Wilkinson pays the price as Cipriani picked for his second first start

Brian Ashton has made just one – yes one – change to the England team for their game against Ireland this weekend. But what a change. Jonny Wilkinson has been dropped from the side for the first time in 9 years and is to be replaced by Danny Cipriani at fly half.

Now nobody can argue that Wilkinson played up to international standard on Saturday but the entire team was utterly useless. To pin the blame entirely on Wilkinson smacks of scapegoating and tokenism and Vainikolo, Balshaw, Vickery and several others can consider themselves extremely fortunate.

Still, let’s look forward to Cipriani taking his bow (assuming he makes it to the starting post this time). He can now claim to be England’s first choice at both fly half and full back – not bad for a 20 year old. Let’s see what he can do.

England: I Balshaw (Gloucester); P Sackey (Wasps), J Noon (Newcastle), T Flood (Newcastle), L Vainikolo (Gloucester); D Cipriani (Wasps), R Wigglesworth (Sale Sharks); A Sheridan (Sale Sharks), L Mears (Bath), P Vickery (Wasps. capt), S Shaw (Wasps), S Borthwick (Bath), T Croft (Leicester), M Lipman (Bath), N Easter (Harlequins).

Replacements: G Chuter (Leicester), M Stevens (Bath), B Kay (Leicester), J Haskell (Wasps), P Hodgson (London Irish), J Wilkinson (Newcastle), M Tait (Newcastle).

19 thoughts on “Wilkinson pays the price as Cipriani picked for his second first start

  1. Where is the logic in Charlie Hodgson paying the price for JW’s terrible display? Hodgson may have had his share of cock ups in an England shirt over the years, but at least he actually tried to play rugby when he came on last weekend, standing where a modern day fly half is supposed to stand.

    It defies belief that in the closest thing to a meaningless encounter in international colours, but one with the obvious advantage of setting the platform for the toughest of summer tour destinations, we have made just 1 change to the starting line up.

    Why not give Simpson-Daniel the run out that every Englishman less for BA is screaming for? why keep a failing centre partnership with the forgotten men from the World Cup, Barkley and Hipkiss, stood by? There is even the potential to give Waldock from Wasps a taste of international rugby. Is Geraghty still injured? Why keep big Les in the starting line up when he was only in the squad in the first place as the ultimate impact sub, as Peelo has pointed out? AND HOW CAN WE CONTINUE TO PICK A CAPTAIN WHO IS GUARANTEED NOT TO BE ON THE PITCH IN THE CLOSING STAGES?!!

    This team angers me more than any of Ashton’s previous faux pas, and lets not even mention Balshaw…

  2. Quote from BA this weekend: “Patience is the biggest virtue a coach can have”.
    There you go infidels – we have been wrongly focusing on motivation, tactical awareness, organization, leadership etc. all along.
    So long Brian. Even your waste of space boss will have to fire you now.
    We should start focusing our energy into debating who the replacement will be. My money’s on Jake White.

  3. I think we should form a Rugby Blog panel to run the team and harness our resources. There is no conceivable way we could do worse. Firt of all we should arrange a trial game between this England 15 and the Saxons and watch the Saxons run rings round them to really bring home the folly of this team.

    My one proviso for this arrangement is that I have a complete monopoly on the 10 shirt at all times. If Cipriani runs into a seriously hot streak, I may consider moving myself to full back.

    On the Balshaw question, I’m sure it has been quite fun for everyone when, after aiming a rant at our Ian and being asked by some smartarse whether we think we can do any better, we have been able to look him squarely in the eye, smile smugly and reply with complete truthfulness, ‘Of course I bloody could’. Not often you can honestly say that about an international sportsman.

  4. I am speechless at the inadequacy of Ashton as coach. He really has surpassed himself with a selection that defies belief when we could and should be using it as a testing ground for the new boys and some different game play. Instead he drops Wilko and puts Danny Cips in at 10. OK – I agree with his ONE (count them – one) change, but for God’s sake, to quote Brian Moore, why not others?? Where’s Sinbad??? Why is Ollie “the fist” Barkley on at 12?? I can only surmise Ashton is back to playing his Schoolboy Sulk Selection and is putting Cipriani into a f**k awful backline in an attempt to make him look stupid and then to say “told you so” if he does screw up. He has to go. And Stuart I agree – we can form an interim “Virtual Coaching Consortium” until we can get JW (please God). It’s got to be better than BA.

  5. Sorry chaps – meant to say why ISN’T Barkley on at 12 but my fingers were clearly so insensed at seeing BA’s total incompetence that they became dyslexic for several seconds.

  6. Joke end to a joke tournament, but hopefully also the end of a joke coaching career. Has there ever been a worse player than Balshaw to be ever present in a 6 Nations starting XV? Should he really still be in the team on the basis of him having a fantastic 6 Nations in 2001? He fell apart on the Lions tour that year and has never been consistently good since.

    Meanwhile players like Lewsey, Hipkiss, Cueto and Simpson-Daniel have not been near the squad and Tait has been restricted to a cameo role.

    But no, let’s not experiment, let’s save that for a tour of New Zealand, that’s the time to experiment as we all know. That’s the time to blood younger players, and if we lose then they’re clearly no good so we can drop them!

    I wouldn’t mind if we’d tried to get the ball wide at every opportunity and made the odd mistake and lost a few tight games, but we have been utter crap and the manner of our two defeats (and our one near-defeat) has been more depressing than the results themselves.

    All this crap rugby has come from a man who supposedly champions an expansive game. He clearly has no idea how to execute it does he?

    I’d love to be part of the coaching consortium – can I be the one to tell Balshaw he’s dropped?

  7. I’ve just noticed the ‘Related Posts’ at the bottom of this page and one of them is ‘Farrell picked at fly-half’. It made me smile on an otherwise very depressing afternoon.

  8. It’s as if the website has a mind of its own and senses the end of the Ashton era and is generating its own set of ‘Ashton era comedy highlights’ links!

  9. Power to the people – love it. Can I be the kit man – that’s all I ask? My first priority will be to re-instate the black socks. Next to go will be the ridiculous pyjamas. How can anyone expect to be taken seriously wearing those? We’ll go back to the 2003 version. Srum caps will be uniform black, and will be banned for any number over 8 (sorry Cips – maybe we’ll relax that after the first 10-stitch head injury for a back). Boots must all be black.

    The only exception to these “new rules” will be that anyone called Ian with blonde hair will have to wear a pink frilly dress.

  10. Had a think about this whole farcical situation. We all know that Ashton is a nice man, a decent bloke and probably a very good Grandfather unless he scares the kids with his resemblance to Yoda. Can’t fault him there.

    What he is not is a top class international coach or manager. As was said at the time, scraping our way to the World Cup Final was a double edged sword and has proved to be a false dawn. Ashton had previously only really been looked at as a short term caretaker for a makeshift World Cup campaign and he should have remained as such regardless.

    Lately he has blown his last remaining shred of credibility by making a fool of himself and Cipriani last week and his incredulous selection yesterday. I fear Brian has set up a siege mentality on himself and has started to live in cloud cuckoo land.

    There is an extremely cynical view, and one I sincerely hope isn’t true, that he has put Cipriani in the hot seat on Saturday with the expectation that he will fail to inspire an insipid backline and hence justify BA’s faith in JW all along, whilst maybe diverting some of the flak away from his love affair with Balshaw.

    Sad times that these thoughts even occur to a passionate English fan but these are sad times for English fans.

    Ashton needs to go. Now.

  11. You’re right Rob. My thoughts are totally out of order and I will immediately don sackcloth and ashes and give myself a good flagellating…..I hope, I really hope, that BA hasn’t put Cips in at 10 expecting failure. To be honest, I can’t believe he would, but you are correct in thinking that, in terms of England Rugby, I am in a well of despair and expecting the worst after witnessing this truly awful 6 Nations campaign.

    Getting back to more important matters – can we all insist that the players wear those “bunny” teeth gumshields? And maybe cut Balshaw some slack as it is clear from the Scotland game that he cannot be held solely responsible (although someone’s description of him as “Hilarious” was pretty good. Not sure about the pink frilly dress though…)

  12. Rob I’m not sure you can accuse an international rugby coach of that level of malice – I’m not sure BA can be accused of being unprofessional, just simply not up to the job. No sports coach makes future selections in order to justify past decisions.

    That doesn’t stop there being an unbelievable lack of logic to his selections. He has put an enormous amount of pressure on Cipriani. Last week Cipriani was first choice full back and he is now also first choice fly half. By picking him at fly half, BA is saying that Wilkinson is now a worse fly half than Balshaw is a full back. That’s borderline libellous. Tha man-management skills are non-existent and I hope Cipriani is as mentally strong as people say he is because some young lads would be destroyed by what has happened in the past week.

    Further to Uncle Matt’s comments, gloves should be immediately outlawed, shirts tucked in, socks pulled up at all times and try-scorers should just dust themselves off and jog back expressionless into position. And toe-punting is compulsory for goalkickers

  13. Thanks for the additional guidelines Stuart, I will incorporate them in the new dress code book. I need to address a couple of other requests for clarifications coming in from the players (I’m going to keep them anonymous): (1) From someone in the East Midlands – wondering about the use of fluorescent orange long-sleeved undershirts – I can confirm they are banned. Indeed, now you mention it, all undershirts are banned (2) The same player (who, quite frankly, should not worry about what he can wear IF he ever gets selected again because I can’t see it happening) wants to know about facial hair – I can confirm that the ridiculous, wild west, comedy sculptures this player has taken to are hereby banned; there are two acceptable styles – nothing (ie 5 days’ stubble) or full (Chabal, Chuter style). (3) An entire club from the south west has been asking about the kind of fabric softener that will be used – I can confirm that all kit will be washed in a specially blended mix of muddy water, ralgex and vicks vapor rub, with a sand additive for numbers 1-8.

  14. Definitely no malice on BA’s part. He’s never needed to stoop to malice to engineer a crap England performance anyway, it just comes naturally.

    I’m sure in his head he really believes that we’ll win handsomely on Saturday with his darling Balhsy (let’s not forget he described him as a cross between Jason Robinson and Christian Cullen a few weeks back!) running in 3 tries from under his own posts. Then the World will see that Balshaw was made to look bad in the last four games by that idiot Wilkinson putting him under pressure all the time!

    I thoroughly agree with giving Cipriani a go, but I don’t believe we’ve got the right backline in there, and all of this debate about the backs will be redundant if we use them as little as last week anyway.

    If we stick to last week’s style then bringing in Cipriani will be like putting a souped-up engine in a car with no wheels (and then not turning the ignition key!)

    Last week Jonny was poor, but our problems go far wider and deeper than him. Poor old Jonny doesn’t hold the Balshaw “play crap for six years and still get picked” wildcard and so he had to go.

    Once again though, good old Brian has failed to gain more than a superficial understanding of the problem. He should read this blog, we’ve been saying on here that Balshaw’s crap since before the Wales game.

    I’d also like to add to the list of changes to the game – no chavvy football-style music when a try is scored at HQ. A marching band should be the only form of music at HQ!

  15. I am 100% behind the marching band concept. Could I ask that all players shall learn the National Anthem, word for word, and sing it with a steely eyed gusto, chins jutting forward, and no namby pamby weeping.

  16. And not having posed naked with Mike Tindal. Surely another good reason to pick Lewsey over Balshaw (amongst others…..)

  17. From BBC this morning – “England captain Phil Vickery says players will be playing for their places when they face Ireland in the Six Nations on Saturday at Twickenham”. The irony is killing me.

  18. Well, spank my butt and call me Gatland. Playing for places?? I bet Balshy isn’t worried, his place seems cast-iron, especially with Cips at 10. Not sure about the rest of the team though…
    Yes, isn’t it ironic, especially coming from Vickery, who has shown as much leadership as a rudderless ship lately. Make Easter captain – at least he does a good job at club level.

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