Rugby Union

Was Stuart Lancaster right not to pick Nick Abendanon and Steffon Armitage?

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The England coaching team announced there 50-man training squad for the upcoming World Cup, excitement surrounded the announcements as to whether new faces would be entering the squad which there was for players like Luke Cowan-Dickie, Elliott Daly, Henry Slade and Maro Itoje who have all had brilliant seasons and deserve the call up.

But, the discussions from rugby pundits all around the globe were focused on who was not called up rather than who was.

English based players like Dave Ewers of Exeter Chiefs and Christian Wade from London Wasps were extremely unlucky not to have been called up but Stuart Lancaster states that they still have the chance of making the final 31 man squad but this looks to be highly unlikely.

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The void that has been left by Manu Tuilagi as a result of his recent convictions has been filled by Rugby League convert Sam Burgess has caused a stir amongst the Rugby community especially as he has been included as a back rather than a forward where he has displayed man of the match performances.

The ongoing debate still continues that should players who ply their trade outside of England be picked for the national team? Stuart Lancaster has remained focused on this policy since being named head coach.

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Many argued that not including Toulon’s Steffon Armitage and Clermont’s Nick Abendanon could massively impact on England’s chances of winning the world cup but what do these two players have that others playing in the Aviva Premiership don’t?

Nick Abendanon has always been known for his counter attacking ability, being able to spark an attack from nothing with blistering speed and an eye for a gap. His kicking does not go unnoticed with brave contests in the air and an accurate right foot. But doesn’t Lancaster already have options to pick from in the Premiership who also have these qualities?

Yes Mike Brown is currently injured but he is poised to return in time for the training camp and if everything goes well he is most certainly going to be wearing the 15 shirt come the World Cup.

Other options such as Alex Goode of Saracens and Chris Pennell of Worcester certainly provide strength in depth for the full back shirt so Abendanon shouldn’t be a big miss.

On the other hand, the Steffon Armitage debate is one that has a lot more strengths rather than weaknesses. The Toulon favourite is a genuine open side with his ball winning ability which is something that Lancaster is missing in his current squad with the exception of Matt Kvesic but the Gloucester man has a slim chance of replacing captain Chris Robshaw.

Surely if the move to Bath had of happened then the seven shirt would have been Armitage’s, then the argument would have been would Robshaw replace Haskell at six but that has been put to bed.

England certainly have lost a lot by not including Armitage, but thinking back to the 2011 World Cup where a certain Jonny Wilkinson was picked by coach Martin Johnson who brought in the policy on selecting overseas players and nobody seemed to have an issue around this.

Selecting France based players would of certainly caused a stir among those in the England camp where certain players have already voiced their thoughts around the subject. Selections also could have made players based in England think twice about signing contracts for English clubs which could have seen a mass exodus of talent leave our shores, similar to what is happening in Australia currently.

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