Rugby Union

The pros and cons of Stuart Lancaster's team selection

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England have put out a new Fly Half and Centre trio for their important clash against Wales this weekend.

This is partly injury induced, but equally tactical it seems. There are positives and negatives for England supporters hearing this news, but only after the game will we know which way the balance has swung.

Let's examine the reasons for Lancaster's choices, and the sacrifices of making them.


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Pro: Physicality

Brad Barritt was selected in the World Cup squad to sure up a backline that has been perceived as "lightweight". Both George Ford and Jonathan Joseph rely on footwork to employ their best rugby; neither are likely to smash down brick walls in the midfield.

When considering Owen Farrell and Sam Burgess; few players embrace the physical aspect of the game more than those two. Farrell may not be the power runner that Burgess is, but both are likely to be quicker off the line, and more eager to collide with the Welsh power runners.

With the inconsistency in the Welsh back division, it will be hard for them to create their own holes, but looking at England's line-up, it could be impossible to run through them.

Con: Creativity

None of the new players have the creative X-factor of their predecessors. Neither centre is known for their distribution, and Farrell is more likely to play deep and plug the corners rather than the gain line resident, George Ford.

Given the blistering form of the wingers, this is a massive loss in potency from the English attack.

Burgess will look to use his strength to open up offload opportunities, but he may not have the best candidates running off his shoulder.

Pro: Better game management

If there is one major criticism of George Ford, it is how he controls the game. He is better suited to a high pace, ball in hand, style that exhausts teams, rather than frustrates them. Farrell arguably has a better all-round game at his disposal.

On top of that, there will be more predictability in the midfield, and more carrying options to recycle the ball. You can expect a more measured approach, therefore.

Con: Fewer Attacking Threats

Not only is the line-up lacking play-makers, it is lacking game breakers. So often England have relied on JJ to spark something by beating a defender out of nowhere, or fixing a defence with his footwork. Brad Barritt does not have this skill set. Farrell may have the occasional break in his arsenal, but few Fly Halfs in world rugby have the bamboozling running game of George Ford.

Pro: Burgess and Farrell get game time

If England are going to win the World Cup, it will be a squad effort. This means blooding players into important games. Farrell will be at least the second choice Fly Half through the entire campaign. If Ford gets injured, the supporters will all be relieved that his replacement has already got his hands dirty.

Burgess has minimal experience of Rugby Union, let alone international union, let alone a World Cup. Given his position in the squad as primary centre cover, he needs as much game time as can be squeezed out.

Con: No Continuity

With the previous point in consideration, it is a fine balancing act between spreading the load and building continuity. No centre partnership they can deploy has the synergy or Nonu and Smith, for example, but the more concurrent minutes that the starting combination can put together the better.

It will be interesting to see how England gel with a new style. It will either give them more options looking forward, or will see them backpedalling from a Welsh onslaught.

The fact of the matter is that England still don't know exactly what their best team is. JJ's injury is another chance for Burgess to put his name forward. There is hype around him for a reason; he is an athletic beast, and a unique presence and if he can find his groove in the next few weeks then it will mean good things to come.

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Rugby Union
Wales Rugby
Owen Farrell
England Rugby
IRB Rugby World Cup

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