Rugby Union

England would have been stronger with Luther Burrell

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Football News

With England the first host nation to be eliminated in the group stages of the World Cup, there has been a lot of scrutiny of both the players and the management team.

Head coach Stuart Lancaster has been under a lot of pressure in the media, with both fans and pundits torn whether he should lose his job over England's performances.

England's squad selections going into the tournament have been debated quite a lot, with much of the focus being on the inclusion of Rugby League convert Sam Burgess and the omission Danny Cipriani. However, I would like to discuss a different selection which I think had a negative impact on England's World Cup campaign.


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When it was announced that Jonathan Joseph would not be playing in the second World Cup group game for England it was undoubtedly a blow because he was one of England's first choice centres.

As a result of his injury, Lancaster chose to start Burgess - someone he later referred to as an impact player - and while England did not concede a try whilst he was on the field, he was substituted at the 70 minute mark with fly-half George Ford coming on as a replacement and Owen Farrell moving out of position to centre.

Along with all the other replacements made (6 in total by the time Burgess was substituted), this point was where the game changed for England with Wales starting to dominate and subsequently going on to win the game.

Burrell over Slade?

The issue I have with England's choice of centres going into the game goes back to the initial squad selection and it is the selection of Exeter's Henry Slade.

Now my issue is not with Slade himself because he is a very talented youngster who will undoubtedly go on to win many caps for England at international level. My issue is the fact that Lancaster chase him over Luther Burrell who would have been the obvious replacement for the injured Joseph for the Wales game having played well in last years Six Nations tournament, scoring three tries.

This would then allow Burgess to still be the impact player and not force players like Owen Farrell to play out of position. The idea that Lancaster would essentially waste a spot in his squad on a player who he has absolutely no intention of playing in any game that matters is quite frankly ludicrous.

A key part of rugby is having strength in depth and obviously you are going to a World Cup with the knowledge that not all of your players will be fit for every game and so you need to ensure that you have the best replacements possible should they need to start in case of an injury, like the one that Joseph suffered.

Also, substitutions is another key part of rugby and you need to have players on your bench that you are confident will be able to make an impact when you bring them on. The fact that Slade did not make the bench in any of the first three group games goes to show that he was not a replacement which Lancaster felt could make an impact and this cost England dearly as a result.

Had Burrell been in the squad, it is likely that he would have played in the Wales game as Joseph's replacement, along with Burgess making an appearance off the bench as an impact substitute. As a result, England would have been more likely to hold onto their lead and pick up all four points. Therefore, they may not have been in the must-win situation they were going into the Australia game because by that point it was too late.

The fact that England managed to lose from such a great position really dented their World Cup hopes and they were unable to bounce back in the Australia game, being outclassed in virtually every facet of the game by the Wallabies and this loss ended a nation's dreams.

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Rugby Union
England Rugby
IRB Rugby World Cup

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