Six Nations Preview and Prediction: England


Home ground: Twickenham, London

Coach: Stuart Lancaster

One of England’s great strengths is the structure they bring to their game. They may not have the counter-attacking ability of the French, but they have a way of building the phases until they find themselves in a dangerous position. Whilst they haven’t always possessed the composure necessary to finish teams off when in these positions, it is encouraging nevertheless that they are getting themselves there.

They also have the makings of a world-class front five. If all fit, a line-up of Corbisiero, Hartley, Cole, Parling and Launchbury would truly be up there with the best. All these players have plenty of years at the top level left in them, and with the likes of Tom Youngs and Mako Vunipola breaking onto the scene the future looks rosy in this area. Dan Cole has confirmed himself as one of the pre-eminent tight heads in world rugby; Geoff Parling is as astute a line-out operator as anyone and has recently added a ball-carrying side to his game; Joe Launchbury has bags of energy and pace, not to mention strength, that make him a handful in the wide open spaces just as much as the tight.

So often a team’s strength can be its weakness too. Structure is all well and good, but there have been many occasions over the past year where England have simply looked too one-dimensional to mix it with the best. As stated above, they have been guilty of panicking and squandering chances when a little composure was necessary. As dangerous as they looked against New Zealand, the nature of the performance was very much the exception not the rule. Let’s hope that is reversed in the Six Nations.

Owen Farrell and Brad Barritt have many admirable qualities, but attacking the gain line and distribution are not two of them. Often Manu Tuilagi is accused of going missing in matches, but the men inside him must take some of the blame for that.

So what is the solution to England’s attacking issues? See below…

Player to watch: Freddie Burns
The Gloucester playmaker has burst onto the scene this season, with a series of breathtaking performances that meant he could be ignored for international recognition no longer. He has an innate ability to spot a gap, the confidence to take a chance and go for it, and the pace to take him there. His vision of where the space is is second to none, and he has the natural talent to execute the necessary pass or kick to find that space.

What has been most impressive this season, however, has been his improved game management and kicking. His ability with ball-in-hand is well documented, but what will have impressed Lancaster the most is his improved control of a game, and his goal-kicking percentage. It currently stands at 80% in the Premiership – incidentally the same figure as Farrell, who is frequently lauded as ‘the best kicker in the country’.

Last season: 2nd
Last season’s campaign was a success in that a new coaching team and captain led an inexperienced team to second position in the table, losing just one match, narrowly against eventual grand slam winners Wales. Undoubtedly, this was a great achievement for Lancaster and his team. They did not, however, set the world alight with their style of play. They averaged less than 20 points a game and scored just 7 tries in 5 matches. This season, with a more established set up and a year’s experience behind them, the aim must be to play a more exciting brand of rugby. Although you sense that if they manage to go one better and win the tournament, no one would really mind.

Prediction: 2nd
It is a very, very tough one to call this year. Ireland have a favourable draw, with France and England at home, while France look the strongest but have to travel to the Aviva Stadium and Twickenham. It is unlikely that anyone will win a grand slam, but I still think France remain the favourites. England, for their part, will play some good rugby and finish a happy runner-up.

By Jamie Hosie (Follow Jamie on Twitter @jhosie43)

57 thoughts on “Six Nations Preview and Prediction: England

  1. I think England can get the better of us at the Aviva. The overly-conservative Kidney administration hasn’t bled in enough new players (especially forwards) or experimented enough. Conditions can always play a roll. In 2010, conditions were not ideal but Ireland got some lucky breaks and took every one of them, with 3 tries coming from backs with Englands one try coming from a forward push. In 2011, conditions favoured a running game a little more and England were hockied. 2012 saw the return of bad conditions and Ireland were forced into the attrition forward contest and had no answer to England’s physicality, and were hockied in kind, and England were even able to score a try from the backline. Ireland need to be able to front up against England whatever the case, but especially in poor conditions. I think England might win the 6N this year, but with no slam.

    1. Ireland only have one forward remaining from grand slam winning side of 2009. How can you say that forwards haven’t been developed?

  2. Good analysis and I agree with the prediction. If anything Lancaster’s problem is an abundance of class players all with differing styles of play. Problems occur in trying to pull them together as a flexible unit that isn’t damaged each time you have to change a player because of injury. I think that if you could keep the Farrell, Barritt, Manu comination together, over time they would become an excellent unit but I’m not convinced that if you changed Farrell for Burns it would gel immediatly. Nice problem to have though!

  3. corbs is injured and as found out in thw autumn when he came in to replace marler, we dont have a sub anyway near his ability.

    thats our main problem as i see it going into the scots game.

    if Manu isnt fit, we have another of our best players out – and thats the other huge issue!

    we are going in as favourites, always a big issue for england and this Scots game is a huge potential banana skin.

    1. Disagree on Marler – he had a bad time in one game when few of the English forwards could claim they played to their ability

      He played well in SA and is only young. Personally I feel he offers more around the field than Corb. So whilst it is a loss, its not a desperate one.

      It is a banana skin though and I am pleased its at Twickenham and not Murrayfield

      1. I think Vunipola leap frogged Marler in the Autumn and now deserves the start and then the bench when Corbs returns.

        1. i agree that i think vunipola should have a start over marler. i also think that mako may be a bit more effective in the scrums. it is good that we have both of them to deputise for corbs though.

          1. Whilst I like the look of Vunipola, I don’t think he has had enough starts for Saracens, let alone England, to be throwing him into the starting line up vs the Scots

            Marler has proved himself in the premiership, Heineken Cup and on tour in SA. One poor game should not be enough to discard him – such thinking has hurt England in the past.

            I see Vunipola (and Youngs for that matter) as very much impact subs

  4. Agree with above that the English tight 5 could be significantly weakened without Corbs – I feel his importance to the side is on a par with Dan Cole.

    Fortunately we have 2 players waiting in the wings with the potential to be as good in Vunipola or Marler – but they need to step up in his absence, especially against the Scotch.

    On the tighthead side our options are worryingly slim, it is crucial if this six nations campaign is to be a success that Dan Cole stays fit and injury free for the whole tournament.

    An issue we share with the welsh. Good tightheads are a valuable commodity.

    1. fortunately Henry Thomas has been drafted in as cover for corbs, but i believe Thomas is actually more of a tighthead. he is a great young prospect, and i would not be surprised if he leap frogs wilson.

      regarding loosehead. Corbs is a big loss. He is pretty useful around the field, but he and Cole always seem to cause havoc at the scrum. Marler and Vunipola both offer more around the park (which is saying something, because Corbs is hardly a anonymous in open play!) but both are yet to prove their scrummaging prowess at this level.

      1. I think Vunipola did very well in the scrums over the Autumn tests. I agree however Marler looked pretty shaky at a few points.

        1. i agree that vunipola was quite good in the scrums. in my eyes though he needs to have a game where he destroys another scrum for me to view him as a top flight scrummager.

          vunipola was definitely solid though, and that is a good think to have in a prop, someone who can at least secure your ball and put pressure on opposition ball.

          the other positive about vunipola is that he does seem to be the most all rounder of the 3 props. he seems to have a bigger impact on open play than corbs, and he is more effective in the scrum than marler.

          i hope he gets some decent game time in the 6Ns, because as of yet we have only really seen glimpses of him off the bench. i think it is time Mako got a start to show what he is made of.

          1. We have so many good young props. Admittedly I had to read up on Henry Thomas after you mentioned him, but he looks like a top prospect.

            I think with an eye on 2015 the more game time they all get the better for the team.

            I was at the prem semi final last year when Marler destroyed the saints pack and I cannot help but feel there are big things to come from him yet, but he has had a few shaky games.

            As you say I haven’t seen a massive performance from vunipola yet, but he is solid consistent and always improving. So the better choice to start.

            To be fair to David Wilson he has put in some awesome perfomances for Bath this season as well, but he is a bit more of an old school prop and doesn’t deliver the same dynamism as Cole.

  5. Watched Henry Thomas at the weekend for Sale and said to my mate watching with me that we may well see him playing for England against Rhodri Jones of Wales another outstanding young prop. He is not really ready yet for the highest level of scrummaging but like Tom Youngs is excellent in the loose. I can live with that if Cole not available (I believe Thomas prefers tight, can anybody confirm?)

    1. just wrote my post (above) then read this… great minds!

      yes, as i said in my post, i believe you are right in that Thomas prefers tighthead, which is good for england, as marler and vunipola have LH covered while corbs is out.

  6. “Owen Farrell and Brad Barritt have many admirable qualities, but attacking the gain line and distribution are not two of them” – you couldn’t say anything more derogatory about a fly half and inside centre, surely? And yet, despite most people agreeing with what you say, the clamour is still for these two to play because it works for Saracens. I agree with you – until England “fix” this focus on a JW kicking/rucking/tackling 10 rather than one who gets his backline moving they will always be competitive (the massive pack makes that a fact) but will not overcome teams who do have this (NZ/Aus/France and then Wales/Ire in flashes when their packs can get parity). I agree with 2nd – the pack will get them 2nd this year.

    1. Burns-Twelvetrees-Tuilagi should be the axis that is given time to gel. If not now, then when? Farrell and Barritt just aren’t the future, in my opinion.

      Agree that the pack and Farrell’s boot can get them to 2nd, although with Corbisiero now missing the entire tournament that could be more difficult. Certainly it will be significantly harder against the French pack without him.

      1. i like your burns-12Ts-Manu idea, it was one i had myself. another bonus is, that it should not actually take too long to gel. 12Ts plays with burns at glous, and is a former centre partner with manu at tigers, so he should be able to link the 3 of them quite easily.

    2. Is England’s pack really that massive any more?

      Cole isn’t and neither is Corb. (when he’s fit). Hartley and Youngs aren’t in the Steve Thompson model of hookers. Parling and Launchbury are more rangy than massive. Woods and Robshaw are very similar heights and weights, but neither are particularly huge. Morgan is a big lad at 8 admittedly

      An effective pack certainly but I don’t think its a massive one.

      Would be interested to see the stats, but it seems this ‘massive pack’ idea is a bit of a hangover from the days of the early 2000s

      1. I don’t know the stats but perhaps I used the wrong language. England’s pack is focused on belligerence, power and keeping it tight which comes across as “massive pack with rolling mauls” (gross generalisation I agree as they do have some footballing ability but I’m trying to type this before a meeting…). France is, at the mo, similar. So I think this will be the year where the French and English packs duke it out for the title.

        Wales have a decent enough pack (when fit), Ireland seem to wobble between being good and being shocking, but neither of those have the sort of pack that could batter the other team into submission in the tight. Wales and Fra do.

      2. i understand your point, there does not seem to be a single “monster” in the pack. however if you look at them collectively, they are a pretty large unit.

        Wood is 6ft5, which for a 6 is quite large. the 2ndrows both seem to wight more than you think when you look at them.

        Also bear in mind that you have discussed the starting pack against NZ (with hartley included) but england also have the like of Lawes, Vunipola (x2), Haskell and Waldrom, all of whom are equally as large. so the idea of a big english pack is more to do with the fact that there is not really a “small player” they are all big lads. (tom youngs is short, but build like a brick out house)

        also regarding your comment on hartley, he is 6ft 1, so still a big bloke. and regarding him to Thompson is tough, seeing as tommo did originally start out as a 6 before converting to play 2, so he was an exceptionally large 2.

  7. I slightly agree with Tom Woods’ statement in that they need to beat everyone to show that they’re improving. As it stands at the moment, I am somewhat unimpressed with Wales/Ireland/Scotland (not helped by some injury issues, but it all counts).

    I think at the minimum England should be beating these teams and the France game (In England) I expect will be the tournament winner. That said there are plenty of banana peels for England along the way if they fail to maintain the focus and intensity. Ireland at the Aviva is always tricky and the atmosphere at the Millenium isn’t always the easiest to overcome. Then there’s the gamble of who gets refereed by Alain Rolland.

    Prediction for the tournament, based on form of players in the Heineken/Domestic/Tests and injuries would be

    Wales are suffering worst with injuries at the minute, though I wouldn’t see them any better than 3rd with a full compliment if I’m honest. Ireland at the Aviva for England is always difficult, even when England are the best team out there they have a tendancy to go (horribly) wrong there so it could hinge on that. Don’t see Ireland overturning France though. Scotland and Italy are looking continually unlikely to do much. Could be an interesting competition to avoid the wooden spoon. France to get the grand slam with a narrow win over England at Twickers?

    1. Ah, the Alain Rolland factor! He is still haunting Dan Cole’s nightmares after that game in Treviso a few weeks back.

      Looks to be a solid final table prediction, although if Ireland beat England in Dublin and France beat them at Twickers, wouldn’t Ireland leapfrog them in the table? Or do you think Wales will beat Ireland in the opening round?

      Lots of close calls this year, so I think predicting what the final table will look like is particularly difficult. Who need bonus points eh?

    2. “though I wouldn’t see them any better than 3rd with a full compliment if I’m honest” – that’s Wales’ perennial assessment outside Wales. We’re always told we’re mid-table at best, last 8 of the WC at best, etc. Luckily our record over the last decade disagrees.

      1. Certainly not the perennial assessment at all.
        It is at the moment because they’ve lost their last 7 matches. However we all know they always put in good performances in the 6N, with few exceptions.

  8. I agree with most of what’s been said here regarding Barritt and Farrell as a combination, and why Goode could be very important for England. If Farrell and Barritt are starting (quite likely as neither seem to get injured) then Goode needs to be starting at FB with Brown or Foden on the wing. Goode’s ability to step into the line and create the extra playmaker will catch a lot of teams out. He has very similar attributes to Burns in that he spots the space quickly and has the ability to put people in it. With Brown or Foden on the wing, they will know instinctively when to drop back for defensive duties. Plus they would probably be better than Strettle in defence anyway.

  9. All rugby fans love the excitement of a free flowing running game with tries aplenty. Some of us ex front rowers even enjoy the finer points of the black art of the scrum and to a lesser extent the lineout. But if we look at the game in terms of the final result the BIGGEST factor is kicking whether it is out of hand, restarts, penalties or conversions. Sad I know but pragmatically the most important attribute of a number 10 is his kicking ability particularly if he is the normal place kicker. In the last 6N England had an 82% success rate for penalty kicks at goal and conversions and Wales only 71%. It’s probably why the table was so tight at the end. Farrell is almost certainly the best place kicker in NH rugby, Lancaster is a pragmatist. QED
    On the subject of statistics there are an average of 14 scrums per game and perhaps well under half of them in good attacking positions. Intuitively I have always thought that a dominant scrum was critical to success. The stats don’t seem to support that view. Take a look at some of the analysis is very surprising

  10. “In the last 6N England had an 82% success rate for penalty kicks at goal and conversions and Wales only 71%” – Yes, and Wales won the 6N, thus disproving your thesis?

    Nobody is talking about either/or – but if you have a good kicker and a good distributor/attacker then that is better than just a good kicker? So you need both – Wales achieve this by not forcing the FH to be the kicker so the FH can be picked on rugby ability. It’s not as if England’s other options are bad kickers?

    So I disagree with your suggestion and repeat what I said – that sort of plan (sod the attack, let’s get field and kick the pens) is good enough to get a long way (e.g. 2nd in the 6N or last 4 of the WC) but won’t be good enough to beat the 3/4 other teams who have both a good kicker and a good attacker at FH.

    1. No brighty it proves it. Wales were much the better side but England ran them close because of superior kicking.

      Perhaps I should have made it clear that it’s not my preferred plan just the way I think Lancaster will go. Personally I would like some of the laws changed so kicking ISN’T so important

    2. Roy, sounds to me like we’re agreeing then? England got close to Wales but didn’t beat them – a better attacking FH with decent footballing skills AND kicking would have been enough to get them over the line?

      I guess I’m just mystified by the inclusion of Farrel – in the Leics v Ospreys epic Flood (not a player I rate highly across all FHs but definitely a good one for England) was cutting lines and throwing passes that Farrel wouldn’t have seen if he’d had diagrams drawn for him and 3 weeks to revise them. Flood can kick. 12Trees can kick. Why the need to obsess over a “solid” young lad who’s best attribute seems to be his composure under pressure? Last week I even heard someone feting him because he won turnover ball at a ruck – the person was very impressed, saying “how many FHs do you see do this?”. My answer would be none, thank god, they’re getting out of the way of the forwards so they can handle the backline. As a few English fans have said on here before there is a misconception that Jonny was a kicker and tackling machine first, everything else second. He wasn’t – he could throw a pass and pick a line with the best of them. I think England are now praising the wrong JW attributes and it is blinkering them.

      1. Brighty & Roy – its v easy for us to over complicate these selection dilemmas, so here a game based question.

        who would you rather have had kicking the goals v NZ in that first half – Flood or Farrell?

        The answer is pretty clear to me, Farrell. hes better under pressure and thats a proven fact. proof being he kicked his goals @ twickers v the wolrds best side.
        i dont think flood has the minerals to back up his better all round game.

        1. Good one jimmymcl ! no question for me Farrell. Fortunately Burns isn’t far behind in the kicking stakes so we may still see something different in the last couple of games when he is fit

        2. Absolutely spot on Jimmy!! Flood is inconsistent in his performances for England. Maybe because he always seems to be “returning from injury” and never really stays fit long enough to cement his place. But Farrell is our safest option. We all know he doesn’t do anything fancy in attack, but he does the basics fantastically and kicks his goals. His game management has improved, and that was proved against NZ.
          And Brighty is response to your comment “won’t be good enough to beat the 3/4 other teams who have both a good kicker and a good attacker at FH.” England did beat NZ, and Farrell played about 70 minutes of the match at 10.

          1. With the exceptions of Carter and, to a lesser extent, Sexton, I cannot think of any other teams who currently have both a good kicker and attacker at FH

          2. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I agree with the Welshman!

            Brighty is right. JW was a great attacking fly half. Farrell is not. So there is not a comparison.

            Farrell has no attacking game and would therefore be my third choice fly half.

            Burns kicking stats this season in the premiership are exactly the same as Farrell, 80%, so even that argument in nullified.

            Flood is not that far behind on the kicking tee and he can also play rugby as a fly half should.

            Yes Farrell is playing well in a Saracens shirt, but would someone please imagine what Burns could do behind that Saracen pack? I think it would be a hell of a lot better to watch than anything Farrell has done, and it would also get results.

          3. Jacob, hell finally freezes over! :-)

            Your last point is my point exactly – yes, Farrel does well for Saracens and has done well for England, but they can do better with a kicking flyhalf who can also play.

            Yes, they beat NZ with him but they also lost to relatively flat Aus and SA with him. Also one win against NZ isn’t the target anyway – it’s breaking into and staying in the top 3. I stick by my point that a great pack and great kicker will always make you hard to beat but the top 3 sides will always, over time, be better than that.

        3. Had this Flood/Farrell/Burns debate so many times on here. I’m firmly with Brighty play Flood at ten and you’ll get more penalties, tries and better field position his kinking isn’t even that much worse.

          The NZ game shouldn’t be sited as an example of why we need Farrell. I re watched the game focusing on him as everyone was raving about him. He played terribly but just had an absolute armchair ride. He didn’t even kick all his goals.

          1. i blow hot and cold on both farrell and flood. i usually play devil’s advocate and argue in favour of whoever is being slated at the time…

            but in this situation i think, with the loss of manu for the scotland game, that flood has to get the nod at 10. farrell is the kind of guy who simply puts the ball in the hands of other players, kicks his goals and makes his tackles. without having manu to give the ball and expect him to do something, we need a 10 who will actually do things himself.

            agreed that flood will get you more penalties, he ability to play at pace and keep attacking the line makes a defence desperate, and they give away more penalties. he is arguably as good a kicker as farrell (maybe a tiny bit worse, but not by much). with manu being out we may see farrell and flood together, however i dont think this is the way forward, because farrell will bring goal kicking, which flood can do. I would opt for either JJ or 12Ts to partner flood and barritt against scot.

          2. In response to Brightys comment above it was actually Flood who started the dire Aus and SA matches and Farrell for NZ. Farrels passing looked very sharp in the racing game and is 12trees comes in at 12 we have some additional creativity. Flood has had 50 odd caps to prove himself and goes missing too often when Eng need him the most.

          3. I’m largely of the view that Farrell still hasn’t really done anything in an England shirt other than kick some goals. He’s also missed a few howlers. Against New Zealand even he didn’t seem to do much to move the backline. Standing deep, making all the passes behind the gainline, no clever distribution, no gainline breaks of his own. Has to be said that what won the game for England was some good forward work and some good stuff from Manu intercepting, running and tackling.

  11. Agree with xxxwookie as to predicted order, but top 4 could be in any order really. If Wales get their mojo back they could win, and I quite like how Ireland have been building a squad. France are France – nobody really knows how they are going to play, not even them and England could look like the team that beat NZ, or the one that last beat Scotland!

    First game is going to be really important to build a bit of momentum and belief, so France have the perfect start (probably) and one of Ire or Wales are going to come out of a tight game with confidence.

    Injuries are playing a part already and will do throughout the 6N. Which team has the greatest depth in resources or is the luckiest.

    It’s the 6N – none of us really know what’s going to happen. It will be a rollercoaster, but a fun one.

  12. Farrell seems to be the go to guy at 10 for Lancaster but how about this – Farrell at 10, 12T at 12 and Tom Youngs at 13!!

      1. i get that these two comments are tongue in cheek, but on Dazzas comment about being the closest thing to Tuilagi in bulk, Twelvetrees is 6ft3 and 100kgs. granted that that is about 12kgs lighter than manu, but it is still 5kgs bigger than barritt and 10kgs more than JJ. i think 12Ts would be the best option to come in at 12, because he has the size, but also the extra dimensions of a passing and kicking game.

  13. I didnt really agree with the focus on farrell after the nz game, the pack should have got all the plaudits. think it was the moment that farrell managed a game particularly well. it will take england losing a game in the first few for burns to get a chance which is bad for him as i’m not sure there is much else he can do. be good to see england without tuilagi and barritt together to break the idea that is our best combo. in the nz game the more i watch their combination for the try, the more schoolboy their skills looked. remember watching on tv thinking they would butcher it! we need one creative centre, maybe will greenwood could have a chat with some of the options there as he and tindall were the perfect english centre combo for our style of play lke it or not

    1. definitely agree that the forwards were the main contributors in that game. but they have had a fair few plaudits, wood was MOM, launchbury has been talked about a lot since. even manu has had huge amounts of praise.

      i think twelvetrees and jj are the creative centres in the squad. 12Ts has spent a fair bit of time at 10, and based on some of the rugby he has played, has potential to create things for people around him (as well as for himself). JJ is the kind of guy who can make a break out of nothing. then he has a good pass, so players have to get with him if we want to score. the issue is, the way things have been going, it seems the management want to make sure that they dont lose a game, rather than winning one (if you get what i mean…) so they pick very solid players at 10,12,13. Manu is the biggest english attacking threat, and in reality all he is is a bulldozer (granted an extremely good one) but there is a lack of creativity in the 10,12 shirts, meaning that we rely on manu to smash through and then give someone like ashton the ball.

  14. With Tuilagi out, I think Joseph is the obvious choice to replace him. Next in line for a chance to show off his talents. I really hope Lancaster doesn’t put Farrell in the centre with Barritt for stability, as we really need someone outside Barritt to create something.
    Lancaster might consider playing Goode at 13 (he’s played there a couple of times for Sarries) as a creative option, and he obviously knows Barritt very well. I think Twelvetrees is more of a 12 who can play 13, but not sure if he’s as creative as Jospeh or Goode?

    1. although i would love to see 12Ts given a go (and i agree he is more of a 12, so it would require barritt to shift out one) i do think you are right that JJ has to be next in line. he has been in the england squad for a while now, but has been given very few chances. this is a chance to give him that shot. if they dont let him have a go, then you have to start asking why he is even in the squad over some of the guys in the saxons.

    2. Dazza – do you or anyone else wknow when the announce the team?

      Lancaser said this “Brad will be in the equation and we need to make sure we can still break the gain line and have physical defenders. We’ve got to have the ability to get across the gain line and defend.”

      i reckon this means that Fh is gfarrell with Brad and 12t @ 12 & 13.or perhaps flood, farrell and barrit. JJ or 12ty on bench.

          1. When Farrell plays in the centres at Sarries, he plays at 13 mostly with Barritt at 12. This works for Sarries, and Farrell himself has even scored some tries when playing at 13. But for England I can’t see it working.
            Personally I would start with Farrell, Barritt and JJ. JJ is pretty good in defence, but it won’t really matter because Farrell and Barritt will cover most of the centre defensive duties. But in attack JJ will make a difference. His quick feet and good step could open up serious holes in any team, but particularly against a Scottish team coached by Scott Johnson. If Scotland’s defence looked dodgy before……….?

  15. Another positive about Farrell is his ability to get in the face of his opposite number. Something which again most FH’s don’t do.

  16. No Corbs is a big loss, every 6N side has an excellent or even world class tighthead. Marler did OK against the Boks (certainly didn’t have the upper hand) but was owned by the Aussies. I think Vunipola will be the better option, huge test for him though.

    With no Manu attracting 2 or 3 defenders for the first game I do have some concerns about our ability to find any space in the midfield, I would pick 12trees to hopefully resolve that. 12trees all round game also means there is less reliance on Goode being the extra distributor, in which case I would prefer Foden back in as a better strike runner.

    Wales and Ireland away along with France at home are all really hard fixtures and I don’t think we will win all of those. I’m expecting a 2nd or 3rd place finish as I think we are so evenly matched against the Irish. France have been both good and consistent, so think they will have 4 or 5 wins.

    1. Corbs, Marler and Vunipola are all looseheads

      If you’re not playing Goode at fullback, surely it has to be Brown? Foden is only just back from injury and is re-dicovering form. Brown just keep on churning out excellent perfomances at every level

      1. i’m a big fan of foden, but have to agree, goode should start at 15 with brown at 11. if you arent going to play goode, then brown has to be 15, with foden at 11.

        but in my eyes goode and brown should start, foden should be on the bench for the first test. and if i was SL, i would not be afraid to take ashton off for foden if he is not performing. foden and brown provide enough finishing power that they are better than a misfiring ashton.

      2. Yes, they are all looseheads, scrummaging against the likes of Ross, Murray, Jones, Mas and Castro who are are exceptional tightheads. With no Corbs every game is going to be a very tough examination for a young loosehead.

        Foden has been back from injury for a while now. I think our best back 3 at the moment is Brown, Foden and Ashton, but it only works if there is a distributing 2nd receiver, i.e. 12trees.

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