown’s over excitement is usually quite well channeled at being a positive for his team.

          2. Nick, I’ve seen Brown often start berating his own players and seem to start sulking. My own experience of this was Quins v Blues; Brown did a rubbish clearance kick right in front of me so started screaming at his players that X wasn’t blocking Y, etc. when it was completely his own fault (as an aside, I did shout “it wasn’t them, it was you you bellend” at him from the stands, just as the crowd went quiet so he heard every word, gave me a stinking look…). For the rest of the match he seemed to put in a petulant “I’m the best player on this team so they’d better start giving me the ball” type performance. Shocking. Quins lost.

          3. Marler is hardly a slow burner either.

            Think Farrell will be OK, he seems singularly focussed on improving and I’m sure he will understand his antics didn’t help his game against France.

            There’s a lot of reasons for Wales to be over-amped as well, the crowd, the occasion, the opponents, the recent history of the losing streak and current home losing streak. So don’t think it’s just the English temperament that will be tested.

          4. Fair enough Brighty. He does come across as quite a dis-likable and arrogant person but i think this is quite a big part of his game. In this way hes quite like Phillips, never gives an ounce of respect to opposition. But its true that sort of attitude can backfire.

          5. Brightly, with regards to that game against the blues. How long ago was that?

            I recall that brown did used to have a bit of a temper, and was a liability. However his time with Connor O’Shea has turned him into a pretty level headed and calm individual now. Yes there is a fire burning inside him, but I think that he knows it is better to channel that into his play rather than other things.

            I think England definitely have the odd player who could kick off. But I would look a Wales and say the same. Hibbard could bubble over, similarly Adam Jones. I think Wyn Jones is pretty easy to get stirred up if you want. I also think that north and cuthbert are the kind of guys who go into their shells if you force them to make a mistake early on, probably more so cuthbert than north. But the biggest one for me would be Phillips. Not only is he prone to some of the bigger tantrums (I am sure his time in France will have only helped that!) but he plays in one of the most crucial positions.

            When England beat NZ they targeted Aaron Smith because they knew if he was rattled the game would swing. I expect England to adopt a similar tactic (whether it will work is another question, but if I was in charge, then I would see Phillips as having a big old target on his back)

        2. I’m pretty sure he would have been warned about that. At the moment though I’d still rather have him starting than Flood, because he looked so uncomfortable for most of the game last week, but I’m sure a lot of that was due to Care’s style of play. Care and Flood just don’t seem to suit each other, and I’m really glad that Youngs is starting this week.

    2. Good point and Picamoles made a massive 90m in his last game. Thing is that Marler can be awesome in the loose (watch his try against Wal in U20’s) just needs to rbing that to the senior game. Couple that with Youngs and Cole and we should have the most mobile ball carrying front row certainly in the NH. Really do need Morgan back though.

      1. I think Eng forwards performance in the U20s isn’t a good indicator of senior quality. For donkeys years England’s U20 forwards have smashed most teams because the size difference at U20 is much more marked. Some will dispute it but I think it’s unarguable that a lot of England development focuses on gym work. As the players go into senior the differences account for less.

    3. The problem with the carrying isn’t figures of a no8 is that they get a bit skewed.

      Take for example when England kick off. They put the ball deep in the opposition half, a catch is made, and the other team clear the ball, but not straight out. When Morgan plays he covers these kicks, he then runs it back. In the first minute of the game, Morgan has 20m made.

      Without Morgan, we have Robshaw doing the job. Firstly, he does not do this job regularly, so teams are challenging him with box kicks, to try and contest, therefore he isn’t making huge meters. Also, when they do kick long, Robshaw tends to pass to a supporting back 3 player. Because the wingers chase, it is usually Goode who gets the pass. He then usually passes on to the next person (usually brown, who is England’s top meter maker) or he kicks.

      Having a confident 8, who fields the kicks will always show good carrying stats for an 8. Picamoles, Parisse and Faletau all run the ball back. Heaslip on the other hand likes to get the ball to Kearney, which is why his meters made are a lot lower for a test 8.

      This obviously does not tell the whole story, but it does help in explaining one reason why 8’s usually have much higher stats in terms of meters made than other forwards.

      1. Simo, agree the stats don’t tell the whole story and need the context of the nature of the carries. However:
        – Without Morgan no one is running it back effectively, no one is making any meters.
        – If Robshaw is hanging back to field kicks he isn’t tackling and competing at rucks.

        The balance is wrong, Wood and Robshaw are not playing fully to their strengths.

        1. Very true. England have lost a carrying backrower and put a workhorse in to replace him. If we had used Haskell a bit differently, or put a ball carrying flanker in, then the story may have been different.

          And I agree with the comment that both wood and Robshaw are not playing their natural games because of it (although I think Robshaw has had to sacrifice more to allow wood to play as normally as possible).

          Another comment on the stats, which I was meant to put in my first post. A quote from Scott Johnson, Scotland coach.
          “Stats are a lot like a girl in a bikini. they will show you a lot, but not everything.”

      2. On this particular topic wouldnt it then make sense to let croft play the role of the 8 hanging back for the kick, the ball would be returned much faster than by robshaw and if there is a gap croft can exploit it

        1. yes and no.

          yes, for the reasons you said.

          no, for 2 reasons that i can think of off the top of my head.
          1- croft’s speed and height make him a very effective challenger on restarts. he has often been able to disrupt kickoffs for other teams.
          2- there is no problem with the “catch and pass” technique that robshaw has been using. sure it doesnt look as good for his personal stats, but shifting the ball across to the other wing means the ball is being moved very quickly to the area with more space. the problem is occurring because we have goode at 15, who A) does not run it back and instead goes for B) kicking it.
          a fullback like brown or foden would get the ball from robshaw in open play, in the middle of the field. guys like them would have a field day! goode on the other hand does not have the pace to exploit it, so he tends to put up a bomb, therefore giving the possession back to the opposition.

          i played 8 at school and often used the “catch and pass” routine, the difference was, i had a fullback who regularly scored from 60m out, i dont think Goode would be doing the same.

  10. I’m guessing that Marler has been picked to make up for Crofts deficiencies at the breakdown. Some brave calls. If we lose the GS or championship on the back of our back row or back three SL will get it in the media big time.

    Still too close to call though.

    1. We may play well and still lose. If we get beaten by a better Welsh team on the day the back row and back 3 will still have cost us the championship last week.

  11. Another possible reason for Crofts inclusion is the extra pace he brings from the pack, will actually free up the backs when it comes to kick chasing and pressure on the catcher, and chasing restarts. In the last few games we’ve seen Brown doing a lot of restart chasing, often being the first man there, but then leaving space on his wing for counter attacking. I’m thinking Croft will probably cover a lot of that chasing as he is very quick, thus leaving less space on the outside? Just a thought!

    1. In my mind I think you are spot on.

      Croft may not be the biggest forward in the world, but he isn’t small either, and you would be hard pushed to find a forward who is as fast as he is.

      His pace is a huge weapon, both in attack and defence, as long as it is used properly.

    2. Spot on

      everybody talks about the lineout but our restarts were not good against Italy and croft’s athleticism bring a lot there.

      His pace also make him one of the best cover tackler in the game. I’m not saying he would have stopped Fofana, but how many times have we seen him get across and make thyose tackles.

      Another thing is his size, he has used his time to pump up, I heard he is 109 kilos now, not small at all.

      Another thing is experience, he is going to be one of our most capped players on the field, he has seen a world cup and a lions tour he has been about and this is an unexperienced group of guys.

        1. but he is huuuugggggeeeeeeeee, i know he isnt particularly good, but if I was an English player I’d avoid sitting next to him on a plane at all costs

  12. Goode. Nooooooo!! The man has demonstrated that he can’t tackle and can’t counter-attack. So why is he STILL playing fullback? Stuart bloody Hogg ran over him for crying out loud. And don’t give me the second-playmaker spiel cos he managed to screw up a 5 on 1 overlap vs Italy

    Ashton. Noooooo!! How bad does he have to get before he is dropped? Watch for Welsh wings + JD2 running over him all game. It’ll be like watching ROG in an England shirt

    Croft. Noooooo!! 60 mins of poncing around on the wing looking to score tries whilst England are getting done over at the breakdown

    My heart has well and truly sunk seeing the team. We are going to lose.

    1. Those three were exactly my thoughts (except on Ashton, I think he is being treated unfairly, he’s still running the support lines he always does but just isn’t getting service/finishing well), but you know what? I reckon Lancaster has a reason for each selection. What reason that is, I don’t know. Call it blind faith, but I still think that this side has a gameplan and is capable of winning.

    2. You mention Stuart Hogg running over him. I’m not sure that’s an issue as in my opinion, Hogg has proved himself to be one of the best backs in the competition so far and will likely be on the plane to Australia with the Lions.

      1. It’s one example of a missed head on one-on-one tackle. Hogg is a great player, one thing he isn’t is big (possibly the lightest back 3 player in the championship). If he goes over you like he is Lomu what the hell are North and Cuthbert going to do?

        We aren’t talking about poor technique, poor positioning, lack of commitment etc, this was a just a lack of physicality which isn’t ideal from your last line of defence. If that player is also scoring no tries, making no tries, has limited pace and is starting no counter attacks then regardless of how well you position yourself to catch a ball and kick it back it’s not enough of a skill set.

        I’ll be delighted to be proved completely wrong and I hope he has a stormer!

  13. No selection surprises but let’s pray England’s back 3 are not exposed…both in defence and attack. If we cannot contain the Welsh front row then messrs Ashton and Brown will be in for a torrid evening. If England can keep their composure and “encourage” wales to lose their’s then Farrell’s boot should see us home. England by a neck!

  14. Am i the only one who is bothered by Tom Youngs? The man couldn’t throw a ball straight to save his life.

    Goode has shown his worth previous but I think he maybe losing his nerve and after the hash job of the 5 man overlap he will be too busy trying not to mess up again.

    I am equally as astounded about David Wilson having 25 caps unless he bought them off ebay i have no idea where he picked those up.

    1. England hit 13/14 line-outs against Italy, most of which he would have been on the pitch for. It’s an area of his game that has vastly improved.

  15. Actually I’m fairly happy with this team. Yes you could change a player here or there but on the whole this is the team that has got us this far. Goode had a shocker last week but up till then he’s been steady, and if you take him out, Brown goes to FB and another of our also ran wings comes in. Not really much improvement. Marler or Mako – not much in it. Fairly pleased that we’ve got impact off the bench – even if the welsh contingent don’t think so.

    Almost certainly going to come down to penalties although I can see the Welsh scoring a try. Who’s going to win – haven’t got a clue! Probably the side with the most composure. 3 weeks ago I would have said England without a shadow of doubt. Now I’m not sure. Hope it’s a good game and I don’t hear the commentators say the dreaded word “Walsh” once all game.

    1. Have to agree with you staggy, from what is available this is probably the best team that SL can put out.

      It is so late in the tournament that it would be crazy to suddenly make whole sale changes. Also, if we think about it, the 3 worst performers against Italy were care, flood and Goode. 2 of whom have been dropped.

      Was a bit annoyed that flood and Goode were saying “England needs to be more clinical” during the week, but credit to Goode, he at least admitted he was to blame for blowing 2 scoring moves. Although I am not goode’s biggest fan, the fact that he admitted to messing up is positive for me, as opposed to Ashton who responded to people saying he is the worst tackler by saying “I know how to tackle”…

      Lets hope England can pull out a good performance, because the potential is there with this team. Pus I would prefer a decent game for once!

      And completely agree with your comments regarding Walsh! I am hoping he pulls a hammy during his warmup and another ref has to step in!

    1. Dazza – the difference is we all went into the AB game with no hope. The horrible thing now is that we have hope!

  16. Why does croft get so much stick,

    He is a different kind of flanker and adds his own abilities, he is great in the lineout, great support player, great cover tackler and makes loads of yards, just not in the tight. I think haskell is a waste of speace even though I agree we could use more ball carrying in the backrow.

    The backs are not going to win or lose the match for us, it is going to be decided up front.

    Wales look good, they have a good scrum and great kicking, I would even count them as slight favourites.

    Wales by 3

    1. Croft gets stick because he’s not the type of Back 3 player that people want. Simple as that. :-)

        1. And beside Robshaw isn’t a traditional 7 but everybody loves him.

          Yeh he’s great but being out of the box shouldn’t be seen as a negative thing.

  17. So these are the matchups… i would say it seems to be overall a pretty even affair.

    1. Jenkins/Marler
    2. Hibbard/T. Youngs
    3. A.Jones/Cole
    4. Wyn Jones/Launchbury
    5. Evan/Parling
    6. Warburton/Croft
    7. Tipuric/Robshaw
    8. Faletau/Wood
    9. Phillips/B. Youngs
    10. Biggar/Farrell
    11. North/Brown
    12. Roberts/Barritt
    13. Davies/Tuilagi
    14. Cuthbert/Ashton
    15. Halfpenny/Goode

    16. Owens/Hartley
    17. James/Wilson
    18. Andrews/Vunipola
    19. Coombs/Lawes
    20. Shingler/Haskell
    21. L. Williams/Care
    22. Hook/Flood
    23. S. Williams/Twelvetrees

    One area where i think wales have a VERY big advantage is fullback. Not only do i think that halfpenny is one hell of a player, but i think goode will be a weakness for england.

    Last weekend i felt that italy proved goode is not as assured under the high ball as a test 15 should be. he was being beaten to the ball by a number of players. granted, Parisse was one of them, but even so…

    Wales have a backline who, i believe are ALL taller than Goode. I would expect to see a number of high balls down his throat, with the big welsh backs challenging in the air.

    i think barritt at 12 was the correct choice, as he will be tasked with making sure that JR gets no go forward. As much as i am a fan of 12Ts, i wonder whether he was the wrong call on the bench. with goode and ashton in the back 3, i think it may have been wiser to have a back 3 option on the bench, because there is no doubt that wales will target those two.

    1. Good call on the back three choices, Where’s Foden he could cover wing, fullback, or even scrum half if there is a crisis.

      1. foden would have been my choice at 11, with brown playing 15. i think brown is best there. he is a good kicker, and is the best of the FBs we have under the highball.

  18. just popped this in the wales team post, but thought it might be good here too. would like to see what some people think…

    England are actually pretty well placed in this game. obviously winning the GS would be amazing, but england know that all they have to do is lose by 6 or less to win the 6Ns, wales know that they have to go out there and win by 7. therefore i would expect england to ease their way into the game, playing the corners and trucking it up in the middle. they can pretty much approach this game knowing that they have to do what scotland did to ireland. there is however the slight issue of steve walsh…

  19. I think Croft will bring a lot of mobility to the forwards but just don’t see him carrying as effectively as someone like B Vunipola. Yes its late to change things but i think the balance of the pack would improve with a big carrier in it.

    I really don’t see what Goode brings to the back 3. Would much prefer the more abrasive Brown to be at 15, for me he is better under the high ball,is a stronger tackler and would compliment Ashton by running hard and direct.

    I don’t like to say it but i am starting to wonder about SL. He first came on the scene and gave chances to form players regardless of experience but now seems to ignore them when they are clearly needed. There is however the chance he knows a little more than i do….

    1. agree regarding goode. and i know where you are coming from with SL. having been so much about picking form players, i think that “having credit in the bank” (his phrase not mine) has become the more dominant method of selecting. as we saw when wales had there bad run, picking players “with credit in the bank” who are not playing well is only going to end up one way.

      croft is actually quite an effective carrier in his own right. he isnt a bulldozer who is going to drag 4 men along with him, but in a one on one situation, croft is often going to do pretty well. after all, he is bigger than most backs, and faster than most forwards.

    2. It is unlikely any coach would make major changes just before a grandslam decider.
      Expect a number of changes for the summer tour – some forced by the Lions and injuries and some not

      1. You also have to remember that he can only pick from players in the EPS, and can only bring in other players if someone gets injured. So who would you rather see starting for the last game, Goode, Strettle, Monye? Yes Goode has made a few mistakes but given the choices, and with Foden still not at the level he was, Goode is probably the best option.

        1. Isn’t monye in the Saxons?

          If we are opening it up to Saxons, then all of a sudden there are plenty of players I would want over Goode.

          Daly, May, Biggs, Wade would be my choices.

          In my opinion, a foden who isn’t quite at his best would still be a better attacking threat than Goode. I would like to see foden on the wing. He has proven that he is a pretty decent finisher, and it would bring more pace and counter attack into the back 3. Plus foden is better under the highball. So far all the threat on the counter, and dealing with highballs is coming from brown.

  20. I think sl has the idea of building a core team towards rwc 2015. This means that picking payers on form alone would make this job a lot more difficult as the squad would be constantly chopped and changed

    1. Very interesting point. I actually think that the size of our playing pool can count against us on occasions as there are always players on the best form of their lives, who will not necessarily be able to cope at the top level when their form dips back to it’s normal level. Of course we the public and the media scream for these players to be included when they look good and then scream for them to be dropped when their form dips again. Goode may in fact be an example of this.

      Some of the nations with a smaller pool of players to choose from, don’t pick and choose so much leading to a more stable team. It may be that SL is looking at players potential and a more settled squad in the lead up to 2015 than maybe we give him credit for, and then again maybe he isn’t……! That maybe why some players who are good enough are given more leeway than ones who aren’t going to be there in 2015. Ashton?

      I really don’t have a clue what the answer is but an interesting debate for another day!

  21. I have to say I really think Croft’s main asset is his line out work, England’s line out has been pretty shoddy compared to everyone elses but when he came on last week suddenly we were stealing and disrupting ball again.

  22. Ashton is weak in the tackle and attemps to to leave it to others, as a threat he’s become ineffective since his mate Foden hasnt been in the team.
    Goode is way too safe and controlled, a little more aggresion wouldnt go ammiss.
    Croft is very threatening with a little power and good speed to worry the opposition.

  23. i wasn’t debating whether Goode/Croft are better or worse players than others merely that the balance of the team seems slightly awkward.

    It’s only my opinion but i don’t see how Goode brings out the best in Ashton and Brown in fact i would say he makes it harder for them. I don’t think they compliment each others game and therefore don’t see how each can be as effective as possible. Brown at 15 would allow Ashton to run with far better timing. As for the other wing berth who knows, why not Strettle?

    Same point with Croft. Simo is right and he is a pretty decent carrier but Morgan he is not. He is not going to make the hard yards that Vunipola might and this extra go forward would balance the pack slightly better for me.

    Not looking for wholesale changes and agree that would not be right but these 2 changes would seem not only logical but prudent in the wake of Italy

    1. i agree with you here stu.

      and yes, a bigger carrier would provide better balance to the backrow. but i do think that the inclusion of croft is more positive in terms of balance than haskell. the haskell of old would have been a good carrying option at 8, but i seems that more recently (probably due to the other backrowers he plays with at wasps) he has become more of a workhorse, and less of a carrier. therefore i guess croft is seen more as the carrier in the wider channels, while robshaw works at first receiver and wood buries his head in rucks. so as i say, i guess croft can be seen as a positive, but there is no doubting that england are lacking a really heavyweight ball carrier in the backrow.

      i completely agree that goode seems to be making life more difficult for those trying to work off of him. and i would also shift brown to 15. i think strettle could be an option at 11, although i would prefer foden. having said this, foden seems to not be on form, and clearly england dont think he is fit enough/ready to be playing yet. so that leaves us with strettle, who has been playing relatively well at sarries recently.

      i think that (apart from changing back to b. youngs and farrell, which was needed) that some of the changes were made in the wrong places, thereby making it impossible to make other changes without having it seem like wholesale. clearly marler/vunipola and croft/haskell were all deemed as acceptable changes, because all the players have had decent amounts of game time in the tournament, but i didnt think they were that necessary. i would have preferred see them stay the same, and changes in the back 3.

    2. Last week we didn’t earn the right to go wide, because we weren’t going forwards first. So we just went from side to side and were contained without too much difficulty in the midfield. Whilst Croft clearly has some exceptional athletic attributes I seriously doubt he’s going to give us the go forward, his use is wider out once you’ve already earned the right to play there.

      The entire back row (including Croft) made 30m in 80 mins, Vunipola made 25 in 50 mins. Factor in that some of Robhaws 26m contribution are on kick return and it means we have dropped a prop that made more hard yards than the entire back row. In his 3 starts and 30 mins as a replacement Marler has made 4m in the entire championship.

      Unless we have some great game plan that involves not carrying the ball forwards then I’m confused by the selection as only Tuilagi & Youngs (T) are any good at getting across the gain line.

  24. I concur with most of the comments above regarding Goode at fullback, and replacing him with Brown. Also I agree that Strettle should be given another shot. Also in my opinion, what did Ben Foden do wrong??
    My biggest change would be to include Courtneay Lawes instead of leaving him on the bench. With him and Croft in the pack the mobility would be more than the Welsh forwards could cope with.
    All in all, I see an English win by at least a converted try score

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