Rugby Union

Rugby World Cup - Who has played themselves into the English starting XV

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The Rugby World Cup kicks off in ten day and Stuart Lancaster will be adding the final touches to his starting team for the first game against Fiji.

Following the warm-up matches we take a look at who has played themselves into contention for a starting spot come September 18.


Mike Brown has done everything that has been asked of him on his return from injury – rock-solid under the high ball, run aggressively, back any poor kicking and has tackled and kicked well.


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Jonny May has produced an excellent couple of games and though still a little vulnerable defensively under the high ball, deserves his chance to show the Fijians his class. Similarly Anthony Watson has done enough for me to put himself beyond the challenge of Jack Nowell.


Despite only playing together on two occasions and once only in the starting line-up, it’s impossible to see beyond Brad Barritt and Jonathan Joseph for the centre combination – the combination of brawn and defence with silky footwork and handling is as exciting as we have seen it for some time.


A tight call as there are two combinations that would more than do a job for England but for the moment George Ford, with his ability to ignite a back-line would be my number 10. Thereafter, because of his better service and box-kicking I would have Ben Youngs at 9. 


The past few games have proved the fitness of Ben Morgan after his return from injury and the dynamism he has displayed from the back of the scrum and break tackles has shaded the place from Billy Vunipola for my money.

Chris Robshaw and Tom Wood both stepped up their games massively against Ireland and with their additional line-out abilities it puts them in the starting berth on either flank.


The most fiercely contested partnership on the field. The options of Courtney Lawes, Joe Launchbury and Geoff Parling are a headache that many coaches would be pleased to have.

Parling showed the benefit of his leadership in the line-out against Ireland so he would be my pick. For me, Launchbury hasn’t quite reached the lofty standards he set before his injury so Lawes would be the other partner.


This section of the pack has creaked somewhat against the French and the Irish so is perhaps where the England management may seek some changes. At Tighthead, I would go with Dan Cole. His work in the loose as well as the hard graft in the scrum puts him amongst the elite in world rugby.

On the other side of the scrum I’d actually stay with the better scrummager, Joe Marler over Mako Vunipola. Hooker is where I’d go against the grain: for me Jamie George has shown enough to earn his place by hitting his men in the line-out and has scrummaged well. England have looked steadier at the set piece with him on board.

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