Six Nations England v Italy: England player ratings

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15. Alex Goode – 4.5
A wobbly afternoon for the Saracens full-back. Butchered a couple of huge overlaps with poor decision-making or poor execution. Unlikely to be sacrificed for such a big game next weekend, but needs a better performance.

14. Chris Ashton – 5
Better, but still not good enough really. He was not helped by poor decisions from men inside him, but still does not look at his best – despite almost scoring after good support work. Outclassed by opposite number McClean, never more so than for the try when he was found woefully out of position.

13. Manu Tuilagi – 5.5
A quieter afternoon for Tuilagi who was largely marshalled well by the duo of Gonzalos for Italy. That said, even though he didn’t make any obvious clean breaks he still never takes a backwards step. England need to find a way to use him more.

12. Brad Barritt – 5
Another to squander a giant overlap towards the end of the first half, he does have a habit of just putting his head down with the ball and looking for the nearest contact. Obviously vital to Lancaster’s plans, but could do with adding a distributing dimension to his game.

11. Mike Brown – 7
England’s most impressive back and again top of the metres made stats, it would be great to see Brown at full-back one of these days with a bit more space to run in. One glorious step left opposite number Venditti firmly flat-footed and almost resulted in a try.

10. Toby Flood – 5
Another mixed bag from Flood, whose kicking from the tee was exemplary while out of hand it was fairly terrible. His willingness to attack the gain-line is impressive and he has a habit of making half-breaks, but needs better support runners (as the Ashton of old used to do). He was visibly more comfortable when Youngs came on – their combination could be key next weekend if Farrell doesn’t return in time.

9. Danny Care – 4
Horrific box kick lead to Italy’s try, which will be what he is remembered for after this game. Does look dangerous when England are on the front foot, but then so does Youngs – and his box kicking is significantly better in defence. Seems to be better used as an impact sub.

1. Mako Vunipola – 7
Showed enough in his first start to suggest that he should do so again next week. Gave the much vaunted Italian pack trouble early on at the scrum (the majority of the time anyway) and ran some superb supporting lines, one of which he combined with an audacious offload that almost culminated in a try.

2. Tom Youngs – 7.5
Made 11 tackles and 10 carries, and every time he was tough to shackle. He has such a low centre of gravity that it is very difficult to knock him backwards. Seems to have banished the majority of his line-out demons, too – one lost from 14 is not a bad effort.

3. Dan Cole – 6.5
You are probably as tired of hearing it as I am of writing it, but he is so good at the breakdown. Another couple of turnovers was proof of this again, and while he could do more with ball in hand his set-piece excellence makes him invaluable nonetheless.

4. Joe Launchbury – 7
Less obvious in ball-carrying mode than he has been in previous weeks, but then he topped the tackle stats with a mammoth 16. There were a couple of errors and penalties given away in the mauls, but it was still an impressive performance from the young man.

5. Geoff Parling – 6.5
Combined with Cole to win turnover ball in the second half, and was on hand to make some hard metres on several occasions. Another solid if unspectacular performance from the Leicester lock.

6. James Haskell – 5.5
A fairly anonymous afternoon for Haskell. There were none of the boisterous ball-carries he is renowned for, and there is not much else to say really. Could be sacrificed if an actual no.8 is brought in for the Wales game.

7. Chris Robshaw – 6
No hattrick of MOTM awards, it was a quieter afternoon for the England captain. Still, he made 12 carries and 11 tackles – although the carries yielded far less ground than usual. His normally exemplary hands let him down on a couple of occasions, too.

8. Tom Wood – 6.5
Tracked back to scythe down Zanni as he galloped towards the England line in the first half, and took lots of good line-out ball. As many people have pointed out, however, he doesn’t fit the ball-carrying mould of a Morgan or a Vunipola, and England missed those metres and the front-foot ball they produce.

Replacements – 6
Courtney Lawes looked good in his 35 minute-stint for Parling after he had to exit due to a stinger on his shoulder, including that all important line-out steal at the death. Ben Youngs provided stability where it was glaringly lacking from Care, while Hartley, Twelvetrees, Croft and Marler were all tasked more with defensive duties than anything else as Italy dominated the closing stages.

By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43

53 thoughts on “Six Nations England v Italy: England player ratings

  1. Hard to disagree with that.

    I do honestly feel we would be better attacking with Brown at 15 with two specialist wingers, and the same with a natural No.8.

    Defense will be key against Wales. No silly penalties as Wales will be more blood hungry than ever.

  2. Completely agree. I have been saying this all 6N, we need to get Goode out have Brown at Full Back. Then have either Strettle or preferably Foden on the wing. Then we will see the best of Asthon. As poor as he looks lately, he could easily have has two tries (everyone remembers one that he nearly scored, and he supported Browns break which if given the ball he may well have finished) – no other winger we have can offer his support lines and class. He may be out of form; but he is the best we have.

    And we do look lacking a ball carrier in the pack. Hopefully Morgan is fit; if not we may have to bring Waldrom back.

  3. that performance, tom youngs aside, demonstrated the lack of balance in the back row in terms of a ball carrier to provide front foot ball. IMO we need a hard running 8 like Morgan or Vunipola.

    Totally agree about Ashton, Brown or Foden at fullback would give him a far better chance to threaten than he is getting now. He hasn’t been great but he hasn’t got a hard runner going straight to pick a support line from.

  4. Just read that again, i know Tom Youngs isn’t in the back row just got too excited trying to put my points down!!

  5. Agree with both previous comments. Also 9 & 10 were weak. Owen Farrell not greatest stand off but learning his trade and gets much better inclusion from the backs. Be fantastic as an England supporter if it all comes together against Wales but above all let it be a good match!

  6. If Flood & Goode start again next week, Flood needs to offload quicker. It’s good that he attacks the line more, but if he gets caught out, and can’t offload, Goode has to step in as first receiver. This then creates holes behind the defence, and if Wales get a sniff of that we’re in trouble. I think a 5 for Flood is generous, because he didn’t control the game or bring his backs into play. He did kick his goals, and we should be grateful for that.

  7. The Barritt butchered overlap was also when we were playing penalty advantage, I would knock another half mark off for that.

    Although hardly rampaging Tuilagi did manage to make decent yards from poor ball even with a face full of defenders, so I would give him a 6.

    Probably only a 5.5 for Wood as well, as great a player as he is and not his fault he’s out of position, if you play 8 and create no go forward ball you’ve had a poor game. If I was judging his contribution as a flanker a 6.5 would be fair but he just didn’t fulfil the primary requirement of an 8.

    Our game against SA in the autumn was hardly a stunner, the management did get that turned around in a week, so not impossible for us to find a good performance next week.

  8. Goode showed what he is not capable of doing, which is igniting the England line, he is suppose to be there for his distribution skills, but he has looked slow and butchered several overlaps.

    We need a more direct running fullback to enter the line, Foden is man, he has been great for a long time, he should regain the birth, with Brown competing for the spot.

    The forwards were ok, in the first half we got the ball back quickly which was great but there was no real go forward.

    Flood was not that bad, not that good either, he attacks the line and looks to offload but the too often he was left alone with no support.

    Care benched himself, he was ok going forward but as pointed out youngs isn’t the slowest 9 in the world. Going backwards Care was shocking.

    The lack of penitration in the England backline is scary, We really need total forward dominance to win games, good that we have a great pack at the moment.

    more speed needs to be brought in, the quality of passing must improve.

  9. I think (hope) there is an outside chance that SL will change one of the backs, taking the assumption that Youngs/ Farrell is not deemed a change as they are our starting half backs. Barritt, Goode and Ashton are the most vulnerable – who to replace – we know it WONT be Barritt, Goode arguably has “more in the bank” than Ashton, but was so awful yesterday – Ithink I’d rather he go than Ashton. Ashton made a couple of breaks, but over the last few matches seems never to want to take on his opposite number. Wade or Sharples would have scored, but at the very least Ashton should have tried for the line instead of trying a pass that wasn’t on. Worst case scenario Italy have a line out on their 5m line?

    1. with regards to the ashton incident that you are referring, he could easily have kicked through as well, instead of firing the ball at an italian. watching it i could see flood shouting and pointing, and he seemed to have a bit of a word while pointing at the line after ashton had blown the break.

  10. I would be tempted to give Brown even more than 7. To me, he had another solid game, and stood out more this week because of the mediocrity around him.

    Not so much his play with ball in hand, but his part in the defensive rear guard was excellent, and almost played as a specialist open-side during Italy’s phase after phase of attack. I don’t think he secured any turnovers, but he certainly helped slow a lot of ball.

    1. All attributes that make him an ideal last line of defence!

      I think a 7 is fair, reason I couldn’t justify more is after making a great break he had Ashton screaming on his shoulder (on a good line) and didn’t give the pass.

      But it at least gives me some hope that if Ashton can run a good line off Brown when’s he’s on the opposite wing the 2 could work well together with Brown at 15.

      1. Completely agree Matt! Ashton showed what he can do running that line off of Brown, as I mentioned in my post on here earlier, so if we get Brown running the ball back regularly from 15 – Ashton WILL score tries!

        1. i think you are right jacob.

          and another benefit of an ashton who scores tries is that his confidence seems to increase. his defence (actually making hits) is usually good when he is confident (maybe the odd stupid shoulder charge). i view it as being a bit of a trickle down effect with ashy, IF (and thats a big if) he can start scoring tries, then i am sure he will feel more comfortable and his defence will improve.

          having said this, a low on confidence ashton has been a big liability, and there is a point when if they are going to persist with fullbacks that ashton cannot play off, then ashton should not be selected.

  11. Just looked at this after reading the Welsh scores and it does look odd. I know this isn’t scientific so I’m not demanding consistency but to score England’s front row much higher than Wales when a) Wales mullered Sco up front, Eng did not Italy b) Wales did muller Italy c) Sco did muller Italy; so it seems generous for Eng or harsh on Wales?

    As a whole it looks like you’re giving England ~ 6/10 here. Seems generous given they were home, had an incentive to get a big score and succumbed to everything they said they would not, namely they did go into it expecting a cricket score from throwing it around.

    1. Fair comments Brighty. Consistency is difficult as it’s different people rating each team, and obviously it’s a highly subjective exercise – so to compare across teams is difficult. The team of the week – which’ll be up tomorrow – might be a better yardstick to use.

      As for the England front row, I think you’re being a little unfair. Vunipola and Youngs were excellent in the loose and Cole completed two turnovers, so their marks are bolstered by their play outside of the scrum – forgive me if I’m wrong, but I don’t remember the Welsh front row having that kind of influence (Hibbard falling over the line aside). And while they may not have mullered the Italian scrum, they certainly more than held their own.

      I would stand by my ratings, although would be tempted to agree with your comment on another article that a couple of the Welsh front row perhaps deserved half a mark higher.

      1. I might need to watch the England game again as I’ll admit I could only keep half an eye on the 1st half. By the time I was able to focus on the match it was some way into the 2nd half and Italy did look pretty strong in the tight by then, dominant even.

        In a different sort of game though I’d argue that the Welsh front row were as influential as they made a lot of tackles in the game up in Scotland. Wales turnovers tend to come from 7 or 6 as our front row know the score of what’s needed, know to hit low and get out of the way so I think it’s hard to compare Cole to Jones as I think they’re briefed differently as to what to do at the breakdown.

        I’ll also admit that my prejudice against “good in the loose” is showing again (it’s why Healy in the Lions front row doesn’t work for me). Cole has the full bag (loose and scrumming) but I’m yet to be convinced by Youngs and Vuni in the scrum.

        1. youngs and vunipola seemed to be the most dangerous with ball in hand. i think vunipola was taken off prematurely, which would suggest either lack of fitness, or a pre-planned substitution.

          also vunipola managed to make Castro stand up a couple of times, which would suggest a pretty decent scrum performance.

          with regards to cole’s scrummaging being not as good as usual. i notice that his opposite number for most of the game was Di Marchi, who is 6ft. Domingo the week before is 5ft 8. similarly, benn robinson of the wallabies is 6ft. all of these players are relatively “short” for loosehead props. people like sheridan are 6ft 5, corbisero is 6ft 3, Jenkins is 6ft 2. i think that cole tends to struggle against more “compact” looseheads.

          1. Vunipola was taken off because he is simply not a good prop and everything he does is wrong. When he has ball in hand and goes into contact, he tends to either spill or knock on the ball, and we really didn’t need that against Italy, as we knew it was going to be a tough game! The only reason Castro was un binding in the scrum and standing was because he became injured after the first 10 minutes of the game, something to do with his hamstring and quad which is obviously going to have an impact on how he is performing in the scrum. Also, Cole had an extremely hard game, like stated above, he was great at the breakdown, and the turnovers he gained got England closer and closer to the gain line, the only reason Vunipola had a good game was because who he was proping against was injured and went off after 20 minutes, leaving a substitute in the lerk for Italy as he probably thought he wasn’t even going to get a couple of minutes at the end. I may be English and love to see them win, but we didn’t deserve to win this game, the only match rating I agree with is Danny Cares 4, well done.

  12. the English front row werent actually much good in the scrum though. Even without Castro, Italy were very good there.

  13. As appauling as England were, Italy were equally as good. If I were Welsh i’d be very happy, if I were Irish I would be very worried but as I am English I am very concerned about next week.

    1. I think that if I were Welsh, I would have rather England come through the Italy game feeling full of themselves rather than having to re-evaluate what went wrong, and focussing on big improvements.

      1. I’m not so sure Blub – I think England are chalking up the Italy game to bad selection (both fans and coaches seem to be saying as much) with the inference that a different set of heads will therefore sort it all out. I think that’s a different kind of “feeling full of themselves”. I’m reasonable happy (as happy as you can be with a big game of this magnitude that will be tight and hard, so this isn’t someone Welsh dismissing the English) with what we’re going to face. I can’t see how they’re going to solve their creativity vacuum; if Warburton plays like that again then we’ll see what players in position in the backrow can do to a makeshift one (I see Ben Morgan has been ruled out); Farrel showed in the France game that he could be wound up into doing something silly ; Englands front row won’t bully the Welsh one ; Ashton is next to useless on current form … lot’s of reasons for Wales to think they can have a go at this. None of them enough to expect a Welsh win but enough to make it exciting, enough for a fan to think their team will take it.

        1. I agree Brighty, I don’t buy into this ‘overconfidence’ excuse, any sport thrives on momentum and I believe if we had posted a cricket score on Italy then the momentum and confidence would of been with England going to a hostile environment with so much at stake, not only that a more confortable win would of given a bigger point swing going into the weekend as a Wales win at home by 8 points is perfectly obtainable.

          I truly believe there was a missed oppourtunity to try someone else in Ashton’s position for the Italy game which would of served nicely as a stick and carrott to him but as it stands we have a worrying chink in the armour there as my Gran in a mobility scooter can tackle better than him.

          I think England will reassess and be up for the game but I expect a meat grinder of a game where England will need to meet Wales in every department to overcome a massive challenge.

          I am looking at the weekend with a slightly heavy heart as Wales have been the team improving through the tournament but that being said I don’t think a win is totally beyond England.

          1. Also don’t forget Mr B that a win by seven points will prob be enough as we have 2 more tries than England. It would be v unlikely that we would win by 7 but score 3 less tries than England so I suspect a win by 7 would be enough. I don’t know why but that seems important to me – 1 score rather than 2. It also happens to be last years winning margin for Wales at Twickhenham…

        2. I’m curious Brighty as a welsh fan, who would you rather England played at 8 Wood or Vunipola (billy)?

  14. Interesting game from some players. I thought Flood looked like he was working hard to try and get everything going, but didn’t seem as comfortable with the game plan. He obviously wants to do something, but it’s not in everyone else’s heads to support him. The 2 touch penalties were a combination of great work by the Italians and him just trying to bite off a bot more than necessary.

    Care was poor at best. The dart through the defence which Andy Nicholl thought was so impressive was backed up with an unnecessary offload to an Italian. Not only did he gift Italy a try, but he squandered England ball in the 22 there when England were so in control. Ben Youngs far better when he came on and I think Flood looked better with Ben Youngs.

    Barritt was also poor. However I think Manu’s presence in attack was lacking and reduced his score, he deserved more for his tireless efforts tackling and rucking. Certainly did a lot more than 0.5 over Barritt IMO.

    England’s backrow found wanting I though. Robshaw was great with another tireless effort and Wood put his tackles in but was under a lot of pressure in the scrum. Needs to move back to 6 so England can get some real work done in the tight. Haskell looked his usual pointless. The Italian backrow though was frankly brilliant.

    I think there is some serious credit to be given to Italian defence yesterday. England should have been running away with it in the first half with a lot of possession and territory, but the tackles Italy were putting in held England off and helped Italy to pressure England later in the game. Finishing lacked a clinical edge for England though.

    1. Serious credit to Italy? Hear, hear! Superb defensive work.

      On the flip side, full marks to England for surviving the late onslaught, phase after phase, without conceding a penalty. Amongst many “areas for improvement”, that was impressive.

    2. Wood was under serious pressure at the scrum. interesting that you say that, do you have any particular instances in mind?

      I find it also quite interesting that lancatser (who as i have previously mentioned played over 100 times in the backrow for leeds) feels wood has been doing a good job. also Dallaglio (arguably the best english 8, and possibly one of the best 8’s of all time) was actually quite complimentary of Wood and his work (especially control) at the base of the scrum.

      England’s backrow issue is not that wood is playing 8, it is that they do not currently have an bulldozing ball carrier. in the england squad (and most squads) the bulldozer of the backrow is usually the 8, which is why wood is being criticised for not being a “good 8”. however take ireland for example, their bulldozer is O’Brien who plays at 7, and schalk burger did similar for the boks a few years back, jerry colins played a similar role in the trio of Collins, McCaw and Solialo. if england had someone playing either 6 or 7 who was absolutely destroying defences with ball in hand, then there would be no issue of wood at 8, because he does the technical jobs quite well.

      the issue for england is not wood at 8, but the lack of balance in england’s backrow. it seemed to work in ireland, because the weather was poor and england won more through the defence of their backrow forcing error rather than carrying.

      undoubtedly wood will be better at 6, because it will mean that one of our specialist 8’s (i.e. one of the chunky ball carriers) will be back. but we could easily play a barnstorming player at 6 or 7 with wood at 8, and the job would be equally effective.

      when i was 18 i played in the backrow for school and club. i played 8 at school, and 6 at club. my style of play did not change, because the players in the other backrow spots filled similar roles. at school our “workhorse” who did all the dirt work in the rucks played 6, for club he played 8. both teams had a 7 who was a ball carrier, meaning i played as a link-man between forwards and backs, often running off 10, or around the centre channels, providing an extra pair of hands to create space and draw in defenders. for both teams i would drop back and field kicks (a job usually done by the 8, but being done by robshaw in morgan’s absence).

      this anecdote should hopefully prove that as long as the backrow has these 3 attacking ingredients (bulldozer, link-man, workhorse) then it will be successful, regardless of what number they have on their backs.
      currently england do have players who very much fit the archetype for their position, which traditionally would be link-man at 7, bulldozer at 8, workhorse at 6. (robshaw 7, morgan 8, wood 6)

      but the absence of morgan at 8, and choosing wood at 8 simply means a number 6 who is a bulldozer is required. unfortunately england do not seem to have too many of these, as haskell has failed to carry too effectively recently (likely due to his role at wasps not being a primary ball carrier anymore).

      to summarise, england’s backrow is not under performing because of wood at 8, england’s backrow is under performing because it is not as balanced as it should be (lacking a robust carrier to get good go forward).

      credit should go to the locks, and especially m. vunipola and t. youngs, as they had a real go at stepping up to try and fill the void of a ball carrying loose forward.

      1. Fair points Simo. If we had a SOB on the flank we probably would be viewing Wood’s contribution differently (I would at least). Personally I think the best balance is to have the most dynamic/power athlete at 8 who can give you to go forward (e.g. Reed, Parrisse, Picamoles). An explosive athlete on the flank would be better than no explosive athlete at all …. which is what we currently have!

        1. Agree with you regarding the “best” balance to have the 8 as the as the ball carrier, because their strength and dynamism off the scrum is useful. I do sometimes recall in the past having seen Ireland shift David Wallace to 8 on the odd attacking scrum if they wanted his speed off the base when the Irish 8 was leamy.

          A steryotypical backrow (of which warburton, lydiate, faletau actually provide a great example) is very well suited to being a) well balanced and b) each player fitting the traditional role for their position, but it is not essential to being a successful backrow, as the balance between the 3 players (regardless of position) is the single most important factor.

          Take for example an “ideal” centre partnership. Many people felt the 09 lions centres were perfect for attacking together, because you had the hard hitting, straight lines of Roberts, and the intelligent support running, distributive and outside breaking O’Driscoll. Where as tuilagi and Barritt have been criticised for being too similar, and lacking a distributor. These example illustrate that the centres require a balance to reach optimum efficiency. The backrow is the exact same, except their is a 3rd player to add to the mix.

          And I agree that England do not seem to be picking any of the carrying backrowers, which is why the selection of croft on the bench was a bit strange, because he is not a big carrier either. England should have picked billy v at least on the bench for Italy, to give him game time. Now Morgan has been ruled out of the Wales game, and we missed the chance to blood billy. This means that England have to either continue as they have, without a ball carrier, or bite the bullet and choose Waldrom, who although I do not think is up to the standard, is the only other ball carrying backrower in the squad, and I will concede would provide better balance than having Haskell or croft at 6 with wood continuing at 8.

          1. I’m still not saying that flankers can’t play 8. I am still saying however that Wood does not play 8 well and would be far more useful at 6. The best back row balance would include Wood at 6 and Vunipola or Waldrom at 8 surely? My point is also much more along the lines that at this level, you cannot suddenly move from 6 to 8 in a couple of weeks. If you regularly train at both, as Waldrom does, it’s a different issue, however, to my knowledge Wood very rarely plays 8 for Saints and only if they’re desperate so why would you play the desperate option as a first choice?

            Dallaglio used the phrases “admirable” and “for a rookie” a lot, but he also pointed out that Italy were targeting him well and it was helping to Italy to disrupt. I don’t think I’ve once seen Wood pick the ball up at the base except out of desperation because he’s about to lose it, something I’d expect to see from any of the usual 8s a few times a game

          2. Another way of looking at it is Saints have a lot of good 6s but not much depth at 8, so if moving Wood to 8 was a good way of getting another good 6 on the pitch was a good thing I reckon Saints would have been making use of it.

  15. Well we’ll know in a weeks time whether England are the real deal or flattering to deceive! Am hoping the game doesn’t turn out to be a Welsh win by less than 7 points as that would mean 2 disappointed teams at the end of the game, which is highly unsatisfactory.

    Have to say that despite the wins my “in SL I trust” mantra is beginning to wear thin.

    Interesting for next week as I don’t see a huge amount of difference in the packs. If Youngs and Farrell play, I think that England edge it in the half backs and centres, but Wales undisputably have the best back three. Home advantage will help. Going to be close. I think that it might well turn on who has the best game plan, and at the moment I’m not sure who that will be.

    1. Think Wales have a harder more grizzly pack, better at the close quarter stuff. England have the edge on athleticism and mobility. If it’s an arm wrestle I think it’s Wales, if the ball is getting whipped away from the ruck before the likes of Jones and Hibbard have transported their considerable ballast there I think it’s England.

    2. I don’t really agree with the flatter to deceive stuff. Wales and England are both good sides. So are Ireland, and France. With Scotland slightly behind and Italy just behind them.

      Teams will have games where they play badly (ie. against Italy), and matches where they play out of their skin (ie. against NZ).

      The truth is on any given day any team can beat another, and that’s what makes the six nations great.

  16. I think the ‘in Lancaster we trust’ is eroding a little for most people.He has stood by certain players and a certain plan when alternatives were always there.Fears concerning playing people out of position have now been realised-Wood is not an 8,Brown is a full back and why persist with Ashton if you are playing Goode at 15? But we have arrived at the last game and the time for plan B has passed.Does anyone know about the fitness of Parling,Launchbury and Lawes?

    1. I was having some serious doubts in the autumn …. and then we played “that game”.

      When does faith become blind faith? His faith in Farrell has paid off, I didn’t think Farrell was fit to launder a 10 shirt after the summer tour let alone run out in one, but he’s come back well. Faith in Dowson didn’t pay off, though picking Dowson at 8 wasn’t showing Dowson at his best either (deja vu anyone?). On balance I would rather he gives players a run rather than having one cap wonders, but I think he’s gone 1 game too far without correcting a couple of key areas we’ve all been banging on about.

      On balance I think he’s still doing well as a selector, we are discussing 2-4, not ~10 which is where we were at in the RWC. That said if we pick the same back 3 and the same back row again next week we’ll be approaching a Matt Stevens at loose head level of comedy selecting!

      The aspect I am struggling with is game plan. After NZ and Scotland games I thought I new what England rugby was now about, but I couldn’t even see what were trying to do Sun. It’s not just that we didn’t execute a game plan it’s there being no evidence of one that gives me the biggest headache. To be about a 3rd of the way through the number of internationals we’ll play under Lancaster prior to the next RWC and have no evidence of a game plan needs to be rectified urgently.

  17. Considering injuries and availability to play, I really would like to see the following team line up to play against Wales:

    1. M. Vunipola
    2. T. Youngs
    3. D. Cole
    4. J. Launchbury
    5. G. Parling
    6. T. Wood
    7. C. Robshaw
    8. B. Vunipola

    9. B. Youngs
    10. O. Farrell
    11. B. Foden
    12. B. Barritt
    13. M. Tuilagi
    14. C. Wade
    15. M. Brown

    16. J. Marler
    17. D. Wilson
    18. D. Hartley
    19. C. Lawes
    20. T. Croft
    21. D. Care
    22. F. Burns
    23. B. Twelvetrees

    But alas, that will be wishful thinking and perhaps a tad too late considering the context of the game. One only wonders if a trick was missed in terms of selection for the Italy game.

    1. Absolutely agree, although I notice that the replacement hoookers tend to get the 16 shirt and the replacement props at 17 and 18…

      I’m also not too convinced by Wade, I think Ashton should have a chance when playing with a true FB alongside him. But yes, Brown/Foden needs to be at FB with the other on the wing.

    1. Yeah Manu, stop getting most of our tries and being the only player who can get over the gain line as well.

      The one thing we did not need to be on Sunday is more lateral.

    2. Is it? He didn’t play in the Scotland game. Then played 15 mins at the end of a wet day in Ireland. Then scored a try and spent all game bashing over the French players. Then we played so poorly against Italy that all he ended up being used for was as a strike runner to get over the gain line.

      At which point was he meant to be throwing passes around?

      I actually think three is quite a lot considering that…

      1. In all honesty I don’t think that this has been a great tournament for centres. I don’t recall any player, or indeed any game (possibly after the first saturday) when the centres have passed the ball more than a couple of times.

        I am sure that in one game the French centres failed to execute a pass between them through the entire game.

    3. I don’t think it’s that shocking. A lot of teams will have a crash ball centre who is powerful and carries a lot and a distributing centre who organises the attack and sets everything up. Manu is the former and Barrit is… the former which doesn’t make for good distribution to the back 3. I don’t expect Manu to pass, I expect him to run. In the last 2 games he’s made 86m and a try. More important stats for Manu.

  18. I understand its the last game and late to ‘blood’ new players ,however, i would still pick B Vunipola at 8 for the Wales match – he’s our best option there right now and we really need a ball carrier in the back row of his stature. I would have Haskell/Waldrom as cover from the bench.

    I think Goode has to miss out on saturday, regardless of midfield creativity his counter attacking does not give his wingers the opportunity to run support lines and i see that as a big reason why Ashton is not scoring. I would love Brown at 15 to see whether his direct hard running would provide better chances for the wingers to support him.

    On a different note, why does no-one mention Varndell for a wing berth? He has been one of the best English wingers in prem for a while??

    1. Stu, plenty if people have mentioned varndell.

      But the fact if the matter is that calling him up is inpossible. Due to the EPS agreement, SL has 32/3 players that he can choose from for a test. He then has a Saxons squad, who are the players that he will call up if an elite member gets injured. There is a loop hole, in which SL does not have to send players back to the Saxons.

      Varndell is not in the Saxons, therefore SL would not be allowed to call in him, even if he wanted to

        1. So SL was brave enough then, but I guess with a Grand Slam on the line, he’s not going to be adventurous!

          1. In fairness, burns only made it in because flood was injured. I think the largest call for the AB game was giving launchbury a 2nd start, but it was his 4th cap, so it was a pretty minimal risk.

            Similarly, the World Cup seedlings had been done the Monday before, so there was literally nothing but pride on the line for England.

            I doubt we will see many (if any) changes to the England team for Wales. If we do see any changes I think that it will be B. youngs and Farrell back in (hardly deemed as changes because they have starts the whole way through) and another possible one could be Lawes in if launchbury fails to be fit in time

          2. No one out of the EPS has been called up as precautionary injury cover to my knowledge so at this late stage no one else is going to get thrown in (e.g. on the wing).

            Given we will be changing the halfbacks and are on a 6 day turnaround I suspect we aren’t going to see a key change at 8 to introduce a player that has never played with Youngs before.

            Not having Vunipola in the 23 against Italy was a mistake in my opinion, but given that it’s been made I think it’s unlikely we’ll see him on Saturday.

            My hunch is we are going to see the same 23, with just the half backs switched. I won’t be jumping with joy, hopefully I’ll be wrong.

  19. Simo – that is what I expected. ie. sadly can’t see an 8 playing, back five the same.

    Tactically I hope to see kicking for territory and multiple attacks around the breakdown. Not the most exciting game plan, but we have a game to win, and this is what we didn’t do against Italy. Wales have a very good rush defense (thankyou Mr Edwards) and we have struggled against that, so lets go back to our basics and only ping it out wide when we have good matchups.

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