Time for England’s ‘finishers’ to start?

Jamie George

Whatever you think of Eddie Jones’ decision to refer to his bench as ‘finishers’, there can be do doubting they have made a huge contribution when called upon in England’s opening two Six Nations games.

As we enter the fallow week before next Sunday’s game against Italy, a lot of people are calling for players such as Jamie George, Danny Care and Ben Te’o to be given a chance as ‘starters’.

I was against making extensive changes after England’s ineffectual display against France on the opening weekend and thankfully the team responded by raising their performance against Wales – the result was an uncompromising test match that England took by the slimmest of margins.

Ireland show the way

The reason why I would back changes for the Italy game is partly due to the result of the Italy/Ireland match last weekend.

Ireland thrashed Italy 63-10, securing a bonus point in the process. With England still to travel to Dublin on the final weekend, this bonus point – and the decisive scoreline – could become all-important.

Particularly when we see Wales failed to secure the necessary fourth try themselves in their match against Italy.

England will win this match (oh oh… I have jinxed it now). But they need to do more than just edge a tight encounter. It needs to be looked at through the lens of the necessary four-try victory, which means it can’t be used in an effort to get players like Dylan Hartley, Ben Youngs and Jonathan Joseph back to their best.

If Hartley was sure of a starting berth back at Northampton, I would have suggested sending him home for some game time. But as that looks unlikely, he will have to settle for being part of the finishers this week.

Ireland’s victory was built around an aggressive and direct performance from key members of their team, such as hat-trick-hero CJ Stander. He looks like he would carry through a brick wall if asked to by his teammates. He showed England exactly what they will need to do if they are to register a similar victory.

For me, this means Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler and Ben Te’o should start. They will offer the direct carrying and power England have lacked so far, while the tactical and set-piece security offered by the players they are replacing is less vital. Danny Care should also come in to provide a zip from the breakdown and get this England team on the front foot.

What about Haskell?
The one player I would resist starting is James Haskell. That goes against what I said last week, but the fact Eddie Jones did not start him against Wales, instead opting for Jack Clifford, raised some red flags.

The toe injury he suffered is clearly still being carefully managed and they want to avoid a flare-up similar to that he suffered in the Wasps game against Zebre. He must be fit out side of that – the lengths they put Dylan Hartley through to prove his match fitness show they are not gambling on players having the stamina for a test match.

So what do you think? Time to give the ‘finishers’ a start?

My team for the Italy game:
1 Marler; 2 George; 3 Sinckler; 4 Launchbury; 5 Lawes; 6 Itoje; 7 Clifford; 8 Hughes; 9 Care; 10 Ford; 11 Daly; 12 Farrell; 13 Te’o; 14 Nowell; 15 Brown

16 Hartley; 17 Mullan; 18 Cole; 19 Wood; 20 Haskell; 21 Youngs; 22 Joseph; 23 May

By Henry Ker

15 thoughts on “Time for England’s ‘finishers’ to start?

  1. I agree we need to aim for five points and from a glass half empty perspective (a loss in Dublin), a big score as I think we could end up on the same points in the table as the Irish and presumably points difference comes into play there.

    However, with Scotland and Ireland in mind I would use this to try to get a few key guys Test fit. I think Mako and Watson are in line for club games this weekend so assuming they come through I’d throw them straight in. While Clifford might be more conducive to a big score, I’d also want Haskell back for the tougher games so would give him a good hour here.

    Could be totally wrong but suspect Eddie sees Daly at fullback for the World Cup and may give that a go. We can probably live without Brown’s ferocity for this one. Beyond that I’d resist any further changes, particularly Te’o as that would be a fairly significant shift in approach.

    My team for the Italy game:
    1 Vunipola; 2 George; 3 Cole; 4 Launchbury; 5 Lawes; 6 Itoje; 7 Haskell; 8 Hughes; 9 Youngs; 10 Ford; 11 Nowell; 12 Farrell; 13 Joseph; 14 Watson; 15 Daly
    16 Hartley; 17 Marler; 18 Sinckler; 19 Ewels; 20 Clifford; 21 Care; 22 Slade; 23 Te’o

    1. I just think that George is the future and Hartley is most probably just not match fit yet. I liked Sinklers 10 mins against Wales.

  2. I agree with the team but I would have May on the Wing, move Daly to Fullback and have Brown on the bench.

  3. I think the team we should be building towards with the 2019 RWC in mind is
    Mako, George, Sinkler, Kruis, Itoje, Robshaw, Clifford?, Billy, Robson, Farrell, Nowell, Teo, Joseph, Watson, Daly
    Taylor, Marler, Cole, Launch, Hughes, Youngs, Ford, May

    With that in mind and with the players available I would like to see the following
    Mako, George, Sinkler, Launchbury, Itoje, Haskell, Clifford, Hughes, Youngs, Farrell, Nowell, Teo, Joseph, Watson, Daly
    Hartley, Marler, Cole, Lawes, Wood, Care, Ford, May

  4. The issue I have with Care coming straight in and him being attributed with ‘quick’ ball, is that is entrances into the matches thusfar have coincided with the introductions of Haskell, George and Te’o. I.e., he suddenly has a pack rumbling forward (against tiring opposition) and quick ball to use. If just Care and Youngs were swapped now, we’d be talking about the same problem in reverse.

    I’d stick with Youngs but bring in George and Haskell at least, and possibly Te’o, to give him a solid platform to work with. If he is still looking sluggish despite good work by the forwards, then he can be hooked at half time.

    Let’s not forget that when England were winning the collisions in the first 20 he was a dominant figure in varying the attack, and picked up a try too.

  5. Mullan (and Mako V for that part) are not in the retained squad are they?

    Genge is, and certainly he fits the bill of an impact player for more than Mullan (or Marler for that matter) as he is a really explosive ball carrier.

    Coming on late in the game would largely protect him from any serious exposure in the scrum.

    Question from me is; if Hartley doesn’t start, do you put him in the 23 at all?

    1. Good point! Although think that squad is for the training week so think Jones can revise it ahead of the Italy game next week. But you are totally right, Genge makes much more sense for the argument I was making than Mullan. I would swap them.

    2. Not in my book Blub. The fact that there are people advocating that he should start because he needs game time and would be unlikely to get a game if he went back to Saints speaks volumes on where he rates as a hooker. Mickey Haywood is good but a long way down the queue of players hoping to play for England. George has the potential to be world class which Hartley never was and never will be, so let him start and put Cowan Dickie or Taylor on the bench. I think Care deserves a start and would like to see Farrell at 10. If one asks who Stander and his mates would rather be charging at down the close channels to prevent England winning in Dublin I know who they would prefer.

  6. From their respective showings on the weekend, I would much rather keep Daly in the centres where he can influence play much more. And Nowell is a great defensive player with very good aerial positioning, and the general consensus is that he’s a strong individual attacking player, so why not put him 15?

    1. Daly has been on the wing, not centre. He’d likely have more involvement at fullback.

      For me, Nowell on the wing and JJ at 13 are strong long term options, whereas Brown at 15 arguably isn’t.

  7. Personally, whilst I’ve liked Te’os appearances, I just don’t see him as a 13. Jones will want someone there who can release his back three and I don’t think Te’o offers enough of that. And since I don’t want to see the Ford/Farrell axis broken up, Te’o stays as a finisher.

    If Mako comes through the Sarries game, I’d start him. I also want Haskell to have an hour so I’d start him, as well as shifting Daly to full back to accommodate Watson. George/Hartley is a tough one. Whilst being a Hartley advocate, I think it’s time.

    Mako, George, Cole, Launchbury, Lawes, Itoje, Haskell, Hughes, Youngs, Ford, Nowell, Farrell, Joseph, Watson, Daly
    Hartley, Marler, Sinkler, Ewels, Clifford, Care, Te’o, May

    1. i like Brown, watch the France England, Wales England game and you will see his contribution is huge. He is like an extra player on the pitch. He [lays like a forward in contact and very well to. I agree his passing needs working but that will happen.

      1. Just want to add that his age might be against him as he is 31ish. I think he is a great player and on the whole he adds more to this team then just Rugby skills. He and Farrell have developed great attitudes.

      2. Dulls

        I’ve always been a Brown advocate (having largely ignored the past calls on here to replace him with Goode) but if he is going to learn to pass the ball and “that will happen” as you say, i hope ot happens soon! He’s certainly taking his time and fast running out of training camps and 6Ns to practise and then execute the art of throwing an opponent selling pass (something most rugby players learn to do pretty early on, myself included)
        Overrall i agree he is a great player. His defence is awesome (great try saving tackles against the french and welsh) and runs alot of ball in hand yardage that normally results in good ball retention.
        I’m definitely looking for a marked improvement in the passing stakes having drawn a man! Can but hope!

  8. My team for the Italy game would be:
    1. Mako, 2. George, 3. Sinckler, 4. Launchbury, 5. Itoje, 6. Haskell, 7. Clifford, 8. Hughes, 9. Care, 10. Farrell, 11. Watson, 12. T’eo, 13. Joseph, 14. Nowell, 15. Daly
    16. Hartley, 17. Genge, 18. Cole, 19. Lawes, 20. Ewels, 21. Youngs, 22. Ford, 23. May.
    I don’t see the need to have Wood in there anymore. Itoje, Lawes and even Launchbury have all played at 6 and could fill in there if necessary. Haskell and Clifford can play across the back row so no need for another flanker on the bench. Ideal chance to give Ewels some game time late on.

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