England's strength in depth...and who makes their RWC squad?

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Post by miaow on Thu 11 Apr 2019, 8:52 pm

First topic message reminder :

Mirroring the thread I did for Wales, England have had huge strength in depth for the last 9 years or so. Under Lancaster it seemed to be a hindrance as much as a strength, with no-one really leaping out to claim key positions, cycling through the likes of Twelvetrees, Burrell, Barritt etc. in the centre.

Now, it feels like England do have some real test quality players who have grabbed shirts with both hands and are nailed on: the Vunipolas, Tuilagi, Lawes, and latterly players like May, Curry, and Underhill.

With that in mind...who makes England's 31 man squad based on who's fit and available (as well as who's out injured)? If you want to include who you'd personally pick as well that'd be interesting, but who do England fans think will be in that squad in Japan?

Also, who is in the starting 23 and who are the 6-7 reserve players who stand a good chance of a call up?

I've done it for Wales in the Wales thread - think it's looking very settled, with a few first 15 positions up for debate depending on opposition. From the outside England's squad looks a lot less settled or certain.

Squads ten to be:

17-18 forwards
5 Props
2 or 3 Hookers
5 Second rows
5 or 6 Back rowers

13-14 Backs
3 Scrum-halves
2-3 Fly-halves
3 Centres
5 Back 3

So who/what is the current England squad?

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Post by miaow on Mon 15 Apr 2019, 7:28 pm

Haahahaha ok. Snap judgement on two guys you admit you know nothing about. Limited...yeah...

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Post by No 7&1/2 on Mon 15 Apr 2019, 7:35 pm

Maybe it's just unfortunate the one thing I've viewed they has poor knowledge on. Doubt I'll watch them again though to double check.

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Post by miaow on Mon 15 Apr 2019, 7:43 pm

That's it. Reactive opinions are often the best tbh. Reckon you can get it down to sub-2 minutes?

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Post by No 7&1/2 on Mon 15 Apr 2019, 7:51 pm

Depends what they'd say in those 2 minutes really doesn't it? From the opposite side are England stronger at open side going into this world cup or last?

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Post by king_carlos on Tue 16 Apr 2019, 6:34 pm

In the build up to the last RWC a poster here on 606v2 made the simple but quite accurate point that selecting the 31 man squads near enough comes down to selecting your 1st and 2nd choice XVs then adding necessary front row cover.

1.Mako 2.George 3.Sinckler 4.Itoje 5.Kruis 6.Wilson 7.Curry 8.Vunipola
9.Youngs 10.Farrell 11.May 12.Tuilagi 13.Slade 14.Nowell 15.Daly

1.Moon 2.Hartley 3.Williams 4.Launchbury 5.Lawes 6.Robshaw 7.Underhill 8.Hughes
9.Robson 10.Ford 11.N/A 12.Te'o 13.Joseph 14.Cokanasiga 15.Brown

Plus an extra hooker (LCD) and prop (Genge/Cole). That would make a 31 man squad and a very similar one to the rumoured squad breakdown that Jones is looking at - i.e. 2 scrum-halves and extra back row cover.

You can swap in different names in certain places such as reserve scrum-half (Robson/Care/Wigglesworth/Spencer) or blindside (Robshaw/Shields), but currently it feels that a lot of players are locked in if they stay fit.

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Post by Gooseberry on Wed 17 Apr 2019, 1:27 pm

king_carlos wrote:In the build up to the last RWC a poster here on 606v2 made the simple but quite accurate point that selecting the 31 man squads near enough comes down to selecting your 1st and 2nd choice XVs then adding necessary front row cover.

1.Mako 2.George 3.Sinckler 4.Itoje 5.Kruis 6.Wilson 7.Curry 8.Vunipola
9.Youngs 10.Farrell 11.May 12.Tuilagi 13.Slade 14.Nowell 15.Daly

1.Moon 2.Hartley 3.Williams 4.Launchbury 5.Lawes 6.Robshaw 7.Underhill 8.Hughes
9.Robson 10.Ford 11.N/A 12.Te'o 13.Joseph 14.Cokanasiga 15.Brown

Plus an extra hooker (LCD) and prop (Genge/Cole). That would make a 31 man squad and a very similar one to the rumoured squad breakdown that Jones is looking at - i.e. 2 scrum-halves and extra back row cover.

You can swap in different names in certain places such as reserve scrum-half (Robson/Care/Wigglesworth/Spencer) or blindside (Robshaw/Shields), but currently it feels that a lot of players are locked in if they stay fit.

adding to which Jones has been adamamnt for some time that his sqaud was 80% there (shortly before radically overhauiling his side Whistle )

But yeah the likes of Ciprinai look set to miss out no matter how well he plays for his club, pending injuries of course.

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Post by miaow on Wed 17 Apr 2019, 4:25 pm



A long video, but definitely relevant to this topic.

My opinion is that EJ has peaked, that it was panic/reactive from the RFU to sack Lancaster when they could easily have stuck with his man/not undermined him in the first place had they really wanted it to work.

Instead, EJ got the job, England got their two well-deserved 6Ns titles, and a clean sweep in Oz, but that came at the sake of both building towards the world cup, as well as building on the actual legacy Lancaster left in a tangible way. EJ benefitted from Lancaster's work, of course, but his didn't necessarily continue it.

As Gooseberry says, overhauling your squad is not a good sign. It's certainly not a sign of a man in control - nor was the losing run, nor were his outbursts against the Welsh and the Irish when he (in my opinion) got complacent and thought all England had to do now was turn up. He  started talking up the NZ game - fans and media did as well, thinking England had surpassed this 6Ns and were now gunning for the top. It helped that they didn't play them for so long as it added more drama to the discussions. Even in this 6Ns, EJ's apparent psychological attempts to 'build' a winning mentality in his team has fallen short: dismissing Italy as 'only Italy' is disrespectful and dismissive, and it then clearly backfired when he did the same v Scotland.

It's a hard one for England fans, as he's brought the team more success than any coach since Woodward, and so it's hard to dislike him, nor want to give him the benefit of the doubt. But the sooner he's gone the better it will be for English rugby (as long as they actually pick the right man for the job - whoever that may be).

England could still win the world cup because they're one of the few teams to have a really high percentage of 'game changers'/test match animals. Tuilagi, Itoje, Mako, in a way Farrell, perhaps Ashton or Cokanasiga, Sinckler at his best/without the issues. Then other really good players like Slade, the 7 options, Daly, Lawes. And as pointed out - they have the pain of the last WC to work with. That's no small thing. But their preparation has been the worst of the Home Nations, with Wales and Ireland's looking almost perfect given what they could have done in the last 4 (or 8, according to the video) years.

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Post by Pie on Wed 17 Apr 2019, 11:39 pm

England won't win World Cup until they get their heads right. Yes they have great players awesome depth the deepest pool of resources - a double edged sword IMO- the most money and should be kicking on from where they were but they have poor leaders and too many variables in selection. They have disciplinary time bombs in Mako Kyle and their Capt and a nut bar as a coach.

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Post by GeordieFalcon on Thu 18 Apr 2019, 9:04 am

Pie wrote:England won't win World Cup until they get their heads right. Yes they have great players awesome depth the deepest pool of resources - a double edged sword IMO- the most money and should be kicking on from where they were but they have poor leaders and too many variables in selection. They have disciplinary time bombs in Mako Kyle and their Capt and a nut bar as a coach.

Really?

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Post by miaow on Thu 18 Apr 2019, 10:07 am

Has been in the past tbf, and at scrum time of course

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Post by Gooseberry on Thu 18 Apr 2019, 10:43 am

miaow wrote:

A long video, but definitely relevant to this topic.

My opinion is that EJ has peaked, that it was panic/reactive from the RFU to sack Lancaster when they could easily have stuck with his man/not undermined him in the first place had they really wanted it to work.

Instead, EJ got the job, England got their two well-deserved 6Ns titles, and a clean sweep in Oz, but that came at the sake of both building towards the world cup, as well as building on the actual legacy Lancaster left in a tangible way. EJ benefitted from Lancaster's work, of course, but his didn't necessarily continue it.

As Gooseberry says, overhauling your squad is not a good sign. It's certainly not a sign of a man in control - nor was the losing run, nor were his outbursts against the Welsh and the Irish when he (in my opinion) got complacent and thought all England had to do now was turn up. He  started talking up the NZ game - fans and media did as well, thinking England had surpassed this 6Ns and were now gunning for the top. It helped that they didn't play them for so long as it added more drama to the discussions. Even in this 6Ns, EJ's apparent psychological attempts to 'build' a winning mentality in his team has fallen short: dismissing Italy as 'only Italy' is disrespectful and dismissive, and it then clearly backfired when he did the same v Scotland.

It's a hard one for England fans, as he's brought the team more success than any coach since Woodward, and so it's hard to dislike him, nor want to give him the benefit of the doubt. But the sooner he's gone the better it will be for English rugby (as long as they actually pick the right man for the job - whoever that may be).

England could still win the world cup because they're one of the few teams to have a really high percentage of 'game changers'/test match animals. Tuilagi, Itoje, Mako, in a way Farrell, perhaps Ashton or Cokanasiga, Sinckler at his best/without the issues. Then other really good players like Slade, the 7 options, Daly, Lawes. And as pointed out - they have the pain of the last WC to work with. That's no small thing. But their preparation has been the worst of the Home Nations, with Wales and Ireland's looking almost perfect given what they could have done in the last 4 (or 8, according to the video) years.


And you dont think that giving Lancaster the job was a panic reaction partly forced by his manipulation of the media to cover up his lack of credentials and the obvious defeincies his approach had? In the end he was exposed and made some fundamentaly bad choices. Importantly he didnt command the respect of his senior players, and nor did his captain. So much of what he did early on was chucking people under the bus to please the masses, the great irony being he ended up bringing back Nick Easter when he was too old and too fat.

Lancaster just wasnt up to the job, and England have benefitted from finally getting over themselves and appointing a SH coach as they shouldve done 4 years previously. For all the faults we can pick after another implosion in the 6 nations the squad and side is better now than it has been since the early 2000's and has been consistently comeptitive with the top 4. Maybe the Jones effect has peaked but that doesnt make him a bad appointment. Lancaster was, and much of the team lost faith in him by the end of the world cup ( also happened in 2007 and 2011...which maybe also says something about the mentaility, arrogance and pressure to win world cups that been around post Woodward). Coaches/Managers are more easily replaceable than senior players if you have the money (although please dont mention the recent RFU finances fiasco!)

Im sure theres plenty of Lancaster fans who see it differently and who will point to what hes done since but thats by the by. Even if youre a fan its pretty hard to sustain an argument that he did a great job and wouldve done better than Jones has shad he stayed on IMO.


As for his hotheadedness and media rantings, its the same script we have had for years from Gatland and whilst theres been the odd mis step from him it generally hasnt hurt Wales. People will hate England no matter what just for being England. What he has done better than some previous leaders is personalise the media focus on him and take that pressure off the players. He is that panto villain and many of the "outburts" are clearly calculated attempts to stir things up and deflect talking points. I think hes more in control than the previous 3 incumbents who couldnt maintain the faith and trust of their senior players.
As for hot headed timebombs...we had Hartley and Burgess at the last world cup, Lawes too had a bad reputation, there was also notourisly "spikey" characters like Brown and Care at the heart of team. I honestly dont feel the fighting sort of indiscpline is a problem for England (even Tuillagi seems to have calmed down a bit after his arrest), although the odd bad tackle from the likes of Farrell and Itoje trying too hard could still have a big impact. The old style outright dirty enforcer type role seems to be getting pushed out of the game by increased scrutiny and an expectation that all 15 players can actually play rugby so all round we are seeing less handbags and flashpoints than we did. Is Sinkler and worse than Marler was? I dont think so. When did England last get a red card for one of these timebombs going off? (At least they dont have a 22 year old captain with a penchant for dropping frenchmen on their heads etc)
The big worry for me with the psychology of the team is how much they flap when things arent going well and let the pressure get to them. The discussions about leadershiop in the team were done to death in that other thread, but still valid here. Its a faior criticism to say the on field leadership isnt what it could be,m and its not like Jones hasnt been open through his tenure about this. They are also trying to address it, so how much of an impact it has come the world cup is yet to be seen.
Comapred to the fiasco of 2007 where the team ended up outright rebelling (and still came close to accdientaly winning the thing somehow), 2011 where the captain was replaced shortly before the tournament with a guy who lied about being fit, and 2015 where much of team had lost faith in the leaderships decision making its not as bad as it often is for England. I guess its a recurrent problem rather than Jones/Farrell specific.

Something Gatlands done really well with Wales over his years is managing that transition from one captain to another. Despite the joke above I dont think I was alone in thinking the loss of Warburton wouldve had a bigger impact on Wales than it has had. If anything theyve grown without him.

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Post by miaow on Thu 18 Apr 2019, 11:50 am

Interesting, can't say I remember Lancaster's manipulation of the media. It was a strange, and in many ways poor, choice from the RFU, yes.

I don't disagree EJ has proved his value - but just as you say in previous WCs and the coach losing the players, it could very easily happen again later this year. Two tough games against Fra and Arg in the groups - recipe for disaster.

I think, in terms of him staying v EJ coming in, the point the video makes it a good one: consistency of approach, personnel etc. creates a better chance for RWC success. England tend to lurch like no other 6Ns side.

Fairly certain you didn't have Hartley at the last WC? He was banned, no? Hence Tom Youngs starting? Then again, I'm not sure anything about that squad is worth referencing as a positive in any way, really, as all the good work was undone in that tournament in just about every way possible. Generally speaking, England's discipline was very poor for the first 2 years under EJ, yet it went hand in hand with a competitiveness he was trying to foster: particularly at the breakdown. Still a few issues but it seems part of the gameplan: see Itoje and Curry on Earls, for instance. You can tie in the missed tackles stats as well which comes under the same bracket.

Your point about Warburton is dense and you know it.

Feel like I've talked about leadership issues with Farrell etc. before and during this 6Ns - only now people are agreeing after the Scotland game. It's all well and good being open about it but CLEARLY the players are following his lead - and the manner of the Scotland collapse and the whole build up to it is consistent with arrogance, and wanting to really rub their noses in it. That's not the mentality of winners - you don't need to big it up to want that - but also the performance was clearly not that of winners either. It was misplaced arrogance. Don't want to get too hung up on those parts again, as I was referring to a 'model' for winning the RWC that was raised in that video, about team management and long term planning. Obviously, there's more than one way to skin a cat, but it seems sensible that building a team over a long period with a cohesive yet adaptive approach is far better than whatever plan EJ is trying to implement. Then again, England have some very good players, and good depth, so who knows.

What's interesting about that video - it's worth a skim through if/when England fans have time - is it's made just after the Lions Tour, when England have just gone 2 6Ns wins in a row, and beaten Argentina in the summer. They're talked about very differently than they would be now i.e. predictions of greatness.

I agree, Wales are a better team without Warburton, sadly. Partly because Tipuric's so good, but also AWJ is the 'natural' captain in the way POC was for Ireland in many ways. It felt like they were treading on each others' toes a bit towards the end. Also, though, it's a dynamic thing as well: like Spurs looking like a better TEAM without Harry Kane. Similar sort of thing with Wales and Warburton, sadly. I look at both Wales and Ireland and I see teams that have been built over several years. Ireland in particular have built perfectly for this WC in my opinion. The 6Ns was a slight issue but I do think Schmidt effectively gave up after the loss to England. Ireland have built and adapted and adapted again during his time in charge, and they've got some good results under their belt. I can see Ireland scraping their way in to the latter stages: they can control games well enough, and have enough threats across the 23, they can do enough to beat teams without playing well. Then, if they need to, they have a performance like they pulled out against NZ last year. It probably helps they're being overlooked for the tournament now, reduces the pressure and focus on them a bit until the latter knockout rounds. I make them the best chance for a NH winner.

England are strange. They've not done what Ireland have at all - EJ just broke them down, got them to do the basics in a very focused manner as aggressively as possible, and that gave them two 6Ns titles. But he hasn't instilled things like leadership, composure, adaptability etc. in the way Schmidt has with Ireland. He's also gone for a very specific kind of gameplan: since the start of 2018 it's been heavily based on kicking as much as possible, and we saw that fail againt Wales as they didn't have an answer to being denied the ball. They can mix it up, and they do against physically weaker teams, but when it's a closer game they've reverted to slowing it down and kicking everything. With all the other issues I'm not sure that's going to be enough to deal with the nature of a RWC.

Not just tactics though. It's key players. The video shows there is room for young, talented players; certain positions seem better for it, too. So the likes of Curry, Genge, Sinckler in a way, Underhill, Cokanasiga...their lack of test matches can be accommodated, to an extent. But when there's no clear captain (I cannot believe England could end up with OF as captain, crazy stuff), no clear starter at 2 (George always looks better off the bench), no clear starter at 6, arguably no clear starter to play alongside Itoje (less of an issue this as it's due to real, top quality, not lack of quality), no clear back up 9 whatsoever, at the moment no clear backup 10 (although with Ford having played so often in the first 2 years this is not too much of an issue, just that he hasn't played well for a while). I also see no clear starter at 15 - if it's Daly, he's a liability defensively/poor in the air. If it's Brown, he's solid but a bit unspectacular/lacking in pace. If it's Watson, he's lacking test minutes in the shirt. Arguably no clear starter to play on the wing, but like second-row, not too much of an issue.

All in all, I don't think EJ has really addressed the main issue for England, which has always been how to pick and stick with a team when there's so many players in and around a similar level in the Premiership. France have that issue even worse. A few stand out - Mako, Tuilagi - but by and large it's hard to develop a team. He opted for Haskell from the start, and that worked, as he effectively played two 6.5s who could be aggressive if not technical at the breakdown. Haskell has no chance of going, Robshaw...who knows. Could start at 6, might not tour at all, likelihood is he's behind Wilson and Shields now. I'm not sure EJ really grasped that England would struggle as they did after he got off to a winning start - other 6Ns teams improving, England losing motivation from 2015, players like Youngs no longer putting in the level of performance they had been at the start. Complacency/arrogance on his part, for sure. He's tried to include young players - Marcus Smith, loads of others - in a weird sort of Theo Walcott called up at 16 kind of way. Not sure that's worked. Have any of those players made the step up? Ireland and Wales have rotated successfully and you can clearly see a squad and starting team in those selections. Less sure about England.

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Post by No 7&1/2 on Thu 18 Apr 2019, 12:07 pm

It's been pointed out that England have huge strength in depth across the team. Just because there is discussion around particular positions doesn't necessarily translate that the coaches don't know their preferences.
In terms of apprentices personally I think it's a good idea. Lets young players experience the squad in full knowledge they're there to take it in.

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Post by miaow on Thu 18 Apr 2019, 12:23 pm

They have depth of options, but no strength. Strength isn't just personnel, it's the experience to both survive the demands of test rugby, and then start thriving at that level. Too many positions for England that lack that - so poor strength in depth for me, and most people as well. The RWC isn't like fantasy rugby or a computer game 7.5...

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Post by No 7&1/2 on Thu 18 Apr 2019, 12:34 pm

I realise. That's why I view it as good strength. We're in a much better position now than in the recent past. Would I prefer people like curry and Underhill battling it out or Robshaw Haskell wood? No brainer despite the number of caps. The idea of the apprentices is off course that longer term view of getting people used to training and what is expected etc. A very good thing in my view.

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Post by miaow on Thu 18 Apr 2019, 12:37 pm

Then you don't understand if you consider it a strength. Massive issues behind the first choice option at 9, 12 and 15. Big problems with experience at 6, 7, and 3.

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Post by No 7&1/2 on Thu 18 Apr 2019, 12:38 pm

There's no hard and fast rule to judge players. You just have to watch them and decide. In general terms I think it's around 10 games but can take longwrnfor players to swim rather than sink or it can take you a game or 2 to know they're not up to it. Personally very happy with the squad we have.

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Post by No 7&1/2 on Thu 18 Apr 2019, 12:45 pm

Why is there an issue at 9. We have care wigglesworth Spencer and Robson to choose from. Tuilagi Te'o Farrell slade at 12. Daly and Brown. With potentially Watson to come back. Could even fall back to Goode should an injury crisis happen.
As stated experience is all good and well but you need to view the whole picture. Roll out robshaw Haskell and wood for experience. Cole Williams and sinckler. Fine for me. We're stronger overall at loose head I'd agree, even with the loss of marler.

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Post by miaow on Thu 18 Apr 2019, 12:46 pm

That's what you don't get. It's not a case of judging players on a case by case basis. It's a case of judging them within the team environment in the lead up to a RWC.

What you don't seem to understand is the RWC is a bit different. It's the apex - and what works on a summer tour to Australia in 2016 isn't going to work when facing them in a knockout competition. I tried explaining this at the time when England were on their winning streak, when you thought England were amazing: it's a short to medium term bounce from the new coach and disappointment as hosts. Even now, after 2 years of mediocrity/finding out their level, you seem to think England are the best NH team, so I really don't think you're a fair judge.

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Post by No 7&1/2 on Thu 18 Apr 2019, 12:50 pm

I still think England are the best in the world. I think you like to talk us down hence the some of your posts. It's ok though I'm fine with that.

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Post by miaow on Thu 18 Apr 2019, 12:54 pm

No 7&1/2 wrote:Why is there an issue at 9. We have care wigglesworth Spencer and Robson to choose from. Tuilagi Te'o Farrell slade at 12. Daly and Brown. With potentially Watson to come back. Could even fall back to Goode should an injury crisis happen.
As stated experience is all good and well but you need to view the whole picture. Roll out robshaw Haskell and wood for experience. Cole Williams and sinckler. Fine for me. We're stronger overall at loose head I'd agree, even with the loss of marler.

Wigglesworth: 33 caps, 9 starts in 10 years. Has never been first choice. 36 years old by the time the tournament starts. Has a part time coaching career as his playing days wind down. Consistently failed to look comfortable and/or add real value at test level. His involvement is testament to how poor the depth is.
Care: Flaky and flawed. No test scrum half should send a box kick backwards. Good attacking instincts but played his part in England's meltdown in 2018. Still their 2nd best option but for some reason dropped by EJ. Worrying.
Spencer: 3 tests, 0 starts. Ridiculous to suggest he's ready for a RWC with those stats. Plays for Saracens - I've made my point on what I think about Saracens players stepping up at test level clear. Tends not to go as planned.
Robson: 2 tests, 0 starts. Like above. Health issues a worry and mean he can't be relied upon - something EJ clearly wasn't doing anyway as he refused to give him test minutes.

If Youngs gets injured England will have to nurse their 9 through the tournament like NZ did with Cruden, hoping they can minimise their deficiencies. Even applies to Care as well.


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Post by miaow on Thu 18 Apr 2019, 12:55 pm

No 7&1/2 wrote:I still think England are the best in the world. I think you like to talk us down hence the some of your posts. It's ok though I'm fine with that.

No, I like giving my accurate opinion on rugby. It seems to jar with your views on England because you're ridiculously one-eyed. To suggest England are the best in the world is laughable.

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Post by ebop on Thu 18 Apr 2019, 1:10 pm

No 7&1/2 wrote:I still think England are the best in the world. I think you like to talk us down hence the some of your posts. It's ok though I'm fine with that.
Who says English rugby fans aren’t arrogant?
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Post by Gooseberry on Thu 18 Apr 2019, 1:14 pm

ebop wrote:
No 7&1/2 wrote:I still think England are the best in the world. I think you like to talk us down hence the some of your posts. It's ok though I'm fine with that.
Who says English rugby fans aren’t arrogant?

Yeah some of them even think they underatnd the concept of a wind up

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Post by Gooseberry on Thu 18 Apr 2019, 1:30 pm

miaow wrote:
Spencer: 3 tests, 0 starts. Ridiculous to suggest he's ready for a RWC with those stats. Plays for Saracens - I've made my point on what I think about Saracens players stepping up at test level clear. Tends not to go as planned.
Robson: 2 tests, 0 starts. Like above. Health issues a worry and mean he can't be relied upon - something EJ clearly wasn't doing anyway as he refused to give him test minutes.

If Youngs gets injured England will have to nurse their 9 through the tournament like NZ did with Cruden, hoping they can minimise their deficiencies. Even applies to Care as well.

Yeah this is where the caps argument kind of falls down...whetehr they take 2,3 or 31 scrum halves they have an issue with the reserves there. None demand a place in the squad let alone the side. An injury to Youngs could be a big problem whatever happens. So I do get your point re:taking 3 scrum halves, to protect him its safer to not have him play at all in the easier pool games and be able to sub him off a lot when games look won.
The same would apply to Billy V too, theres not a player that can jump in and do the job to the same extent there.

Its less on issue for Fly Halves this time around assuming Slade travels there is a shuffle option available.

I dont think squads should be picked on the basis of " of what if so and so gets injured" if that means putting in players that simply arent good enough just to provide more bad options (as has happened in the past) but its a fair point regarding Englands lack of quality here. The young guns are not well integrated into the side (although they have been around the wider training squad for some time) and the experienced back up is not really demanding selection.

But which is worse...taking 2 spots in the squad up with players who dont demand a spot or taking a risk on the injuries that might not happen.

Worth also noting that theres still 4 warm ups to give the kids more time with the side, and that Tuillagi only had two caps and one (interupted by a lengthy ban) season of adult rugby before he went to world cup and did well.




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Post by miaow on Thu 18 Apr 2019, 1:45 pm

Wait, how is that in conflict with the issue of 3 9s? Because EJ has failed to prepare his squad properly, you should follow up one bad decision with another by making sure Youngs is in every matchday 23? What...!?! Headscratch Headscratch Headscratch

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Post by No 7&1/2 on Thu 18 Apr 2019, 4:14 pm

Ah. Wigglesworth is too experienced. Robson not enough. It's almost as if you don't have a consistent point.

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Post by robbo277 on Thu 18 Apr 2019, 4:24 pm

miaow wrote:
Spencer: 3 tests, 0 starts. Ridiculous to suggest he's ready for a RWC with those stats. Plays for Saracens - I've made my point on what I think about Saracens players stepping up at test level clear. Tends not to go as planned.
Robson: 2 tests, 0 starts. Like above. Health issues a worry and mean he can't be relied upon - something EJ clearly wasn't doing anyway as he refused to give him test minutes.

Are Robson/Spencer good enough to play International rugby? If so, they're good enough to play in a World Cup regardless of experience. If not, they weren't worth any serious minutes in the Six Nations either.

Ideally we would be going into the World Cup with an established back-up 9, and if Care was on form or Robson had 30 caps there would be no issue. But Eddie Jones has only had 40 matches. He'd have had to have Robson in nearly from the start. What if he'd invested all Care's caps in Robson and Robson had lost form? Care's loss of form has been unfortunate but out of Eddie's control.

I don't see how a 27 year old pro like Dan Robson would have been improved by an extra 80 minutes of rugby across the Six Nations. Maybe 1% better? Conversely, a lot of the time players suffer with "second season syndrome". Would any experience gains be offset by other countries getting more of an idea what Robson is all about?

I'd be more comfortable with an on-form Care sitting on the bench, undoubtedly. But I'd have no issue with Robson going as back-up 9 and if Youngs gets injured against Tonga and Robson and Spencer become our matchday 9s so be it. It's not ideal, but it's not terminal.

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Post by No 7&1/2 on Thu 18 Apr 2019, 4:28 pm

Miaow had already pointed out 2nd season syndrome but ignores starting off in blinding fashion like Curry as it's the world cup. The prem isn't a place to judge whether a player is good enough but the pro 14 is. Curry is too inexperienced but Underhill isn't. You can only be judged as world class if you're an all time great etc etc.

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Post by miaow on Thu 18 Apr 2019, 5:05 pm

No 7&1/2 wrote:Ah. Wigglesworth is too experienced. Robson not enough. It's almost as if you don't have a consistent point.

That's a really, really dense leap.

The man has averaged fewer than 1 start a year since making his test debut. Without checking, I imagine you can throw in a few warm up games, 2nd string summer tours, weaker autumn international games, and dead-rubber world cup group games in there for a chunk of those starts.

Clearly 'too much experience' is far from the issue...but thanks for trying #wum clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap

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Post by miaow on Thu 18 Apr 2019, 5:21 pm

robbo277 wrote:Are Robson/Spencer good enough to play International rugby? If so, they're good enough to play in a World Cup regardless of experience. If not, they weren't worth any serious minutes in the Six Nations either.

The issue here is you're applying dialectic thinking to an issue that isn't simply black and white, as well as asking the wrong question: the question isn't like a flow chart. It's not "are the good enough? Yes. In which case, move to the next step".

The real question is much more complex. A player is never simply 'good enough' or 'not good enough'. The reality is there are ways of preparing players for test rugby. Too long in pro sport, we've relied on pundits who've been out of the game too long spouting off nonsense like "if they're good enough, they're old enough" and "thrown them in and see what happens". No. That's not how you prepare a player. Look at Tait as a prime example of ruining someone's career by picking them prematurely.

There are ways of getting players up to speed. Maybe, 2 years before a RWC, you do pick a player prematurely - in the knowledge that you're giving them 'easier' game time than would be the case in 6-12 months' time, when maybe they have to make their debut in an important 6Ns game rather than a summer tour to a weaker nation. But they're learning in a far less intense arena than they would be if you maybe waited. I can't believe I'm having to explain why giving a player their first competitive start in a RWC is far from ideal. Unless they're clearly a ridiculously talented player who's shone through the age groups - looking at Itoje here - it shouldn't even be a consideration.

Everything else you've said stems from this point but it's the most important one. There are shades of grey to everything and not least to this. One-eyed fans like 7.5 can't seem the grasp that Eddie is not only not the messiah the first 2 years' in charge suggested to some people, but he's also prepared the side horribly for this RWC. Might not matter, might blag it through etc., but it's poor management - not least stemming from the fact teams worked them out and Scotland profited from that, forcing EJ to focus on stopping the rot rather than evolving the side in a healthier manner like he needed to even if they'd kept the winning streak going.

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Post by miaow on Thu 18 Apr 2019, 5:28 pm

No 7&1/2 wrote:You can only be judged as world class if you're an all time great etc etc.

The rest is just Rolling Eyes but to pick up on this...

https://www.express.co.uk/sport/rugby-union/758749/Manchester-United-world-class-players-Eddie-Jones-England-rugby-Six-Nations-Alex-Ferguson

Nice little read for you on the subject. It's hardly an important/definitive one - 'world class' is anything but a standardised definition - but thought you might find it illuminating you seem to be mocking what your own country's coach thinks... Whistle

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Post by No 7&1/2 on Thu 18 Apr 2019, 6:01 pm

Oh absolutely world class isn't a standard definition. It's why i asked you what you meant by it. and yes of course there's shades of grey so we can stop writing off players like curry because they don't have the caps of robshaw. And yes if someone is good enpugh theyre old enough. Tait for me never was. Curry was and is. Someone cokanasiga is as is willis as i said prior to jos onjury.If you want to state you don't rate English players like care you're very free to do so. Just do it openly you don't always just have to have these pops at England all the time.

England have good strength in depth. We remain one of the favourites for the world cup. I think most England fans will be happy where we are albeit most will have quibbles about selections at s one point as we have so many good players.

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Post by miaow on Thu 18 Apr 2019, 6:21 pm

Painful reading. Like being stuck on a childrens' merry-go-round and hearing 'strength in depth' misused every 2 seconds. Best to move on from that point.

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Post by No 7&1/2 on Thu 18 Apr 2019, 6:23 pm

Ok miaow.

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Post by ebop on Thu 18 Apr 2019, 9:08 pm

Is Owen Farrell really the captain going into the RWC?
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Post by Pie on Fri 19 Apr 2019, 3:22 am

No 7&1/2 wrote:It's been pointed out that England have huge strength in depth across the team. Just because there is discussion around particular positions doesn't necessarily translate that the coaches don't know their preferences.
In terms of apprentices personally I think it's a good idea. Lets young players experience the squad in full knowledge they're there to take  it in.

well blow me down, if thats the car did really like to know what they are because truth be told I am not sure I can say that even Farrell is a certainty. Maro maybe probably Mako and Billy, back row....who really knows. 9 definitely up in the air. Manu yes, no surprises there. May and Daly I guess but point is that selection appears to change around so much. I could be wrong, its not likely but I could be.

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Post by Poorfour on Tue 23 Apr 2019, 11:35 am

Pie wrote:
No 7&1/2 wrote:It's been pointed out that England have huge strength in depth across the team. Just because there is discussion around particular positions doesn't necessarily translate that the coaches don't know their preferences.
In terms of apprentices personally I think it's a good idea. Lets young players experience the squad in full knowledge they're there to take  it in.

well blow me down, if thats the car did really like to know what they are because truth be told I am not sure I can say that even Farrell is a certainty. Maro maybe probably Mako and Billy, back row....who really knows. 9 definitely up in the air. Manu yes, no surprises there. May and Daly I guess but point is that selection appears to change around so much. I could be wrong, its not likely but I could be.

I don't know where you've got that impression from. There are a lot of players who have consistently been in Eddie's XXIII when fit:
Front row: Mako, Hartley, George, Sinckler, Williams - and it looks like Genge or Moon as replacement loosehead
Locks: Since Itoje, Lawes, Launchbury and Kruis are rarely all fit and in form, whichever three of them are fit. If all are, then it looks as if the preferred mix is Itoje, Kruis and Lawes as replacement
Back row: One of the open areas. Billy if fit, the others are up for debate.

Scrum half: Youngs. Backup is up for debate
Fly half: Farrell, Ford
Centres: Tuilagi, Slade, Te'o
Wings: May and Nowell if fit
Fullback: Daly

The open questions are around replacements or the wider squad in the backs, and the back row. In the backs, I would be very surprised if Care and Brown aren't back in the squad come the RWC providing they are both fit, because there's nobody else in their positions with any experience. In the centres, there's potential for some of the fringe players to work their way back in - Lozowski, Francis, deVoto and possibly Joseph or Watson may get a shot, but I would expect the Farrell / Tuilagi / Slade axis to be one they persist with, barring injury. There are a range of wings who could be picked, like Ashton and Cokanasiga, but wings are the easiest position to swap in and out.

The only real area where there's some debate is the back row, where Curry, Underhill, Wilson, Shields, Hughes and Robshaw are in contention for what will probably amount to 4 slots in the RWC squad. Wilson is probably now closest to a certainty. Hughes may well go as backup to Billy. Curry and Underhill's injury records suggest that only one of them is likely to be fit at any point in time. The last place in the back row is therefore probably between Shields and Robshaw.

England are in a position where, if everyone's fit, they could field two completely different sides that still look pretty decent:

Daly; Nowell, Slade, Tuilagi, May; Farrell Youngs; Mako, Hartley, Sinckler; Kruis Itoje; Curry Wilson Billy
Brown; Ashton, Joseph, Te'o, Cokanasiga; Ford Care; Genge; George; Williams; Lawes Launchbury; Underhill Robshaw Hughes

There are a couple of places - most notably the Vunipolas and Tuilagi - where you'd ideally want the first choice on the pitch, but a team very like the second one has won international matches.

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Post by LondonTiger on Tue 23 Apr 2019, 12:05 pm

It is a shame that it has taken Ben Spencer as long as it has to supplant Wigglesworth as he is probably 9 who is best able to play the game Eddie is looking for. Youngs has worked hard on his kicking game (but still behind Spencer and Wiggy) and his speed to the ruck (still better than any other 9 we have) but at the expense of his running game. Spencer can play the game Eddie's way yet still keep an eye open for the gap.

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Post by miaow on Tue 23 Apr 2019, 12:19 pm

I think that's the issue though Poorfour. And has been since Lancaster came in. Decent depth in terms of named options (although EJ has left some glaring issues) for the most part, but still no real settled first 23.

There are a few players who are nailed on. There are maybe a few who are in the 'world class' category of being one of the best in their position in the world. Compare it to the other countries and it's not looking great.

Ireland: Sexton, Murray, Stockdale, Ryan, Furlong
Wales: Faletau, Tipuric, Liam Williams, North
Scotland: Hogg, Russell

Englamd: Tuilagi, Mako...and that's genuinely it.
Itoje comes close - hasn't strung top quality back to back games in like Ryan has, for me, but no doubt he will. Farrell close as well but I think most people are now seeing/accepting the glass ceiling that exists with him.

England have lots of those really good players - and some, like Youngs, George, Brown etc. - really shine when their team is on top. But in the absence of these real standout players, it's too easy to chop and change. It's too easy to swap out the wingers, the flankers, the props for the replacements rather than build that solidity.

The ideal situation for England was LH Prop before Marler retired. Marler's a very good international quality prop. Mako is a rung up, in that top tier of players - bit suspect at the scrum, but that can be worked on, and his general play is like Furlong's: invaluable and integral to the team. If you need to swap him out, Marler slots in perfectly. But that doesn't exist in too many other positions - Te'o isn't as good as Marler was if you're looking at the 12 shirt. The 13 shirt - Jospeh or Slade - looks really good and nice, distinct styles, but again that's the problem: no clear starter.

Most fans could name the vast majority England team that started the 03 RWC final 2 years before it happened. If that happened this time, you'd be considering Haskell for the 7 shirt! More than that, though, it's the fact there just isn't a clear starting team outside: Mako, Billy, Youngs, Farrell, May. George, Itoje, Tuilagi are all good bets to start as well. Some others ike Sinckler, Slade, and Daly appear to have snuck a starting shirt late on in the cycle. But is that certain? And are they better than the replacement?

Depth can be a blessing but when it's messy and/or anaemic, it's not. If EJ is bringing back Brown, Care, Robshaw etc. having dropped them...it's either savvy motivation on his part, of (far more likley) desperate measures.

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Post by lostinwales on Tue 23 Apr 2019, 12:30 pm

miaow wrote:I think that's the issue though Poorfour. And has been since Lancaster came in. Decent depth in terms of named options (although EJ has left some glaring issues) for the most part, but still no real settled first 23.

There are a few players who are nailed on. There are maybe a few who are in the 'world class' category of being one of the best in their position in the world. Compare it to the other countries and it's not looking great.

Ireland: Sexton, Murray, Stockdale, Ryan, Furlong
Wales: Faletau, Tipuric, Liam Williams, North
Scotland: Hogg, Russell

Englamd: Tuilagi, Mako...and that's genuinely it.
Itoje comes close - hasn't strung top quality back to back games in like Ryan has, for me, but no doubt he will. Farrell close as well but I think most people are now seeing/accepting the glass ceiling that exists with him.

England have lots of those really good players - and some, like Youngs, George, Brown etc. - really shine when their team is on top. But in the absence of these real standout players, it's too easy to chop and change. It's too easy to swap out the wingers, the flankers, the props for the replacements rather than build that solidity.

The ideal situation for England was LH Prop before Marler retired. Marler's a very good international quality prop. Mako is a rung up, in that top tier of players - bit suspect at the scrum, but that can be worked on, and his general play is like Furlong's: invaluable and integral to the team. If you need to swap him out, Marler slots in perfectly. But that doesn't exist in too many other positions - Te'o isn't as good as Marler was if you're looking at the 12 shirt. The 13 shirt - Jospeh or Slade - looks really good and nice, distinct styles, but again that's the problem: no clear starter.

Most fans could name the vast majority England team that started the 03 RWC final 2 years before it happened. If that happened this time, you'd be considering Haskell for the 7 shirt! More than that, though, it's the fact there just isn't a clear starting team outside: Mako, Billy, Youngs, Farrell, May. George, Itoje, Tuilagi are all good bets to start as well. Some others ike Sinckler, Slade, and Daly appear to have snuck a starting shirt late on in the cycle. But is that certain? And are they better than the replacement?

Depth can be a blessing but when it's messy and/or anaemic, it's not. If EJ is bringing back Brown, Care, Robshaw etc. having dropped them...it's either savvy motivation on his part, of (far more likley) desperate measures.

That is a very subjective list of who are the most significant England players (and who are for everyone else). I don't like the 'world class' tag, not least because its a team game

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Post by miaow on Tue 23 Apr 2019, 12:42 pm

Fine. Call them the 'best' players then. Pick another tag - but most people know what it means. The kind of players who will still be excellent without very good coaching, a very comfortable team environment, different tactics and style etc. Players like Hogg, Liam Williams - 'natural' talents, good instinctive rugby players, but not perfect.

There's room for a Devin Toner, or a Robshaw, or a Jamie Roberts, or a Laidlaw. Plenty of room, in fact: they're desirable within a team environment. All very capable players who can look excellent at times, and really add something - but don't have that adaptability to go with raw talent. It's why I left JD2 out for Wales - clearly an unbelievable centre, certainl the best defensive 13 in the world, maybe overall in the NH as well. But makes too many mistakes - small ones, but often key ones. Sometimes basic skills: kicking, handling. But sometimes its decision making as well. It's why Farrell doesn't make it in that rugby for me, either.

It is subjective - but then I keep getting my subjective assessments proven pretty much spot on, where a lot of English fans' subjective opinions are skewed by hope - like any other country! There's no way of saying that without sounding like an arrogant idiot, but there we go.

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Post by WELL-PAST-IT on Tue 23 Apr 2019, 1:03 pm

Miaow, just a few players missed, May is certainly world class and a step above North at the moment, Billy V, not back to were he was, but Saturday showed he is getting there, Lawes is another that would be in the squad of just about any side in the world, George is not mentioned; how many sides would like him in their squad, most I would think. Joseph was considered "World Class" before his injury, Slade is keeping him out so what is Slade?

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Post by GeordieFalcon on Tue 23 Apr 2019, 1:09 pm

Meh ...i hate this world class term.

Would they currently be part of the best XV in the world is always a better theory.

England have many that could push, but we also have alot of untried players.

We shall see how we go.

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Post by Poorfour on Tue 23 Apr 2019, 1:36 pm

miaow, my criterion was much more objective than "nailed on" or "world class". It's "who has been consistently picked when fit?"

There are a couple of late positional switches in the list, and some new faces who have come in through injury or retirement, but 11 of the players in the first list have been picked pretty much every time they have been fit. The uncertainties are around back row, centre and full back - in each case because new options have been made available, and in about half of those cases because Eddie is developing his squad depth because of the tough England RWC schedule.

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Post by king_carlos on Tue 23 Apr 2019, 1:41 pm

For the sake of putting my oar in, I think the best 'definition' of world class is top 3 in the world in that players position. If you're top 3 in the world in your position then that player would get into pretty much any opposition teams starting XV.

How you rate players is completely subjective though, hence it's a fairly arbitrary list however you choose to 'define' the term.

There's also then the question of certain positions having more standout players than others.

George, Best, Owens and McInally would all push the hooker argument very close but just miss out if I was selecting - I'd take Taylor, Guirado and Marx - as there are a lot impressive hookers  Whistle around currently. That list is with Coles left off due to the injuries as well!

At tighthead on the other hand you've got Furlong standing out above the rest, then a chasing pack who aren't as exceptional. They are international props and obviously fantastic rugby players, but I'd argue that Owen Franks and Vincent Koch aren't as influential as many of those hookers listed above.

Mako, Billy, Farrell and May would all be in those discussions. Farrell divides opinion constantly but his record is pretty impressive, including starting all three '17 Lions tests, leading Lions points scorer on that tour, not missing a single kick in the drawn 3rd test and slotting the winning penalty with 3 minutes remaining in the 2nd test.

Lawes, Itoje, Kruis and Launchbury could all fall into a similar bracket to hooker as lock is a strong position internationally. They may well just miss out but are still fantastic players.

Daly would be thereabouts on top form - he also started 3 tests for the Lions in '17. It's no coincidence in my opinion that moving to fullback has coincided with a drop in form. Whilst I join frustration with the considerable (cough) salary cap question surrounding his move to Sarries I am happy that he will be playing centre and wing again given the ridiculous strength Sarries have at fullback.

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Post by WELL-PAST-IT on Tue 23 Apr 2019, 1:49 pm

GF that also depends on the system the World 15 is going to play, horses for courses so to speak. It is one reason why everyone has their own personal choice, the other players would not suit their countries system

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England's strength in depth...and who makes their RWC squad? - Page 2 Empty Re: England's strength in depth...and who makes their RWC squad?

Post by miaow on Tue 23 Apr 2019, 2:05 pm

WELL-PAST-IT wrote:Miaow, just a few players missed, May is certainly world class and a step above North at the moment, Billy V, not back to were he was, but Saturday showed he is getting there, Lawes is another that would be in the squad of just about any side in the world, George is not mentioned; how many sides would like him in their squad, most I would think. Joseph was considered "World Class" before his injury, Slade is keeping him out so what is Slade?

No chance. This is what I mean about looking at them from a place of hope.

May is quick, he's a very good finisher, but he has glaring weaknesses. Rushing up in the lead up to Cory Hill's try, letting the ball dribble between his legs against Ireland, and putting in a dog turd tackle on McInally (tripping Farrell up in the process) stick out from this 6Ns. Stockdale is a much better finisher but he's teetering on the edge of this tier as, although he's up there Ioane in terms of all-round try-scoring and line-breaking class, he's showing a bit of inexperience. Probably safer to say he's just outside, rather than just inside, this definition. Maybe the same for Ryan and Itoje - it'll become clearer after the RWC!

Still, in terms of finishing ability - like Cuthbert before him - May is lethal when you give him space to run at because of his top level pace. He's clearly worked very, very hard to minimise his weaknesses, something Cuthbert never did. But there's no way he's in that top tier. North's improved his game sufficiently that I think he sneaks in, but would happily drop him out as he still has flaws with his defence (his game reading, decision making, and aerial ability all vastly improved though - parallels with May are good in that sense). It's a small tier: you could make the case that Finn Russell isn't there yet, too flaky despite his brilliance. North perhaps the same. If you just start including every good/in form player for international sides, you're missing the point - its about talent, consistency, lack of weaknesses, leadership...

Viliame Vunipola's like May: very good at a few things, but not an all round brilliant player. Still, again, close simply because that point of difference can make a very, very good rugby player. Lawes is great, I make him a vital player - but, again, he's not at that top tier. No shame in that. Kruis excellent at lineout, Launchbury a good all-rounder: but neither quite there. Launchbury like AWJ - just not as mobile, poorer handling, a bit more bulk, but less leadership; why AWJ makes the Lions and Launchbury doesn't. But AWJ doesn't make this tier, either, despite him being vital for Wales.

You can go through the whole England team and do this - yes, of course they looked good out in Australia/when they were winning the GS. But form comes in to play, as does considering the holistic abilities of a player, and there's been 2 seasons of up and down performances from all the key players. Joseph is a fantastic attacker - again, pace and a step is vital - but hasn't really played enough, let alone consistently, to be considered in this tier. Showed his defensive weaknesses on the Lions tour: if he were a winger, those nuances wouldn't matter so much, but you're judging the player by position as well so, no, not world class/whatever you want to call it. Could he make this tier? Yes, he's clearly got the raw ability. But he hasn't been able to capitalise on it for England. Slade's very good and I definitely think he could make it if England keep picking him as he really does have a complete game - seems to read the game a step ahead of others, which is a good sign - but that's the point I'm making, England has lots of good players but none who cry out that they're deserving of the starting shirt for the long term, and as a result England don't make these kinds of players by providing someone like Jospeh and/or Slade (or Cipriani, or Ford even!) with the platform to let their talent develop at the top level (6Ns, RWCs, NZ/SA/sometimes Oz). Slade's been playing well for Exeter for years but only now gets his shot - and if he doesn't perform in Japan, he'll probably be dropped. Sometimes, with players like him, you can create a class player if they have the raw goods, and - to me - Slade and Joseph are good examples of two players who might be able to make it if they took some of Jonny May/Owen Farrell's mindset and worked tirelessly on improving their game.

miaow

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Post by No 7&1/2 on Tue 23 Apr 2019, 2:10 pm

May has been pure class for the last 2 year's now. Had that potential in him and clearly a deadly finisher but he's much more than that. Would have been interesting to see if Watson had remained fit if May had developed to the same degree. Hopefully a nice headache for Jones of Watson quickly gets anywhere back to his best.
I'll just repeat though despite all the class running through the team that creates the debates it's pretty likely England's coaches know exactly who they want lining up in each game already should they be fit.

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Post by miaow on Tue 23 Apr 2019, 2:16 pm

Poorfour wrote:miaow, my criterion was much more objective than "nailed on" or "world class". It's "who has been consistently picked when fit?"

There are a couple of late positional switches in the list, and some new faces who have come in through injury or retirement, but 11 of the players in the first list have been picked pretty much every time they have been fit. The uncertainties are around back row, centre and full back - in each case because new options have been made available, and in about half of those cases because Eddie is developing his squad depth because of the tough England RWC schedule.

But some of those players have a handful of caps, so it's hardly a solid sample/reliable thing for each player? Farrell, for instance, has probably been picked more often as a 12 than a 10 under EJ - does that make him England's 12? No. What about Sinckler, who has, what, a season as the starting 3 under his sizeable belt? Do you honestly think he's miles ahead of Harry Williams (or even Dan Cole...!!) as a starter, particularly if disicpline issues become a consistent problem, as they appear to be in the last few months, club and country. Same with Jamie George. Is George really nailed on - do you think he's replaced Hartley, who's apparently co/vice captain? That's 2 and 3 that aren't apparently clear, so 2/3 not clear in the front row.

Second-row is between Lawes and Kruis for who partners Itoje. So 1:1. 4/6 unclear so far...

6 not apparent. Not sure Curry and Underhill have ever been fit at the same time. 2/3 unsure in back row, 6/9 overall.

Half backs nailed on. 6/11.

To me, the best starting partnership is Tuilagi and Slade, but Te'o seems to be hanging around, so 1:1 here, with Tuilagi playin irrespective of who's alongside him. 7/12.

May seems to be a starter now. Nowell/Daly/Ashton/Cokanasiga/Watson/Brown could all take the other 2 slots. 2/3 unclear, 9/15 overall.

Only 6 English players are nailed down. That's not that bad to be honest - not sure Wales have too many more than that, Scotland probably have about the same, Ireland maybe a few more. But it's the lack of certainty to those who aren't nailed on - Wales could select Navidi, Shingler, or Moriarty, or even Ellis Jenkins at 6. The first 3 have all been involved in massive wins and big successes for Wales at various times in the last 9 years. Only Ellis Jenkins lacks test experience, but he's a club captain, former u20 captain, a very good player who would be starting at 7 in any other generation, and is an all round great guy...in fact, had injuries been kinder to him, and the Warburton/Tipuric situation not existed, he'd probably be pushing for this title/tier (whatever you want to call it if we're not calling it world class) himself. He'd walk in to all the other 6Ns squads as back-up to Watson/Underhill/Curry, and maybe surpass the others (Ireland have good 7 depth in Leavy, VdF etc. but quite different players). Underhill and Curry, incidentally - both look like they're very capable of making this tier, Underhill in particular. He's not far off already - again, we'll get a better look in Japan.

The English situation at 6 is quite different. Not sure England are happy with any of their 6 options (bar maybe Wilson?) in terms of what they've done in the shirt under EJ. So rather than 'the incumbent keeps the shirt' you end up playing musical chairs with selection - that's the point I'm trying to make as much as anything. England have so much strength relative to other countries at club level, it's very hard when it comes to actually picking a test side - if Gatland becomes England coach you can guarantee that's the one thing he'll be good at, knowing who to persist with and who to leave out.

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