What will England’s squad to tour New Zealand look like?


With injuries to key players and uncertainty surrounding the availability of others, Stuart Lancaster faces the most difficult squad selection for some time. It’s been mooted that he’ll take a squad of somewhere between 40-50, given that he won’t know until after the squad announcement who he will be with or without for the first test. Here, we look at those who are certain to travel, those who will probably do so, and (because it’s fun) those who would be a left-field pick.

Not touring: Christian Wade, Alex Corbisiero, Tom Youngs, Tom Croft, Jack Nowell, Dan Cole


Dead certs: Joe Marler, David Wilson, Mako Vunipola
Probables: Henry Thomas, Matt Mullan
Bolters: Kyle Sinckler, Kieran Brookes, Alex Waller, Nathan Catt

The tighthead cupboard looks particularly bare. With Cole injured, there is not much after Dave Wilson. Lancaster’s leaving of Thomas on the bench for the majority of the Six Nations didn’t scream of trusting him at the top level, while the likes of Sinckler and Brookes are no where near ready for test rugby yet, but are probably the next cabs off the rank. At loosehead, it would be good to see someone like Catt or Waller travel in place of Matt Mullan, who feels like little more than a stop gap.


Dead certs: Dylan Hartley
Probables: Dave Ward, Rob Webber
Bolters: Jamie George, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Tommy Taylor

A real problem area. With Youngs out for family reasons, Webber an injury doubt and Hartley likely to either be unavailable or injured for the first test, Dave Ward has emerged as the most unlikely of candidates to start that game. He has had an outstanding season though, so fair play to him. Jamie George looks likely to travel if Webber doesn’t recover from injury in time.


Dead certs: Joe Launchbury, Courtney Lawes, Geoff Parling, Dave Attwood
Probables: Ed Slater
Bolters: Graham Kitchener, Michael Paterson, Elliot Stooke

Probably England’s area of greatest strength. Parling’s return from injury means he will definitely travel, along with the trio that performed so well in the Six Nations, but so should one of Ed Slater or Michael Paterson, both of whom have had exemplary seasons. You could pick two of any of the above and it would be a high-class partnership.

Back row

Dead certs: Chris Robshaw, Tom Wood, Billy Vunipola, Ben Morgan
Probables: James Haskell, Tom Johnson, Matt Kvesic
Bolters: Steffon Armitage, Jamie Gibson, Jackson Wray, Luke Wallace, Will Fraser, Calum Clark, Matt Garvey, Dave Ewers, James Gaskell

Another area with great depth. James Haskell’s form is such that he could arguably jump into the dead certs category, given that possibly two of the four there could be missing for the first test. Johnson and Kvesic will likely travel, although the latter’s poor form this season could see him leapfrogged by one of the bolters – and that list proves that the future is bright for England in the back row.


Dead certs: Danny Care, Ben Youngs, Lee Dickson
Bolters: Joe Simpson, Dave Lewis, Richard Wigglesworth

Not much to say here really – the trio of Care, Youngs and Dickson are pretty much guaranteed to go. Wigglesworth would be a sensible replacement if any of them got injured/two were involved in the Premiership final (highly unlikely), while Simpson and Lewis would be more risky, but exciting, options.


Dead certs: Owen Farrell, George Ford
Probables: Danny Cipriani, Stephen Myler
Bolters: Freddie Burns, Henry Slade

Farrell and Ford will definitely travel, but the former is likely to miss the first test. This means that one of either Cipriani and Myler would be needed for bench duty (unless Lancaster leaves Twelvetrees/Goode to cover, as he has done before). Both are likely to travel as part of the squad and both have had impressive seasons, and while Myler was part of the Six Nations camp it is Cipriani who probably edges when it comes to form. Time for a recall from the wilderness?


Dead certs: Billy Twelvetrees, Luther Burrell, Manu Tuilagi
Probables: Kyle Eastmond, Brad Barritt
Bolters: Anthony Allen, Elliot Daly, Jonathan Joseph, Henry Trinder

One of Burrell or Tuilagi will miss the first test, and with Twelvetrees an injury doubt this could be Kyle Eastmond’s best chance to shine. He’s not had as strong a season as last year, but has still been in and around the squad and is the man best placed to fill the void. Of the bolters list, Trinder has been included in squads before but Daly would bring the most ‘X Factor’ – a buzzword that Lancaster has used in the past. Joseph and Allen are more experienced but aren’t as exciting as the other two.

Outside backs

Dead certs: Chris Ashton, Marland Yarde, Mike Brown, Ben Foden, Alex Goode, Jonny May
Probables: Anthony Watson
Bolters: Semesa Rokoduguni, Chris Pennell, Charlie Sharples, Tom Varndell, Jamie Elliott, Dave Strettle, Josh Drauniniu

Even with the injuries to Wade and Nowell, the depth here is encouraging, especially given the dark days of a couple of years ago. Yarde and May will likely start the first test (assuming Ashton is missing), with Brown at fullback and either Goode or Foden on the bench (or both, if the former is trusted with covering fly-half). Anthony Watson has been around the squad this season so will probably go, but clubmate Rokoduguni would be a more bold selection – and one based more on form. The other names on the list are unlikely to go (especially Drauniniu, but he’s been included because he’s such a dangerous finisher and has shone in a poor Worcester side), but if anyone did deserve to do so, it would be Chris Pennell, who has been utterly sublime in every game he’s played – no mean feat for an outside back when your side is losing most games.

Adding up the Dead Certs and Probables list gives a total of 38 players, meaning the likelihood is that a few of the bolters will travel. What do you make of our selections? Who do you think will make the plane to New Zealand?

By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

26 thoughts on “What will England’s squad to tour New Zealand look like?

  1. This all seems pretty fair. How about Tom Lindsay at Wasps as one of the hookers in the mix? I’ve always thought he looked pretty good – any thoughts from Wasps fans?

    I’d like to see Christian Day’s name as one of the bolters for the 2nd row but he’s probably a bit old now – real shame because he’s been one of the best locks in England for several years now.

  2. I would love to see Jaime George and one of Will Fraser or Jackson Wray go – but I am a Saracens fan.

    And I think Catt should go along as one of the Props, I have liked his play this season.

    1. Shame Kruis is injured, or I would add him to the list as well. Barrington for prop as well?!

  3. My only concern with some of the “bolter” players, is that it might be too early for them. It’s not going to be an easy tour, and a poor performance from a young player who maybe wasn’t quite ready might have a long term impact on their International prospects.

    What this does show, though, is how many hugely promising players there are waiting in the wings for England.

  4. I’d really like to see Alex Waller go, we are going to New Zealand not South Africa so there is every chance that he won’t get beaten in the scrum regardless of his young age and he has done pretty damn well against everyone this season and come out on top of most and the premiership can scrummage

  5. Also I know we are looking to the future but based on recent performances and who he has scrummaged against if we were in the world cup and Dan cole became injured I’d claim that Matt Stevens is up next. For evidence outside the premiership, look what he did to mtawira in the sharks sarries match

  6. I know some people will disagree with me, but I don’t see the point of having guys like Tom Johnson and Haskell on the tour. Johnson is already 30, and Haskell willbe before the WC starts next year. I know 30 is not old, but when you have guys like Gibson, Wray, Armitage etc etc they should get their chance now. Our normal back row starters are all fit, so give some of these guys a chance.

    1. I think we have had this on another thread – but couldn’t disagree with you more.

      30 is not old – in fact, late 20s in your prime! I’m all for putting young players in, BUT, when they are good enough.

      The best players should go (with an eye on 2015). Haskell and Johnson are the best players, and will definitely still be going well come 2015. In fact, as I mentioned, I would back Haskell to still be firing come 2019 with the shape he is in.

      1. Jacob,
        I am completely on your side here, the idea of building for the future is starting to seem a bit like a banner to hang “its ok to lose we are building for the future on”. We have a year if with some of the older guys we can win a world cup then use them. I can imagine everyone being this excited about the age thing if Dan cole was 31.

      2. Thing is I’m not sure Haskell and Johnson are the best players (behind Wood, Robshaw and Croft). Players like Gibson, Wray, Clarke to name but a few (and obviously Armitage) have benefited from playing in the top teams with better players around them. Maybe this has made them look better, but experience aside I believe some of these guys are better than Haskell and Johnson.
        I think Kvesic has dropped down the pecking order as well. Playing behind a back stepping pack has not helped his cause, but he’s not shown the form he did the last couple of seasons.

    2. Haskell has 50 caps, is in the form of his life and has played in NZ with/against many of the guys we’ll be facing. We’d be crazy not to take him.

  7. Please not Varndell or Shaprles. Unless you just want to take wingers who make Ashton’s defence look good!
    Also interesting that Barritt is not on the list for the centres? Even if Twelvetrees is fit and well, I think Lancaster will still take Barritt. Can’t deny his recent form, and a player playing in massive club games will be brimming with confidence!

    1. Agree on all of what you’ve said here though.

      Wouldn’t have Varndell or Sharples on tour, but Barritt will go. Especially as it looks like Twelvetrees is definitely out.

      Sounds to be like a good time to try Burrell and Tuilagi together!

  8. For the tightheads behind Wilson I’d take Thomas, Sinckler and Brookes and use the tour to establish a pecking order between those 3. I don’t see that Thomas is on a trajectory to be ready for 2015 and he looks more like a 2019 project, hopefully one of the others can step up. On the other side of the scrum Waller should tour, probably the most destructive (fit) English scrummaging loosehead in the prem.

    Ward should be the next hooker, then George.

    Back row is tricky, I’m not sure Johnson has done enough to keep many of the probables out. But who I would pick out of that list (add in Dickinson and Fearns as well)

    For the outside backs I’d be disappointed if Roko didn’t make it.

  9. What about Cooper Woolley at Wasps for tighthead who looks like he has a huge amount of potential

    1. Thought he was injured, if he’s available he’s another guy who can make a credible claim to have leap frogged Thomas.

  10. Some doubts around Thomas’s scrummaging being aired. It wasn’t that long ago, that similar sentiments were being recorded on Joe Marler.

    1. Though he’s always been thought to be the better scrummager than Mako, and the law changes, along with his much increased bulk, seem to have bolstered him. Thomas doesn’t seem to have benefited from the law changes, and hasn’t noticeably bulked up recently.

      Cooper-Woolley is one of the best hopefuls in my mind, he came from obscurity and a long term injury to do very well. Hopefully he’ll now get a full pre-season (maybe the baabaas game) with Dan Baugh (just left the Welsh setup to be Wasps strength and conditioning coach) and really develop his strength.

    2. Marler got taught a lesson in the dark arts by Jones under the old rules, other than the game against Aus where he carried on playing injured he’s been pretty solid. He’s always been first choice for Quins and as DanD highlights is getting bigger/stronger.

      Thomas did fair better than I feared off the bench in the 6N. He looks technically competent and seemed to have good body position, but he’s lacking in size/strength/power. Ethan Waller (the younger novice Waller) gave him a torrid time, after which he’s been relegated to the bench. Next season he’s going to be second choice at Bath so will be gaining less experience than some of his peers. I’m not convinced he’s our 3rd best option for 2015 and don’t see why we shouldn’t be looking at some of the other up and coming contenders who are doing better in the prem.

  11. Sinckler should be looked at for sure. Has been very impressive for Quins in some very important games.

  12. As a side not on the hooker choices, George has been handed the captaincy against Tigers tomorrow!! A very depleted Sarries team, but might help his England credentials?!

  13. Surely newcastles Scott Wilson is in the mix for tight head. He was very impressive for the Saxons.

  14. I thought Steffon Armitage was playing for the Barbaarians. Is it possible to play for the barbarians and England at the same time.

  15. Well plenty of choices & depth it seems, with even the ‘untouchable’ Steff Armitage (& what about his brother then?) mentioned here, so they should do well then?

    In some ways, with a few injuries to the squad, it could be an unplanned blessing that SL’s hand has been, to an extent, forced. Blimey, even Attwood’s name features again, even tho he’s only ‘4th in the pecking order’.

    This sit creates a chance for some of the so called ‘bolters’ to stand up, or not. Not nec a bad thing with the WC as a backdrop.

    To an extent, I don’t think it matters overly much who England put into the field as they should compete in the tight & the loose, although the latter will be an interesting & likely more significant factor in the series.

    It’s in the backs (yes, that old chestnut again folks) that England will likely find more of an issue when trying to get throught a tight AB defence. They will simply have to get their 3/4ers straightening their attack & bring the bl side wingers & Mike Brown into the line too. They’ll also need to make use of ‘dunmmy’ runners & get the inside backs to use wrap arounds in order to pierce the NZ line. It’ll be interesting to see if Tui, Burrell etc can do this, if not it might be a long tour.

    Of course they’ll the ball to do this & NZ won’t be willing to give it up easily, hence the br down will be important, as of course will be the scrum & l out.

    We’ll see, but the 1st taet will be a likely marker.So lip licking time?

  16. Danny Care has the most tries for a scrum half in the aviva premiership. Ashton has scored the most tries in a single HEC campaign (which in turn will never be beaten). Toulouse won’t be appearing in the top 14 semi finals. Sarries vs Quins at wembley got the largest attendance for club game ever.

    The theme? Carrying on from Don. Broken records.

  17. A lot of the backup players will be determined by the AP final makeup I reckon, and worthy tourists such as George and Waller may miss out if their respective teams are in the final. Hooker for example, if Saints-Sarries final, then if the 4 hookers chosen were Hartley, Ward, George and Cowan-Dickie, that would make only two available for the first test and no safety net if a hooker gets injured in the build up to the the first test. Therefore in that scenario I imagine George would miss out to someone like Paice. Scrum half the same. Sarries vs Saints/Tigers/Quins, if the 4 were the current first choice 4 of Care, Youngs, Dickson and Wigglesworth then only two would be available for the first test, so I imagine Simpson would go ahead of Wigglesworth. Twelvetrees getting injured has guaranteed that a 10 will be on the bench for the first test as I would’ve thought the plan was to have 36 as 10 cover, so that would’ve played into Ciprianis hands, especially as Myler could well be in the final.

    I reckon the final tour squad will look like this.

    Marler, Vunipola, Mullan, Catt (Waller if not in final), Wilson, Thomas, Doran-Jones
    Hartley, Ward, Cowan-Dickie, Paice (George if not in final)
    Lawes, Launchbury, Attwood, Parling, Slater + Paterson if Tigers in final
    Wood, Haskell, Fearns, Johnson, Robshaw, Kvesic, Morgan, Vunipola
    Youngs, Care, Dickson, Simpson
    Farrell, Ford, Cipriani
    Eastmond, Barritt, Burrell, Tuilagi, Devoto (bolter)
    Yarde, May, Ashton, Rokodoguni, Watson
    Brown, Foden, Goode

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