Martin Johnson will name his side to play Ireland at 12pm today, and with a following the misfiring display against Italy, it’s not unfeasible that there will be a few changes.
However, as much as I’d like to see a few new faces in the team, I can’t see any tactical changes being made.
The pack performed adequately against Italy, and although there was a criminal lack of quick ball delivered by the back row, there isn’t reason enough to change it. The biggest crime was Steve Borthwick’s assertion that England ‘did some really good stuff’, but if Johnno was going to change his captain, he would have done it long before now.
I was impressed with Dan Cole in his first start last week, and I’d like to see him retain his place. Hartley was off the mark with his throwing, but he ought to be kept in – there really is no point in bringing Steve Thompson back into the side.
I would like to see Courtney Lawes on the bench, rather than Louis Deacon who offers nothing as a substitute. If Johnno won’t start Lawes, let’s at least give him the matchday experience and maybe 20 minutes of game time.
In the backs, Jonny Wilkinson has come under fire this week – he played another average game, but it was his erroneous goalkicking that prompted some knives to come out. Johnson defended him staunchly, naturally, and although Toby Flood had a great game for Leicester at the weekend, the shirt is bound to be Jonny’s again, assuming he shakes off a sore leg.
Out wide, it’s likely to be Riki Flutey and Mathew Tait in the centres, and we saw enough last week to believe that this could be a potent centre combination. Ugo Monye and Mark Cueto were fairly average, but again didn’t do anything to warrant being dropped (is that the mark of success for the England players?), but there is a slim chance that Delon Armitage might just be out.
It’s time to bring in Ben Foden at full-back. We needed someone of Foden’s ilk last week to run the ball back, rather than just kick it aimlessly, but Armitage was reluctant to do so. He made a number of errors, and hasn’t looked himself since returning to the setup after injury, so let’s get Foden involved.
There’s a pretty good chance that Johnno will name exactly the same team that turned out last week. Consistency of selection is normally a positive thing, but one or two minor tweaks really could make the difference.
We’ll have the team here as soon as it’s announced, so come back to share your views. Everyone has an opinion.