England have declared their rugby squad for the rugby World Cup.
Many of the players selected have been on the cards to go since the Six Nations. However there are several surprises I was not expecting, and its more the players who weren’t picked than players who were that has surprised me.
Here is the full England squad.
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Hookers: Jamie George (Saracens), Rob Webber (Bath), Tom Youngs (Leicester).
Tom Youngs will likely be the starting hooker, he brings excellent loose play and with Dylan Hartley dismissed from the squad, he is the most experienced hooker by a large margin.
However we did see several wobbles from Youngs at line out and at scrum time against France, something the England coaching team will want fixed before the World Cup begins next month.
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Rob Webber is also in the squad and it’s nice to see him getting his dues, he’s had a great season with Bath and has been pushing for regular England selection for several seasons, with good set piece and great energy in the loose play, Webber is also a natural leader which is something England have lacked under Lancaster.
Finally the third hooker is Jamie George, who only has one cap. He made a good impact coming on against France, helping to settle the line out and scrum which had been creaking dangerously.
Surprisingly, Luke Cowan-Dickie who looked to be in line for the third hooker spot, misses out. Possibly on the ground that while his loose play is good, he over saw misfiring line outs and crumbling scrums.
Props: Kieran Brookes (Northampton), Dan Cole (Leicester), Joe Marler (Harlequins), Mako Vunipola (Saracens), David Wilson (Bath).
There are no surprises at prop with regular starters, Dan Cole and Joe Marler likely to be the in the first fifteen.
Regular deputies David Wilson and Mako Vunipola will probably be on the bench to bring on hard running in the final twenty minutes of the game.
Youngster Kieran Brookes is in to provide tight head cover. The only unexpected choice is that Lions star Alex Corbisiero is left out.
Many see Corbisiero as the middle ground between the tight playing Marler, who is good at set piece but doesn’t offer much in the loose, and the mobile Mako Vunipola, who brings great ball carrying and tackling but has been weak at scrum time.
Second rows: George Kruis (Saracens), Joe Launchbury (Wasps), Courtney Lawes (Northampton), Geoff Parling (Exeter).
Courtney Lawes and Geoff Parling bring experience to the second row and are currently in form, so it’s no shock that they are in the squad.
I predict they will be the starting pair for the World Cup. Inexperienced George Kruis is rewarded for playing well during the Six Nations and warm up period with a place in the squad. While Joe Launchbury is brought in despite playing poorly against France after returning from a long injury layoff.
I am surprised the Dave Attwood has been left out of the squad as he looked good all of last season, and during the six nations. I feel he brings real ballast to the England scrum and provides excellent defensive and loose play. England may regret selecting Launchbury instead of him, as the young second row looked unfit and overwhelmed against France.
Back rows: James Haskell (Wasps), Ben Morgan (Gloucester), Chris Robshaw (captain, Harlequins), Billy Vunipola (Saracens), Tom Wood (Northampton).
England continue with their usual cast of back-row stalwarts. Chris Robshaw is the only Openside, with the other selections specialising in ether Blindside or Number Eight. Nick Easter is unlucky to lose out to the recently recovered Ben Morgan. The likely starting backrow will be Billy Vunipola, Chris Robshaw and James Haskell
Scrum-halves: Danny Care (Harlequins), Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens), Ben Youngs (Leicester).
Richard Wigglesworth has probably been the most consistent performer of the three selected scrum-halves. However it is likely that experienced pair Care and Youngs will be in the match day twenty three.
Fly-halves: Owen Farrell (Saracens), George Ford (Bath).
Danny Cipriani controversially misses out, after a very strong season and some excellent plays for England even when brought on out of position.
George Ford looked to be in the best form of the two selected fly-halves despite being part of a losing team. There have also been hints the Lancaster may play Ford and Farrell together with the latter at Inside Centre.
Centres: Brad Barritt (Saracens), Sam Burgess (Bath), Jonathan Joseph (Bath), Henry Slade (Exeter).
Brad Barritt is in the squad despite having not featuring for England since last season. League convert Sam Burgess impressed on his test debut in the victory against France, despite being sent to the sin bin. Henry Slade also makes the cut and will be consider as a centre and fly-half. Jon Joseph is the most likely to start, although there is my speculation on who will partner him.
Back three: Mike Brown (Harlequins), Alex Goode (Saracens), Jonny May (Gloucester), Jack Nowell (Exeter), Anthony Watson (Bath).
Only one specialist winger is selected in Jonny May. Jack Nowell spent much of last season for Exeter playing either outside centre or fullback. Alex Goode will be covering fullback, centre and fly-half.
Bath fullback Watson is likely to start in one of the wing berths, whilst Mike Brown is likely to start at fullback, despite a lacklustre return to international rugby.
Likely match day twenty three.
1. Marler 2. Youngs 3. Cole
4. Launchbury 5. Lawes
6.Haskell 8. Vunipola 7. Robshaw (Capt)
9. Youngs 10. Ford
11. Nowell 12. Barritt 13. Joseph 14. Watson
Bench- 16. Webber 17. M. Vunipola 18. Wilson 19. Parling 20. Wood 21. Wigglesworth 22. Farrell