The England Team To Face Wales

England coach Martin Johnson has today named his side to face Wales in their opening match of the Six Nations on Saturday at 5pm.

Johnson has named Mathew Tait alongside Riki Flutey, a move that might finally draw a line under Tait’s mysterious absence from an England starting line-up since his line breaks in the RWC of 2007.  The hotly debated number nine jersey is given to Danny Care – a player who is hoping he can be permitted to play his club’s style of quick-ball rugby, rather than the over-prescriptive dour stuff we saw in the autumn.

Armitage returns at 15 and Nick Easter start at number 8 in a side that sees a total of 6 changes from the team that started against New Zealand in November.  The replacements include the uncapped Dan Cole and Northampton talent Ben Foden.

15 Delon Armitage (London Irish)
14 Mark Cueto (Sale Sharks)
13 Mathew Tait (Sale Sharks)
12 Riki Flutey (CA Brive)
11 Ugo Monye (Harlequins)
10 Jonny Wilkinson (RC Toulon)
9 Danny Care (Harlequins)
1 Tim Payne (London Wasps)
2 Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints)
3 David Wilson (Bath Rugby)
4 Simon Shaw (London Wasps)
5 Steve Borthwick (Saracens, captain)
6 James Haskell (Stade Francais)
7 Lewis Moody (Leicester Tigers)
8 Nick Easter (Harlequins)

Replacements
16 Steve Thompson (CA Brive)
17 Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers)
18 Louis Deacon (Leicester Tigers)
19 Steffon Armitage (London Irish)
20 Paul Hodgson (London Irish)
21 Toby Flood (Leicester Tigers)
22 Ben Foden (Northampton Saints)

So what do you think?  Has Johnno finally seen sense?  Are there greater changes you would like to have seen? 

Dont forget to listen to our Ultimate 6 Nations Preview podcast where you can hear from England starters Nick Easter, Ugo Monye & Mark Cueto, aswell as all the other nations –  available to listen to now or via iTunes.

24 thoughts on “The England Team To Face Wales

  1. With the exception of Payne that’s a good team. But the selection of Payne could really hurt the side, as England will need to boss the set piece, and against the current brilliant Welsh front row selecting the worst prop available makes little sense.

    What more Lawes has to do is beyond me. Sign for Leicester?

    Cueto in and Ashton out is justifiable. Cueto has never let anyone down. Ashton remains raw. He’ll have Cueto’s shirt, just not quite yet. And that’s probably fair enough

  2. Fairly happy with the line up. Great to see Flutey and Tait partnership…let’s hope Jonny can get them going forward.

    Still bemused at what Deacon is doing there…hardly an impact player on the bench.

  3. As expected really and aside from Borthers not a bad starting XV. I’d have gone for Ashton over Cueto and how Courtney Lawes is worse than Louis Deacon when he can also cover back-row is completely beyond me. Shane G would also have been on the bench instead of Flood for me but there you go, that one is more arguable.

  4. How Deacon has been selected yet again over Lawes is a joke, and I’m dissappointed that Ashton is obviously gonna be overlooked, especially given Monyes recently poor performances, however on the whole I’m quite happy with this team. Hoping to see Coleand Foden get a chance to show what they can do

  5. An appearance of anyone other than Tait at 13 would have led me to continue my view of Johnson. However, the inclusion of Care aswell suggests to me that he might be throwing a bit more caution to the wind. Not much obviously, without Ashton and Lawes, but little steps Johnno, little steps…

    Also, Foden’s been told he’s gonna get game time, so fingers crossed we’re 20 points up with 20 to go and he gets more than about six minutes…!!

  6. Given how anti-Johnson most of us have been in recent months, we’ve got to at least recognise the positives.

    Tait – finally…
    Care – so long as we get quick ball, he can be genuinely dangerous
    Cole/Foden – on the bench and finally blooding young talent

    But as ever, there seems to be a degree of caution with the likes of Deacon (just plain bizarre…). And i have to say i am hugely worried about Payne.

    I have never understood what this guy has done to deserve getting in a Wasps shirt, let along an England shirt. He is going to get murdered on Sat… I get that we don’t exactly have an abundance of available talent in the front row at the moment and it would be a huge match to throw Cole straight in to. But what’s the alternative? That Payne gets a trousers down spanking for 40 minutes, continually being pinged (as he was vs. Leicester the other week) and then Cole comes on in the 2nd half against a Welsh scum with its tail up and told to take them on. Now that would be a baptism of fire…

    Still, here’s hoping. The naivety of the week before the first match where optimism can burn brightly!

  7. I like this team, a lot. I agree Garnetto – the front row is looking by far the weakest point, especially given Wales are strong in their props. Personally, although I think Care offers more, Hodgson performed far better in the Autumn so perhaps deserved to keep his spot. I’m not unhappy about this selection though – it shows ambition.

    The back line looks fiery and Monye hit some form last weekend with a couple of very well taken tries. Excited to see what Flutey and Tait can offer in the centres – let’s hope they’re not bulldozed by Roberts and Shanklin though.

    I share the same doubts about Deacon being an ‘impact’ player but let’s chuck Foden on and see what he can do.

    Damn, I’ve let myself get that pre-tournament excitement and hope again.

  8. Firstly I have decided that the initial amusement of the name Wetpants has worn off and that after a recent round of Urban golf Garnetto should inherit the title!

    Secondly Very happy with the choices in the backs, lets just hope that Wilko was being told to stand so deep in the Autumn and comes up a lot to bring in Flutes and Taitey.

    Share all the same concerns as you guys with the scrum we stand a very good chance of getting mullered up front in set pieces and think we will just have to hope that the back row and secure enough good ball in open play to give us some go forward, but they’re going to have to work immensely hard to make that happen.

  9. Apparently Lawes has a slight groin strain. I’m hoping the fact that the management have been fairly quick to get this out means that they’re suggesting they would have picked him, even if on the bench, otherwise.

  10. Bizarrely for an England team, I have more concerns with the choices in the forwards than in the backs. Nobody seems to think that Tait is a bad choice so it just begs the question as to why he was left out for so long… guess that’s what happens when you give forwards control of picking the team…

    To be fair to Payne, I watched him Muller the Harlequins scrum before Christmas. But to be fair to Harlequins, they have (and had) a very inexperienced front row still in the process of finding a replacement for Mike Ross. Since that game, Payne has been shown to be anonymous in the loose, absent in the tight and noticeably bad in the scrum against younger and more talented individuals. I’d rather Johnson picked an equally rubbish young prop, because at least he might get better.

    Now to Borthwick. As I mentioned elsewhere on this site, you can’t pick a man to lead a rugby team based on his leadership skills alone. Pick any of the myriad other second row options, stick them next to Shaw and you can’t go too far wrong. The only one I wouldn’t have instead is Louis Deacon. Not intenational class.

    Those two aside, this selection should fill us with hope. More hope then last year… and England came second last year…

  11. glad to see tait back in the fold, with teh back line looking like it’s ready to attack. just hope that the up and under from wilko isn’t used too much. the front row battle is definately Wales’ to lose given that payne is starting. as far as lawes goes, it’s good to see the england camp protecting him with his injury and getting to 100% before considering to unlesh him (i hope). seen too many players, like croft, come back too soon only to see them get injured again.

  12. I’m on the emotional rollercoaster already. Initially, I was content that no ridiculous selections had been made.

    That was followed by delight that Flutey and Tait were starting in the centres, and for me it marks a real shift from Johnno’s previous selections.

    Confusion followed delight though as I considered the bench selections…what on earth does Deacon offer? If Lawes is injured, it’s right not to select him, but it’s a shame.

    And now, reading everyone’s comments, I’m concerned. Payne is not going to be able to live with the Welsh front row, and they’ll obviously be targeting that area of the game. The set piece is always critical, particularly when sides are fairly evenly matched, and if we don’t get any ball, we won’t see the backs at their best.

  13. Lawes is injured which explains his non-selection. So is Kennedy so, although not great, Deacon’s selection is understandable. They’re not going to suddenly relegate him to 6th choice 2nd row, for all that I agree he shouldn’t have been there in the first place.

    Like the look of this team. Decent balance although bit of a lack of physicality in the backs. I’ve spent 3 years calling for Tait to be picked and just as I was starting to say that actually he’s not that great he gets picked. He’s an old-fashioned 13, there aren’t many Guscott style players around anymore withe the likes of Fourie, Shanklin, Mortlock etc dominating. His model should obviously be O’Driscoll who still has an outside break, unlike most modern 13s, but is also as good as most international open sides over the ball. If Tait has learned to do the sh!t stuff as well as using his talents then he could be there for a while.

    Hope Care gets licence to put some pace on the game and take the initiative. He can have the impact Dwayne Peel did in 2005 if he’s allowed to do that.

  14. Just thought I would weigh in by slagging off Tim Payne. Nothing personal against Payne it’s just that I have a habit of slagging off players on this blog who then turn round and have a blinder, so it’s worth a try!

    I once ridiculed Al Baxter on here and he out-scrummaged Sheridan, so it really does work for any player, so here goes – Payne is a crap selection and he will be murdered by the Welsh scrum, or “Welsh scum” as Garnetto calls it – Freudian slip there Garnetto?!

    Not much else to add and agree with all on here that it’s not a bad selection and looking forward to Saturday with cautious optimism.

  15. I agree with the team (on the whole,) at first i was unimpressed by the deacon selection but with the injuries i see no one else who could be there. I like most do not agree with Borthwick even being in the squad never mind the match day 22, Johnson talks of his leadership skills yet when i see england games i see no evidence of this, surely a captain should lead by example and prove himself in rugby terms first before leadership and on rugby perfomance this simple fact is he is not up to the job. Johnson has said his picks his captain game by game but i have a feeling this will not be the case, whilst no one at the minute stands out as a leader it is time for a change, no one expects England to perform amazingly so why not take risks? However what worries me most is why Golding (the prop who destroyed pain) is not even in the Saxons! Moan over, the team is much better than i expected roll on saturday!

  16. Stuart, promising comments from Johnson with regard to Care fitting into England’s game plan:

    “Danny is probably the best running nine that we have. He is playing very well and he is the best guy for what we want to do on Saturday.”

  17. Hopefully he’ll be given license to inject speed and take some quick tap penalties. Most promising is the comment about ‘what we want to do on Saturday’. It’s an attacking team – let’s hope we see the performance to match.

  18. Birdies, good point about Golding. He’s been one of the best scrummagers in the Premiership for a year now. Can only think they reckon he’s being draged forward by Carl Hayman. Golding didn’t actually destroy Payne as they’re both looseheads and therefore not in direct opposition but he has done a job on plenty of people this season. If he was at Leicester, Wasps or Bath I rather suspect he’d be there or thereabouts.

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