The Rugby Blog picks the England team

Following the series of polls last week in which we asked our readers to pick the England team, we can now confirm the results. Johnno – are you reading?

Andrew Sheridan was a clear favourite in the front row, and should take his place as soon as he is fit again. In his absence, Tim Payne was the only real option in the Elite Squad but people clearly believe that he should just be keeping the left side of the scrum warm until Sheri returns.

David Wilson was preferred to Julian White at tighthead prop, whilst Dylan Hartley was by far the most popular choice at hooker with 82% of the votes.

In the second row, there were two clear favourites, and this could be the key difference between Johnno’s team and The Rugby Blog’s team. Simon Shaw was the front runner alongside the young Courtney Lawes – what a partnership this could be, but alas, with Borthwick continuing as skipper, we may never see it.

With Tom Croft injured, the back row almost picks itself – James Haskell, Lewis Moody and Nick Easter is a pretty solid unit, and when Croft returns, the competition for places should only enhance performances. Chris Robshaw was the fourth most popular back rower, and could be a good option on the bench, although with Borthwick likely to be starting, Lawes could be ideal on the bench to cover the back 5 in the scrum.

Danny Care and Jonny Wilkinson were preferred at half-back with 61% and 66% of the vote respectively. After Paul Hodgson’s disappointing display against Leinster, this could well be the starting half-back pairing.

A centre partnership of Riki Flutey and Mathew Tait might just rouse some level of excitement among The Rugby Blog’s readers, but this seems like a big step away from Ayoola Erinle and Dan Hipkiss who started in England’s last outing against the All Blacks. If Flutey and Tait were to get the nod, we might actually see some attacking from England’s backs – our collective fingers are crossed.

The back three also picked itself to some extent. With Tait in the centres, the general consensus was Ugo Monye and Mark Cueto on either wing, with Delon Armitage restored at full-back. Ben Foden would then be a useful man to have on the bench, covering a number of positions with the ability to bring a bit of flair to proceedings.

Here is The Rugby Blog’s preferred England team in full. What do you think? What would your starting team be?

1. Payne (Sheridan if fit)
2. Hartley
3. Wilson
4. Shaw
5. Lawes
6. Haskell
7. Moody
8. Easter

9. Care
10. Wilkinson
11. Monye
12. Flutey
13. Tait
14. Cueto
15. Armitage

16 thoughts on “The Rugby Blog picks the England team

  1. Do you think there is that much importance on a ‘lineout tactician’? Shaw has been around the block a few times, and I’d be confident that he knows what he is doing.

    With other leaders in the pack like Moody, Easter and Hartley, I think it would be fine.

    It’s inconsequential anyway since Borthers will start, but it’s an interesting debate.

  2. We don’t need a “lineout tactician” during the second test of the lions tour, Shaw took everything at the front and just because Lawes has other strengths it doesn’t mean he can’t jump in the lineout.

    AND if we really want a lineout specialist why not Kennedy, he rules at Irish and during his forgoten season for England was a one man show at the lineout.

    Tait has to be given a run, 5 games, let him settle. HOWEVER if Wilko pplays 10 miles behind the gain line he will get magled, blamed and dropped in that order.

  3. Borthwick took Kennedy apart at the lineout when Sarries met London Irish earlier in the season. Add to that the fact that in an England team struggling for form, as many experienced leaders on the pitch as possible is a good thing, throwing a lineweight Kennedy in (when our front row is looking creaky as it is) wouldn’t do anything. He offers even less around the pitch than Borthwick and he practically gave away our match against Ireland when his defensive lapse let BOD in for a try.

    Shaw is fantastic at most things, decyphering and winning lineout ball isn’t top of his list. That’s Borthwick’s job. Lawes’ time will come, no sense rushing him. The lineout is a huge source of possession in the modern game, and with Croft missing in action, Borthwick’s role in the team takes on even more importance.

  4. I would definitely agree that it is essential that there is a lineout ‘expert’ in the team, and since Borthwick does have that quality about him it makes sense to name him as a starter. I would like to see Lawes get decnt game time however, brought on for a tiring shaw at about 60 mins? also would like to see Kennedy and Lawes together as for me, they are the second row partnership for the future.

    I’d also like to see Wilko play off the bench, this would give england more flexibility, allowing wilko to play a conservative and attritional game, whilst starting flood with flutey and tait outside him to allow England to actually play some exciting rugby.

  5. Sorry Steve, but have to disagree with you on one major point:

    “Lawes’ time will come, no sense rushing him.”

    Lawes has shown this season he isn’t fazed by big names or occasions (game against Munster springs to mind) so I don’t think it is a case of ‘rushing him’, let’s see what the lad can do.

    And in a sense we are in a rush, come the World Cup I am sure most England fans would prefer a 20 cap Lawes with all the experience that goes with those games than a guy that has been used off the bench a few times.

    I almost give up with the Borthwick argument, Johnno insists on having him in and therefore he will be in. As a prop, whilst a ‘line out technician’ is helpful it isn’t particularly hard for forwards to follow their man in a line out and jump if he jumps. Too much emphasis is put on it in my view, and too much weight on line out ball – important, yes… over everything else, no.

  6. Can we discuss the backs now, please?

    Is anybody else disappointed that Ashton isn’t being given a run? Having been released to his club I assume he won’t even make the bench for the Wales game. I think his scoring record is something like 62 tries in 67 games since converting from rugby league. You can’t argue with stats like that.

    I also have a nasty suspicion that Banahan will start the Wales game.

    And if Wilko won’t play on the gain line (I accept he shouldn’t when he intends to kick) how long will Johnson leave it before bringing on Flood? Too long, probably.

    So, plenty to worry about (if you’re an England supporter).

  7. Very disappointed to see Ashton released last week, but Johnno says he’s still in contention. Not sure whether to bother getting hopes up though!

    Surely Banahan won’t start. Cueto and Monye is more likely I think, I hope.

    Indeed, plenty of worries. Selection announced on Tuesday, and there will no doubt be plenty to discuss!

  8. I think that the 2nd row has to be a Borthwick/Kennedy and Shaw/Lawes combo. Shaw and Lawes offer a similar amount, brute tackling, gaining hard yards, bruising the break down. Deacon however is an average Borthwich and needs no place in the Elite squad.

    In the backs (and I know it’s often unpopular) I would start with Hape and see what he can do at International level. Creative, bruising, great step, eye for a gap, capable of playing it wide when the option’s open, just now got to see if he can cope with International rugby.

  9. Didn’t realise that. Crazy, he’s the in form winger in the GPS and our wingers are not performing (granted they don’t see the ball but hey). Why not pick these guys when they are flying and full of confidence?

    Are we building up to an Ashton debut in 2015 during a 7 try-season? That seems to be how to get into the England team right now.

  10. A Welsh perspective if I may and highlighting some of Wales’ selection points.

    I take it that Sheridan will not be fit to play yet but will feature at some time in the 6 Nations ? Wales will probably have the Lions second test starting front-row out subject to Matthew Rees coming through his LV trophy run out this weekend so Sheridan may be missed.

    Borthwick is in of course and as England captain he certainly gets a bad press ,it doesn’t all seem justified though. Wales choices (A Wyn Jones is a cert to start ) will be one from Gough ,Jon Thomas or beanpole Charteris.Gough would be my preference but he his short of game time so J Thomas or Charteris more likely because of the line-out issue and Borthwicks selection.

    Flutey and Tait would be a very positive selection at centre and I would be concerned to see it ! Jamie Roberts will start for Wales ,Hook ,Bishop or Jon Davies to partner him.Wales have lacked creativity of late ,with Flutey and Tait offering this for England then I’d like to see Hook starting . Bishop’s defence is excellent though.

    M Phillips is in the same position as Sheridan i.e will feature sometime but not yet Peel is out too -Richie Rees played well for the Blues at Harlequins recently he and Care having an excellent match up on the day ,he may force a start out of this as Gatland has praised him recently.

    Wingers are an issue for Wales ,Shane is coming back from injury and was out of sorts against Leicester again he features this weekend to get game time.Banahan gives the impression of being clumsy a fully in form Shane running at him would be good from a Welsh perspective if it happened.

    Halfpenny has injury issues some have mentioned shifting Jamie Roberts to the wing which is unlikely so Tom James who has his moments could be in he still appears to be learning the international game though. A complete wildcard would be Kristian Phillips the 19 yr old Neath/Ospreys wing parachuted into the squad who also plays this week like he is as fast as the proverbial brown stuff off a shovel and Halfpenny has shown that youth can have it’s day however if Tom James is still learning then Phillips is in pre-school .

    Byrne is away today learning his 16th man fate if not under a ban then he has shown good form otherwise Hook will start at full-back where like the curates egg he was good in parts during the Autumn.

    Wales have selection issues therefore in crucial areas I would expect that England side to start as favourites at Twickenham .

  11. I go along with the side picked but have a few issues. Lawes is not ready yet for a starting spot. My favoured pairing would be Shaw and Kennedy. I would favour a youngster at loose head. The selectors have Mullan in mind so I would give him the start in Sheridans absence. I am surprised with the support Haskell has received at 6. My choice would be Dowson who is an outstanding back row man and in superb form. Perhaps he will perform well enough for the Saxons to force his way in for the next game. Otherwise I think voters have picked correctly

  12. If Johnno could ever sort his captaincy problem out (Hartley step forward?)
    then the dream pairing of Lawes and Shaw could happen.Went to the England Australia Autumn test and Borthwick was onimous as a player and as a captain..
    Think if we are going to try and play a bit of flair rugby then surely we should gamble on Ben Youngs and not the fiery Care.
    Wilkinson and Monye are not showing any kind of form at international level at the mo and have had plenty of chances to do so. Step forward Flood and Ashton…

  13. “Wilkinson and Monye are not showing any kind of form at international level at the mo and have had plenty of chances to do so”

    Wilkinson has been injured for the last 7 years! The Autumn internationals were his first games back in about 5 years! How has he had plenty of chances? Granted, he wasn’t amazing in the Autumn internationals, but other than Moody, name me someone who was? Didn’t most people rate (on this site) his performances at about a 7 for all 3 games? Thats not bad for your first three games back – and with a fairly weak team. Plus he spent all his time covering fullback in those games, and if he hadn’t, the score lines would have much worse. He has been playing brilliantly for Toulon since moving, and I think everyone needs to stop expecting so much of him so soon after his return.

    As for Monye, he shouldn’t even he in the EPS at the moment. Such a shame Ashton won’t be played

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