England Squad for Rugby World Cup 2019: Questionable Decisions and Reasons to be Hopeful

Willi Heinz

So, the headlines are as follows: Ben Te’o is out and Ruaridh McConnochie is in, whilst both Lewis Ludlam and Willi Heinz have deservedly been handed a spot on the plane to Japan after their strong showings against Wales on Saturday.

Mike Brown joins Te’o in the pile of experienced England internationals cast aside by Eddie Jones, though that is far less of a surprise. Some will say the latter’s omission was to be expected following his altercation with the Harlequins fullback during World Cup preparations in Treviso, though that ignores the talents of the Worcester Warriors hard man.

A Rugby League background served him well as he forced his way into both the Red Roses setup and Warren Gatland’s 2017 British & Irish Lions touring party, the 32-year-old providing the physical prowess and fearsome aggression that is essential to punching holes in the midfield. Piers Francis – selected in place of Te’o – is by no means a shabby number 12, but he is simply incapable of doing what his counterpart does with regularity. Yes, Manu Tuilagi is arguably better at the bulldozing aspect, no one really contests that point. However, the latter’s defence is suspect at times; the same is rarely said of Big Ben.

Actually, the fact that Tuilagi is in the squad is largely irrelevant to the Te’o debate, as the two dovetail wonderfully well when selected together. They’re bruising and brutal, offering the kind of no-nonsense bullying that can work brilliantly against some opponents. Even if playing the pair in tandem was neither Jones’ Plan A nor B, he has deprived himself of a solid fall-back option for when all else has failed.

With regards to Bath winger McConnochie, all that can be said is that Jones has decided to bring a wild card to the World Cup. There is little doubt that Jack Nowell, Anthony Watson, Elliot Daly and Joe Cokanasiga are the wide men at the top of the pecking order, meaning the 27-year-old former Sevens star will likely be restricted to appearances against second-tier nations. There’s almost no bad that can come of such a scenario. Conversely, the best possible outcome is that McConnochie produces magic on the pitch and works his way into the first-choice lineup. It’s unlikely, I know, but stranger things have happened.

We already knew that the veteran trio of Dylan Hartley, Chris Robshaw, and Danny Care weren’t going to be flying to Japan; will that prove to be a foolish choice from the coaches? Sure, Tom Curry and Sam Underhill are a cut above Robshaw at present. Granted, Hartley is a liability and declining. Of course, Care is not the fleet-footed half-back he once was. Nevertheless, all three have that all-so-important quality that we have already mentioned – experience.

It would have been wise for Jones to take at least one. These men have all captained their country and have amassed 246 caps between them; that’s a lot of know-how that has been cast aside. In the cauldron of a World Cup, it is extremely useful to have older heads who have seen it all before.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though!

In Heinz, Jones has found a 9 capable of pushing Ben Youngs for a starting berth. He was exquisite during the 33-19 defeat of Wales on Saturday, looking lively, assured, and capable of orchestrating play against the toughest of defences.

Likewise, Ludlam was an outstanding figure in the England side that ended their rivals’ 14-test winning streak. Both he and Heinz were on debut; both he and Heinz made a strong case for a chance against Argentina, not just the likes of Tonga. International debuts are rarely made to look so easy, an enormous compliment to the new duo.

Adding that pair of prospects to a team that has shown its true capabilities in recent months should leave England supporters hopeful that they can go far in east Asia. The Six Nations championship escaped their grasp, but that one faultless performances – the Dublin drubbing of Ireland – suggests that a second global title could be more than just a pipe dream, especially when the team has this kind of impetus added to it.

By Ed Alexander

24 thoughts on “England Squad for Rugby World Cup 2019: Questionable Decisions and Reasons to be Hopeful

  1. “Care is not the fleet-footed half back he once was”? You are surely joking. He is as quick through a gap as any 9 in the Prem and was in outstanding form at the end of the season. I still don´t think we can win a WC with Youngs at scrum half, Daly at full back and only two tight heads on the roster. I hope I am wrong.

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  2. Listening to the extended press conference following the squad announcement yesterday where the players were all asked questions in groups of 3 one of the key messages coming from them is how tight this group are. Repeatedly players were saying this is the tightest England group any of the players have experienced and I can only assume that Teo and Brown threatened that by taking their differences of opinion to the handbags level. I can kinda understand that you don’t want any disruptive influences in camp and that if one had to go they both had to go.

    1. Tight group. Does that mean they don’t stand their round!? Effin’ skinflints! This talk about ‘tight’ will count for what if they lose nxt Sat! Empty vessel stuff. Said the same under Lancaster. That worked out well.

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  3. ‘Tom Curry and Sam Underhill are a cut above Robshaw at present’. Explain how please. ‘Granted, Hartley is a liability and declining’. Again, explain how please. Leaving aside ‘experience’. Andy’s dealt with Care.

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    1. Better over the ball and better in attack, quicker around the park and seems to be able to match Robshaw’s “engine”. I’m not really sure anyone can make the case that Robshaw is better than Tom Curry.

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      1. Well for 1 thing JS, Curry’s injured. Guessing it’ll slow him down to Robshaw’s pace. Another thing, Curry lacks Robshaw’s exp. No sub for that. Otherwise, take 31 straight out of kindy.

    2. Hartley. Too slow, not fit enough when he does play, not even the best hooker at his club, persistently injured, doesn´t make enough yards and is probably close to retirement. That explains “a liability and declining” Don. Can you think of a single Tier one nation or even a SH Franchise that would have him? No, neither can I.

  4. Tui gets it, no Teo back up. Latter dropped due handbags? Really? As likely he told Eddie to eff off? That might have done it. Again really? Does EJ want to win a WC, or preserve ego? Might have been pleased that Teo was showing aggression. Might have been useful in Japan. Brown? Who knows, apart from Eddie stating that he has younger, better guys? We’ll find out. Better hope Daly can catch & tackle by Sept. Watson ? Maybe 1 game was enough? We’ll see. Hope a 1/2 doesn’t go in the fetlock like Anscombe. Bit skinny on depth. So Farrell plays as captain? Ford on the bench? Or both play? Rejigged midfield if so. Mmmm. And the AB midfield is a muddle? Surely, Ford has to start based on Sat? Revised opinion. Kicked a bit instead of going for it Sat, otherwise good & may have been following orders? Pack looks sound, if lacking 6/8 cover, as already covered. Watson 15, with May, Nowell as wing men? So where Daly? Bench, or 13, but won’t happen, as leaves Slade where? Apart from all that, it’s all tickerty boo.. for Sat.. & beyond?

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      1. Do you know Donald, I swear that as I was reading that i kept thinking , blimey Don P could have written this. Turns out you did!!

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    1. Haha the one place we are not missing cover is 6…!

      Tom Curry
      Sam Underhill (if pressed)
      Mark Wilson
      Lewis Ludlum
      Courtney Lawes
      Maro Itoje

  5. The core is good… I think we’ll miss the go forward of teo and Hughes…. still crazy that Goode and Cips as best in prem and Europe overlooked for Francis and McConnochie, that is a major call!!! Care v Willie? Willie looked good, but in group games danny care has the ability to get lots of points (for raising bonus points) in the last 10mins, and finally I’d have Williams over Cole everyday of the week…. but it’s a good core

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    1. I don´t think it will matter much Jimp. With only two tight heads going you can bet that Williams will be getting a phone call inside a couple of weeks, if not before they leave! Totally agree about Goode and Care. EJ has never really resolved (or even addressed) the problem of how to use Cips when Farrell is in the side, and I suspect Farrell will always prefer playing with Ford as he has done for donkeys years. Ergo, no room for Cips if Farrell is in the squad.

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  6. Well Andrew, as Hartley’s No. 1 fan & Kiwi lover, in the slightly usurped words of Mandy R-Davies, ‘you would say that wouldn’t you’? Long on usual subjective opinion, but what the hey. Why let that get in the way of a good yarn. Likely due injury, but lthis eaves the tiny issue of captaincy with the conservative & predictable installation of Farrell. Just can’t recall Hartley, shrieking @ refs, illegally shoulder charging or mindlessly (allowing) booting his team to certain defeat in a 6N game. Apart from all that, must seem a good call to you? Yr SH, Tier 1 stuff is irrelevant speculation. Besides, might it not apply to the majority of the Eng squad? Apart from ‘Lucky’ Piers of course. Some of yr lack of thinking outside of the orthodox may inhibit yr application to get on to ‘Uni Challenge’. Nevertheless, have a bonzer Sat.

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