Our view doesn’t matter, it’s only the England coaches who can decide who plays in the World Cup.
But just suppose we did have a say, who would we pick?
Well since you asked, we’d have the following in our squad, with the only caveat being that if they weren’t such silly buggers, we’d definitely have Hartley & Tuilangi nailed on, but they are, so we can’t.
Props – pretty much all pundits agree that it should be Cole, Marler, Wilson & Vunipola (M) and what’s not to agree with. So that leaves a choice between the untested Kieron Brookes and the versatile British Lion Alex Corbisero for the fifth spot. Not entirely sure why there would be a debate, especially given that Corbs can play on both sides, but injury might rob him of the place that should be his.
Hookers – Cowan Dickie had a mare against France and has a mullet only Jean Claude van Damme thinks is stylish. That kinda shoes in the converted centre Youngs (T), the dependable Webber, and the very fortunate (but definitely competent) George. However, it only takes one injury after 22nd September, and who knows we might see Dylan……….
Locks – although Launchbury looked like a bloke who hadn’t played for a while on Saturday evening, he won’t have a worse game in a hurry, so he’s in the Row along with Lawes for his offensive tackling & ball skills, Attwood for his Grrr, and Parling because he’s a top line out man and a Lion (we need all the experience around the squad that we can get, never mind his song repertoire). This means that Kruis misses out, but what a great injury replacement he is.
Back Row – the captain is inked in at 7, even though he’s probably a 6.5 at best, but works harder than the keenest of Trojans. Vunipola (B) & Morgan are the two No 8s obviously, and Tom Wood must be in the squad as the old fashioned, bloody minded No 6 that every side needs to win a World Cup.
So using the conventional wisdom of a 17 – 14 split between forwards & backs, that leaves one more forward space to fill. Is it Nick Easter, who looked good off the bench in Paris, and who can fill in at lock? Is it the massively pumped (& pumped up) James Haskell, who is playing well and is a great impact player? Or should it be the inexperienced, but exciting Calum Clarke, who had a great season last year, and wasn’t too shabby at the breakdown on his debut, yellow card aside. What we need is strength in depth in every position, and the one we haven’t got covered is 7. One injury to Chris Robshaw, and who is going to be first to the breakdown to compete with McCaw in the Final (okay, getting ahead of ourselves). On that basis, and even with the disclosure that your correspondent is a Saints supporter, Calum Clark is our choice.
So that’s the hard bit. The Jessicas in the backs should be quite straightforward seeing as in the squad there are only two proper full backs (Brown & Goode), three wingers (May, Watson & Nowell) and three scrum halves (Youngs (B), Care & Wrigglesworth). With Ford & Farrell as first and second choice 10s who we’re all confident with, that just leaves us with four centre spots.
Yes, just the four centre berths, and how can that ever be contraversial? There’s been nothing written, tweeted or argued about this subject recently, so let’s just leave it there.
But we can’t, because it’s important, particularly if you’ve got Sonny Bill Williams running at you. Barritt and JJ are pencilled in for the centre berths despite never starting a test match together. You might have thought that the generally sane Coach Lancaster would have tried this particular combination before now, but maybe he’s waiting until the Ireland game to unleash them together. Or will we see the exciting talents of Henry Slade, as good an utility back as there is in the squad and able to cover 10, 12 and 15, but unproven in the test arena. Possibly it could be Cipriani, who again provides cover in the same positions with more maturity, more caps, and had a nice cameo in Paris. Luther Burrell would be devastated to miss out, given that he’s played so often in a white shirt recently, and in Paris he gave England some great go forward momentum in patches. Billy 36 has been used as an impact sub in the last two games and didn’t really make an impact. And then there’s Sam. Big bloke, strong offensive tackler, talented athlete, and can smash holes in any opposition defence. But has he got the hands for a Union 12?
If it were us, it would be Barritt, Joseph, Burrell and Slade, but it’s not, and we could yet see a prodigal Cipriani or a talismanic Burgess claiming a place in the 31.
We’ll know at 1.45pm on Thursday whether there is any sanity in our thinking!