RWC 2019: England v New Zealand Combined XV

Manu Tuilagi

Analysing the two teams for Saturday’s big game, how many All Blacks players would you select for England?

Here’s a Combined XV for discussion – let me know what changes you would make.

Mako Vunipola1Joe Moody
Jamie George2Codie Taylor
Kyle Sinckler3Nepo Laulala
Maro Itoje4Brodie Retallick
Courtney Lawes5Sam Whitelock
Tom Curry6Scott Barrett
Sam Underhill7Ardie Savea
Billy Vunipola8Kieran Read
Ben Youngs9Aaron Smith
George Ford10Richie Mo’unga
Jonny May11George Bridge
Owen Farrell12Anton Lienert-Brown
Manu Tuilagi13Jack Goodhue
Anthony Watson14Sevu Reece
Elliot Daly15Beauden Barrett
Luke Cowan-Dickie16Dane Coles
Joe Marler17Ofa Tuingafasi
Dan Cole18Angus Ta’avao
George Kruis19Patrick Tuipolotu
Mark Wilson20Sam Cane
Willi Heinz21TJ Perenara
Henry Slade22Sonny Bill Williams
Jonathan Joseph23Jordie Barrett

There are 8 selections from New Zealand and 7 from England: 4 from each pack, with the All Blacks backs having the edge.

I’ve chosen an all-England front row, with Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock in the engine room. If Maro Itoje wasn’t squaring off with Retallick at 4, I might have him in over Whitelock, but it’s close.

In the back row, I’m surprised to see Scott Barrett making his first-ever start on the blindside flank, and I’m not sure it gives them that much. Yes they’ll put pressure on England’s lineout, and they will likely be looking to clear out England’s back row at the breakdown rather than compete for the ball, but it’s not often you see the All Blacks basing their team selection on the opposition.

Either way, I’d rather have Tom Curry in my team, but with Billy lacking a bit of form and Kieran Read looking fresh again, I’ve picked Ardie Savea and Read to complete the back row.

I’ve picked the Kiwi 9, 10 and 12, with Anton Lienert-Brown on fine form and offering more as a traditional inside centre than Owen Farell. This could have been slightly different with Farrell at 10 and Manu Tuilagi at 12, but I can see why Eddie Jones has reverted to this lineup.

It’s unusual to pick both English wings, but Jonny May is unfeasibly good, and Sevu Reece is a game-breaker but also could be vulnerable and I suspect we’ll see him targeted under the high ball with May competing in the air.

Finally, Beauden Barrett over Elliot Daly is a shoo-in at full-back.

On the bench, I’ve given the All Blacks 6 of the 8 spots, and that could well be a factor late in the game.

What do you think? Which ones do you disagree with?

25 thoughts on “RWC 2019: England v New Zealand Combined XV

  1. I would have Ford over Mo’unga but other than that I completely agree. One thing that stands out though looking at that is there aren’t many who are streaks above their opposite number. Man for man it’s closer than I was expecting.

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  2. Bit tricky, these combined teams. Surprised about Itoje’s omission. Always had the impression that he is the gr8est thing since sliced bread. Don’t know how much diff there is between 4 & 5, but if he changed to 5 maybe? Think Reece & Goodhue are underestimated. Former is lethal on attack. Have to see on defence. Also NZ wouldn’t pick JG over the exp’ed Crotty if he wasn’t up to it. Good hands, decisions. More versatile than Tui. Diff choice at fly1/2, as Ford’s grown on me (can’t really fathom his dropping for Aus). However, RM is confident, kicks his goals & will ask Eng ?’s on Sat. Can’t decide on this 1. Surprised at Underhill’s omission too, esp after all the accolades? Bias leaves me on the fence again. Unconvinced on the fr row selection. I’m no expert, but seems it’s much based on scrum ability? If it’s down to mobility, handling I’d be Kiwi inclined. NZ use the scrum as a means to an end, not an end in itself, so poss diff take here. Disagree re NZ picking Barrett due to Eng thraet. Can always bring Cane on. Aim is to bulldoze Eng at the br’down I think.

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    1. The comparison is direct – so Itoje is compared directly to Retallick. And good as Itoje is, Retallick remains the world’s best lock – one of the all time greats – and a lynch pin of the NZ team. I hope Itoje will be as good in the future and I think he has the potential, but not right now.
      England’s front row is not chosen for the scrum – if that were so Marler and Cole would start – both Sinckler and MV have great hands and instinctive rugby ability, which is why both are often used to create strike moves by England. I would take either over the Kiwi props personally but think the Kiwis may have the edge in the scrum before the replacements come on. Hooker-wise, Taylor is more mobile than George, but it’s a close run thing.
      Underhill is great but Savea can offer a point of difference -he has the speed of a centre and often plays like one
      Tuilagi in today’s form is a threat to any team – as I’m sure NZ remember from 2012 – and like SBW the threat creates space elsewhere, even if he doiesn;t have the ball. Goodhue could be good but is slightly untested at this level.
      As for the Barrett thing – this strikes me as NZ altering their team to counter a specific threat. Which suggests they are concerned. I would think this gives Eng opportunities at the breakdown, especially playing Underhill and Curry

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    2. Well done Don, a grown up well measured comment. I knew you had it in you. Keep it up and good luck Saturday, it’s going to be a hell yes of a game!

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  3. Pab, understand it’s a direct comparison, but does it have to be? With versatility these days, like the double 7 & 10 systems, maybe Itoje could move a couple of feet (not nec his own obviously, but actually..?)? Surely you’re not insinuating that the Eng fr row can’t scrum are you? You might get the ‘Troll’ treatment if you’re not careful! Anyway, if the Eng RF ARE there for their loose play, I’ll be quietly confident with aspect of play, but we’ll see. I too rate Savea, esp with ball, offloads. Awkward style, pace make him difficult to bring down. Regds Tui, NZ know what to expect. The AB ‘D’ has been suffocating, organised & quick to deploy. 12 yrs ago was a 1 off, too long ago & as the Irish found with their heralded 2/3, was irrelevant in the here & now. Diff team, diff tactics. Don’t see how S Barrett as an attempt to counter a threat. More likely offers extra line out option & opportunity to overpower Eng at br’down. Besides, can bring on the orthodox 7 Cane, switching Savea to 6 or not. Sat will reveal more, but seems to me that NZ seek possession domination with their pack options. We’ll see.

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    1. Yes we’ll see and yes this doesn’t have to be a direct comparison but that’s what it is.
      Eng front row can scrum of course but despite vast improvements, Sinckler MV is not as destructive as Marler Cole, but offer more round the field.
      If I were Kiwi id be concerned about the breakdown. Savea is great – as you point out awkward and speedy – but he’s not an openside and neither is Barrett. As England have found out multiple times with Lawes and Itoje, playing locks at flanker is great in theory and can work at club level, but can also leave you exposed when it comes to International games.
      NZ might be going for possession but given they’ve previously been happy without it I think that in itself is a tacit admission that they are concerned about giving Eng too much ball.
      2012 may have been a one off, but if NZ think of it like that and dismiss the likes of Tuilagi on that basis, then more fool them. I however do not think they will dismiss the threat so blithely
      I give Eng a one in three chance of winning, but this is knockout rugby so who the hell knows

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      1. Well, it’s a direct comparison, but what if? Anyway, it is what it is. If Marler, Cole better scrummagers, why not start them? Get potential set piece advantage. Savea originally a 7. Can play 8. Not a starter until now as 1st choice 6. Hansen wouldn’t weaken breakdown. They can potentially attack Eng’s lineout again. If doesn’t work well, quick enough, Cane’s available. Also Barrett’s pretty quick, mobile, strong. NZ aware of Tui, but like the Irish going on about 2/3, which proved groundless, can’t look backwardsor rely over much on a 7 yr old game. Besides AB’s have a new b/line since last WC, A Smith apart. So NZ 2/3rds favourites? Hope so.

    2. It doesn’t make a great deal of sense for NZ to pick Barrett to counter a lineout that’s already diminished by England’s double openside, so Don might be on to something. Do they really need extra help in that department when they’ve got Read against Curry?

      Some peculiar things going on with these selections regarding the lineout. Kruis not picked but Wilson on the bench. ABs drop an openside for a big’un. Interesting stuff.

      The only one v one selection I might disagree with is Jordie over JJ. But it’s close.

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  4. Firstly, I think this is the best thread I have read in a while; all the comments are based on rugby, well thought out, constructive and worth reading. Long may we continue respecting opinion and leaving out the pointless sniping.

    On the selection, many of the positions could go either way and i hope that leads to a great game; would love to say NZ look weaker individually than for a long time but that’s probably rubbish! This has the potential to be a classic. BV and Daly need big games as does Lawes. Interesting AB selection , the breakdown and set piece seem to be the aim and will be one hell of a battle, who wins will win the game I think.

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    1. Hope you’re not accusing me of being an adult are you Stu?! Ruin my rep! Think NZ should have at least parity at set piece, maybe more in lineout. If they also have parity at the breakdown, all things being equal (like no cards) , then they should prosper. That’s my theory anyway.

    2. Personally I think the S Barrett choice is about the line out, but not directly. One of Englands biggest weapons is their kicking game, May and Watson are exceptional chasers, and Ford/Farrell (lets include Slade in there as well) are excellent at placing the ball exactly where they want it. With NZ choosing such a strong line out pack, England won’t want to kick the ball to touch, as they’re unlikely to win it back. If they then start kicking it in field, any kicks that aren’t contested or put into space, will result in B Barrett running them back at them with interest.

      NZ have effectively taken one of Englands best weapons and made it about their own strengths. This could be at the cost of breakdown work, so if (big if) England start getting quick clean ball, it could actually lend itself to England other key strength, route one carrying.

      I’m so stoked for tomorrow.

      1. When you kick for territory you don’t expect to win the oppositions lineout.
        The change is about
        1) Extra heft clearing out rucks (which hints at a possession based game)
        2) Ability to challenge our lineout
        3) Setting up rolling mauls
        4) Breaking up rolling mauls

        1. Don’t quite get the gist of this Leon. If you have a superior line out, couldn’t you also kick for territory to set up mauls or back lines from turn over possession? The ‘change’ is about? What change is this? Subsequently unclear on other pts. Can you clarify a bit pse?

          1. The change is NZ picking SB at flanker
            The point is in response to the comment “With NZ choosing such a strong line out pack, England won’t want to kick the ball to touch, as they’re unlikely to win it back”. With tactical kicks out of hand you aren’t necessarily looking to win lineout ball just to pin the oppo back in their half defend well and look for turnovers from the kamikaze kids

      2. But have Eng been ‘placing the ball exactly where they want it’ Henno? For me, too much their kicking out of hand has been too deep. Also, i’s seemingly been assumed that, by opting for S Barrett at 6, NZ will lose something at the breakdown. Well, that’s to be seen. SB’s played 6 before, is big, strong, mobile & pretty quick. Gauging by the pack’s recent performances, I just don’t see Hansen giving it away in the ruck. It’s not only at lineout he seeks dominance, but with SB, in the loose as well. The bigger Barrett’s versatility is one of his strengths. Anyway, as already mentioned elsewhere, Cane can come on at any time if necessary. Seems logical enough to me, but as always, it’s what happens on the day.

  5. Some views on how to defeat NZ, etc. Ben Ryan; kick to their back 3, pressure them. SCW; Kruis, Itoje to steal line out ball. SGEdwards; don’t miss tackles, pressurise like SA v Japan. Rob Debney; pre handle ref better at scrum, line out, breakdown, use distractions to control (slow) pace. Sarah Hunter; control game management, territory. Amanda Owens (sports psycho); focus on AB weaknesses, as per Jones’s contention. Haskell; The Haka’s 15 blokes dancing, beat NZ up, Eng have a better line out, scrum.

    OTOH Owen Slot; AB’s will shine light on Daly’s ‘D’ flaws. Jones also flex with tactics to bring Ford back. Farrell/Tui defensive ploy for Aus, Kerevi.

    However, has NZ a less dangerous attack than Aus? Are their ball carriers less likely to target Ford, with both fwds & backs?

    Jones on Tui 2017; ‘I know he can demolish the AB’s’.

    Is there relevance in Eng looking back to 2012? Will NZ give Tui ball aplenty? Will they target him?

    Sat to reveal answers?

  6. In rugby it is all about the collective effort and less about individual performances and in that regard I think the All Blacks edge England by a narrow margin.
    Close but All Blacks by 3.

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