Rugby Union

England must revamp starting XV after World Cup disaster

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Football News

Many England fans will think that the World Cup disaster was a result of the wrong personnel.

While England have plenty of players who have been excellent, even in this tournament, there are certainly some youthful options that should be considered when looking forward.

Not all of these changes should be made immediately, but they should all be considered, and perhaps a few will feature in next year's Six Nations.


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England already have a fairly young squad so many of them could and should probably make it to 2019.

But the balance of the current team is clearly wrong, and here is a list of those who should be given a chance to either further their England careers or make a splash on debut.

1. Nick Auterac

The bath Loosehead had impressed with his huge strength in Premiership rugby. He can scrummage, carry and tackle with very high intensity. His energy alone would benefit the squad. Unless the current crop of props can prove their worth it is time to invest in youth.

2. Jamie George

The Saracen might have been unlucky not to get a run out in the World Cup itself. He has great pace and handling and a good rugby brain. He scores tries and, most crucially of all, he hits his arrows. He will have competition from a returning Dylan Hartley, as well as Luke Cowan-Dickie so this is an area of real strength for England looking forward.

3. Kieran Brookes

He may not have had a great World Cup, but he is a young player in a position that does not have much strength in depth. Tight heads only improve with age, and time at Northampton Saints will undoubtedly improve his scrummaging. Henry Thomas is another young prop who has caught the eye, but in this position iron sharpens iron and only game time will result in that.

4. Courtney Lawes

One of the most athletic Locks in World Rugby, it is noticeable when he is missing for England. He works like a six and is a fantastic lineout option. He is still very young in his career, but he has a great deal of experience and will be a leader in the group as it rebuilds.

5. Maro Itoje

Another player unlucky to miss out on a World Cup place will certainly play a big role in England's future. He is already a World Cup winning captain in his own right. He is hungry, athletic, powerful, and has shown his personal qualities for England's youth and in the Saracen's squad. He might be a future England great, and needs to be incorporated into the camp as soon as possible.

6. Dave Ewers

One thing that cost England was the lack of ball-carrying options. Too often the task rested solely on the shoulders of the Number Eight, so having the big Exeter Chief on the blindside will give a few more options. He has experience at either position in the back row, but at six he can make an impact in the tackle and breakdown like few others.

7. Will Fraser

If England are missing out on one thing more than a ball carrier, it's an out and out Openside. Not having someone to secure the turnover ball, and defend the vice versa, cost England more than anything else. Australia secured nine turnovers. Against the top teams that one stat will cost you the match. Fraser has missed opportunities for initiation through injury, but anyone who has watched the Saracen knows that he can do the job. Only time will tell if he has what it takes on the international stage.

8. Nathan Hughes

England fans will be counting down the days until this man becomes eligible. The standout Eight in the Aviva Premiership his performances for Wasps have been eye-catching. He is a tremendous ball carrier with soft hands and good rugby knowledge and awareness. Adding him into the mix will likely inspire Billy Vunipola to up his form also, because if he does not, then Hughes will be the man in the starting shirt for a long time to come. 

9. Joe Simpson

Simpson is likely the quickest Scrum Half in world rugby. That alone is something that should not be taken lightly. He might be the quickest player in the England squad who isn't called Jonny May. If the Gloucester winger can be picked mostly due to his outrageous pace, then a threat like Simpson deserves more than the sporadic cameos he has been afforded.

10. Danny Cipriani

The inclusion of Danny Cipriani throughout Lancaster's tenure has seemed like a token gesture at most. It is hard to imagine what more he could have done with his chances to force his way into the fold, and it begs the question why he has been given game time in the first place. While the current Fly Halfs have both performed exceedingly well for Lancaster, Cipriani might still be the best option at No.10.

11. Jonny May

As I mentioned his inclusion is due largely to his pace which has turned games on their head in the blink of an eye on more than one occasion. But he is young in his tenure of the England shirt and has been improving consistently. His physicality has improved as has his discipline which was suspect early on. His unique threats earn him time to find his way to becoming one of the most dangerous wingers in world rugby.

12. Henry Slade

One has to believe that the only reason he hasn't featured more is because of the proximity to the World Cup making the consistency of selection more important than it would otherwise be. Wherever he plays he must be included given his obvious natural talent. It may be early days for such an assessment, but his time on the ball makes me reminisce of a young Dan Carter. I'm not saying he is that good yet, or will ever be that good, but his potential at this early stage of his career is unlimited.

His performances have shown a gritty physicality as well which, given the chance, will prove any doubters wrong about his ability to hold his own at international level.

13. Jonathan Joseph

For 2015, JJ has been the brightest spark. The top try scorer in the Six Nations, England look rather more impotent without him. The midfield needs to be built around him, whether complimented with power and with another ball player, JJ's inclusion in the long term England picture is in little doubt.

14. Anthony Watson

Like May, Watson has been learning on the job. With every game that goes by he looks more the complete player. His time at Full Back has made him a real aerial option for England's attack, and his footwork and acceleration is phenomenal.

15. Mike Brown

If one player stands out of the current England squad for having consistently high standards, and palpable desire it's Mike Brown. The Harlequin has long been among the very best in the world at Full Back and is a source of comfort for any Englishman looking down a team sheet.

No matter what the issues in midfield or at half back, Brown's presence ensures that teams will not get easy territory and that the men in white have a real threat in the counter. His passion may not win him many fans abroad, but is a useful ingredient when trying to build a competitive culture.

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Danny Cipriani
Rugby Union
England Rugby

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