England’s Midfield Make-Up

England have an abundance of options for their pivotal 10,12,13 combination in the middle of the park with Eddie Jones selecting two fly-halves and four centres.

Here we look at three potential combinations Jones could pick for England in their tougher games they will face at the World Cup.

Option One: 10 Owen Farrell (Saracens) 12 Manu Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers) 13 Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs)

This was England’s favoured combination during the most recent Six Nations with the captain pulling the strings.

This combination offers a lot of balance in the centres with the power from the Samoan born Tuilagi and the playmaking, attacking play of Henry Slade who has the ability to execute a deft chip or burn his man on the outside.

Credit: Instagram (sladey10)

It worked incredibly well against Ireland and France as Henry Slade played the best rugby he ever has for England and alongside an in-form Owen Farrell and a fit again Manu Tuilagi this combination is a formidable unit.

Option Two: 10 George Ford (Leicester Tigers) 12 Owen Farrell (Saracens) 13 Manu Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers)

This would reinstate the partnership that Eddie Jones won back-to-back Six Nations titles and a tour to Australia with. Starting both specialist fly-halves George Ford and Owen Farrell.

George Ford is excellent in attack he plays flat to the line and with him playing so flat he can expose any rush defences England may come up against something teams like Wales have mastered and use it to suffocate the opposition.

Credit: Instagram (george_fordy)

Having Tuilagi at outside centre gives England the powerful carrier in the backs that can get England on the front foot and provide Ben Youngs with the quick ball that is so important in the modern game.

Option Three: 10 Owen Farrell (Saracens) 12 Piers Francis (Northampton Saints) 13 Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby)

Piers Francis has impressed over the summer so far really showing that he is deserving of his place in England’s final 31 man squad ahead of former rugby league star Ben Te’o.

Francis also has played at stand off in the past and offers a kicking option tactically which they used to unleash havoc on Ireland and France in the Six Nations as England cruised to wins.

Credit: Instagram (piersfrancis)

Jonathan Joseph has real pace and given space can punish defences with his outside arcing run that he has become known for. This combination is by far the most unknown quantity but this trio could be bedded in with England opening their Japan campaign against Tonga followed by a test against the fast improving USA.

Brothers In Arms XV

There are a lot of family connections in the world of rugby, there are father and son pairings like Owen and Andy Farrell, or cousins like the Vunipolas and Taulupe Faletau but here we focus on exceptional siblings. We put together a team of 15 players, the only criteria must have a rugby playing brother.

1 Ben Franks (New Zealand)

The ex-All Black is an experienced man and has played rugby for some great clubs in both his homeland and more recently England and he will continue his journey in England next season with Northampton Saints. A solid set piece specialist.

2 Tom Youngs (England)

No longer on the England radar but still a very good player. He has been a wonderful servant to his club first as a centre before his transition to the front row. He’s a mobile unit and hasn’t lost his handling skills from his days as a back.

3 Owen Franks (New Zealand)

Arguably the best tighthead prop of all time. He has amassed 106 international caps over the last decade and at 31 as a prop he could have years ahead of him. He will go down as a New Zealand and Crusaders great.

4 Sam Whitelock (Captain, New Zealand)

Your classic enforcer. Sam Whitelock has been front and centre for the All Blacks for a number of years, an All Black team without Whitelock is like a burger without the cheese, it’s just not the same. Strong in the lineout and around the park. His experience and workrate make him our captain.

2017. (1)
By http://www.davidmolloyphotography.com from Sydney, Australia – 2017. Whitelock, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=61951964

5 Scott Barrett (New Zealand)

Scott’s style of play may not be the razzle dazzle of younger brother, Jordie or the fast, skilful show of older brother, Beauden but it is just as effective. Scott is an expert at the lineout and he has made this a considerable strength for his franchise.

6 Luke Whitelock (New Zealand)

The lesser known Whitelock. He may have just eight caps for New Zealand but is a testament to the man that he is such a valued member of the Highlanders. He has also shown how highly regarded he is with four caps for the Barbarians and an appearance for a World XV. A useful lineout option and abrasive in the loose.

7 Steffon Armitage (England)

A traditional openside flanker, starting at London Irish he flourished when he left for France and the eccentric Mourad Boudjellal’s Toulon. Armitage’s work on the floor is exceptional and he can turnover ball at will.

8 Ardie Savea (New Zealand)

Not quite as quick as his formidable brother but fast nonetheless. He makes the breaks of a centre with the power of a ten tonne truck. He has all the attributes of a world class rugby player. Fast becoming a shoo-in for Steve Hansen.

9 Ben Youngs (England)

England’s first choice scrum-half and has been for some time. Youngs is one of the leaders of both his national team and Leicester Tigers. He has an all court game, he kicks very well, passes quickly and he has that sniping ability with his pace.

10 Beauden Barrett (New Zealand)

The oldest of the Barrrett dynasty. The 28 year old has established himself as one of the best fly-halves in the world. Barrett is quick, frighteningly so and he uses this to great effect along with his vision. He’s the only superstar brother we want running our backline.

2017. (1)
By http://www.davidmolloyphotography.com from Sydney, Australia – 2017. chased by Rona, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=61951911

11 Julian Savea (New Zealand)

Another man that is no longer part of the international picture but he has an astonishing strike rate for New Zealand with 46 tries in 54 appearances. He has extraordinary pace for his formidable size and he also has considerable power.

12 Manu Tuilagi (England)

Another powerhouse for this backline that is shaping up to be almost as big as the pack. Despite having an injury plagued career he is undoubtedly an extremely talented centre. His power and offloading game make him potent in attack.

13 Jordie Barrett (New Zealand)

Not quite as consistent as his older brothers but has all the talent in the world, remarkably skilful, terribly quick and terrifyingly brilliant. If he can match any of the achievements of his fly-half brother he could become a key part of a post-World Cup All Blacks team.

14 Alesana Tuilagi (Samoa)

There was only space for two of rugby’s largest family in both numbers and size. The Samoan winger was known for his powerful hits (ask Nick Abendanon) and barnstorming carries. Tuilagi adds even more terrifying physicality to this powerful backline.

By Mark Meredith – Flickr: Ready for action, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16889376

15 Delon Armitage (England)

The veteran fullback was luckier than his brother regarding international caps, appearing 26 times for England and scoring eight tries in the process. A strong kicker and good footwork make fullback his best position although he’s also at home in the centre or out on the wing.

There we have it our Brothers XV. It was hard to pick our favourite brothers so instead of just making one team we made three, stay tuned and like the Facebook page to see if your favourite brothers made any of our later teams. Do you think this team could give your favourite team a run for their money? Let us know in the comments.

No Need to Panic for Eddie’s England

England’s 21-13 defeat to Wales last weekend brought the men in white back down to earth with an almighty bump.

The naysayers will say this is a sign of things to come for England and that Eddie Jones’ plans are falling apart.

They would be totally and utterly wrong.

It is not time for Eddie Jones to throw out his plans and return to square one. England lost the game for three reasons.

Firstly the execution of their gameplan that served England so well against Ireland and France was off. The wonderful performance from Liam Williams didn’t help but if England had executed better I think Wales may have found themselves chasing the shadow of Jonny May as France did in round two.

USO-Gloucester Rugby - 20141025 - Jonny May
By Clément Bucco-Lechat – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36545049

Secondly composure first wained then completely deserted England, even Owen Farrell lost his cool. Kyle Sinckler’s indiscretions allowed Gareth Ansombe to cut the seven point deficit to just one. This led to the Principality Stadium’s crowd fill the cauldron with the infamous chorus of hymns and arias that can lift Wales to new heights.

Finally there was the introduction of Northampton’s Dan Biggar, and what a difference he made, he created Cory Hill’s game changing try before stamping out the flicker of hope England were holding onto when he picked out Josh Adams with a sumptuous cross kick to send the crowd into delirium.

These are fixable issues for England. There is no need for Scott Wisemantel to chuck out his plans and start again. Stick to the plan. Utilise the kicking game, turn the defence. Italy may be the game to reintroduce George Ford or bring in Dan Robson to attack as England’s title hopes could come down to bonus points should Ireland or Scotland put Wales to the sword.

Now, the composure. Owen Farrell will be better, how often do you see him have two bad games in a row? I don’t recall ever seeing this ever since his Anglo-Welsh Cup debut for Saracens. Kyle Sinckler will be more under control, he will be better, in the first half against Wales he was immense, he should look to his captain and fellow forwards when he is feeling the heat.

By Caroline Léna Becker – Self-photographed, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23105675

At Twickenham the composure will be easier to hold. There will not be the pressure cooker environment of Cardiff there will be 80,000 people willing England on, they need to thrive of this.

England can rest assured that not many players will be able to make the instant impact Dan Biggar did.

England need to relax and not go hitting the panic button, they can return home for their final two games, stick to the plan and hope Wales slip up. A loss to a pumped up Wales in Cardiff is not going to halt Eddie’s chariot, not this time.

Combined England-Wales XV

England and Wales are the only undefeated teams left in the Six Nations and they meet for a potential championship showdown this weekend in Cardiff. Here is the XV we think is the best mix from the two nations.

  1. Rob Evans (Wales)

It would be Mako Vunipola but his injury rules him out. Evans gets this due to having played the most.

2. Jamie George (England)

An excellent opening two rounds from the hooker hands him this spot over Ken Owens. Strong in the loose and a workhorse in defence.

3. Kyle Sinckler (England)

Carries well and is developing into one of the best tighthead props in the business. Easily the best option.

4. Alun Wyn Jones (Wales)

An excellent leader. He has been totemic for Wales over the past few seasons and his presence alone can change games.

By Chris Jobling from Swansea, UK, Wales – Ospreys v Harlequins (EDF Energy Cup 2008), CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28830783

5. Courtney Lawes (England)

Makes monstrous hits and fly-halves have no chance against a man with the power and strength of Courtney Lawes. Also a brutal carrier.

6. Mark Wilson (England)

The unsung hero of the England pack. Heroic work rate and key to England’s recent success.

7. Justin Tipuric (Wales)

A breakdown specialist, and a tackling menace. Tipuric is a proper open side flanker and it improves the balance in the back row with Wilson.

8. Billy Vunipola (England)

In our minds the best number eight in the Six Nations.

9. Ben Youngs (England)

A very strong box kicking game and at his best a real joy to watch.

10. Owen Farrell (England)

No contest here. Farrell is the complete fly-half, he kicks well, tackles strongly, manages the game to the nth degree and leads from the front.

USO - Saracens - 20151213 - Owen Farrell
By Clément Bucco-Lechat – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46847661

11. Jonny May (England)

The best finisher England have and with four tries in his last two games with a mastery of the kick chase game he fills our left wing spot.

12. Manu Tuilagi (England)

Playing very well for England and still not at his best.

13. Jonathan Davies (Wales)

Creates space when there is none. A strong attacker and one of the best defensive centres in the world.

14. George North (Wales)

The giant winger has power and pace to burn.

15. Liam Williams (Wales)

His powerful runs and lethal speed make him our fullback. Him linking with Jonny May and George North would be deadly.

Would you make any changes? Let us know in the comments section.

Six Nations Preview: England Squad (continued)

With Eddie Jones set to announce his latest squad on Thursday it’s time we took a look at who could be in Eddie Jones’ squad for what will be England’s last matches before they begin their warm-ups for the World Cup in August.

Scrum-half is a key position no matter what team you look at and a hotly contested one for England.

Leicester’s Ben Youngs has been in and around the England squad for nearly a decade since his debut against Australia in 2010. Without him in last seasons championship England spluttered against Wales before suffering defeat to Scotland, France and Ireland. A key cog in the England machine.

By Graham Wilson from United Kingdom – Ben YoungsUploaded by Kafuffle, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23119956

Ben Youngs’ England rival for a long time has been Danny Care and as an impact substitute he is good. The victory over Australia back in 2017 springs to mind where Danny Care helped England to a 30-3 win. Following Care there are two options, the experienced operator Richard Wigglesworth and the recently returned Dan Robson.

Rugby360’s Picks: Danny Care (Harlequins), Dan Robson (Wasps), Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers)

The playmaker role for England has one very clear frontrunner, in my mind the best player in the world, Owen Farrell, he also captains the side alongside Dylan Hartley.

With the continued exile of Danny Cipriani, George Ford is the second choice and his form for Leicester has been utterly brilliant. He stands flatter than Farrell and offers something different. Marcus Smith is the heir apparent to Farrell and Ford.

Rugby360’s Picks: Owen Farrell (Saracens), George Ford (Leicester Tigers)

One notable omission for England is the Bath centre Jonathan Joseph, he is expected to be back in action next weekend as Bath conclude their European campaign away to Toulouse but it is unlikely there will be enough time for Joseph to get fully fit for test rugby before the opening game.

It must finally be the time for England fans to see the return of the hulking Leicester centre Manu Tuilagi. He is one of those players that can change a game on his own. It would be great to see him back getting a run in the white of England.

By Clément Bucco-Lechat – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36544883

Ben Te’o has hardly played for Worcester this season but was key for England in November and certainly performed well alongside Henry Slade. The benefit with Slade is his versatility he can play fly-half as well as both centre positions.

Billy Twelvetrees could make his return following decent form for Gloucester and Alex Lozowksi has been making a name for himself in Saracens’ midfield.

Rugby360’s Picks: Ben Te’o (Worcester Warriors), Manu Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers), Billy Twelvetrees (Gloucester Rugby), Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs)

Out wide England are spoilt for choice even without the injured Bath speedster Anthony Watson who is still recovering from an injury suffered in last year’s tournament against Ireland.

His clubmate Joe Cokanasiga was a revelation for England in the autumn and although currently injured he should be fit for the Six Nations. Chris Ashton has started to play for Sale Sharks and he is playing very well.

Another man never in doubt is England’s most consistent winger, Jonny May.

By Clément Bucco-Lechat – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36545049

Then there are big choices to make Jack Nowell is the obvious choice but there is of course the brilliant Ollie Thorley who has been scoring some eye catching tries for the Cherry and Whites, Denny Solomona who could have a top 10 tries highlight reel all too himself and Alex Lewington who has put in a number of consistent displays for Saracens.

Rugby360’s Picks: Chris Ashton (Sale Sharks), Joe Cokanasiga (Bath Rugby), Jonny May (Leicester Tigers), Ollie Thorley (Gloucester Rugby)

Last but certainly not least at the back. Utility back Elliot Daly is the man currently in possession of the shirt despite a few shaky displays in November. With Watson absent Mike Brown is amongst it.

It is also about time to once again consider the talents of the wonderful Alex Goode with the World Cup looming.

Rugby360’s Picks: Mike Brown (Harlequins), Elliot Daly (Wasps)

Three Ways England Can Beat New Zealand

This weekend Eddie Jones faces arguably one of his toughest challenges yet, as New Zealand face England at Twickenham.

England’s victory over South Africa last week will be a massive confidence boost following a disappointing Six Nations and tour to South Africa.

Eddie Jones is not naïve, he knows there are ways to beat the All Blacks, Ireland did it, the Lions did it, South Africa did it. Is it England’s turn to topple the world’s number one side?

  1. Pile the pressure on Beauden Barrett

The Hurricanes playmaker is exceptionally talented, but much like this new breed of all out attacking fly-halves, Barrett, Ford, Russell, the Kiwi is no use if he is going backwards.

On the back foot, the first thing he loses is his composure, and then his kicks start to wayward. One of Barrett’s biggest weaknesses. Under pressure Barrett also struggles to control the game. Unlike Farrell Barrett needs front foot ball to manage the game.

By http://www.davidmolloyphotography.com from Sydney, Australia – 2017. chased by Rona, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=61951911

If England can slow the ball down and get Sam Underhill and Brad Shields harassing the fly-half England can win this game.

2. Stay switched on

New Zealand have a knack of pulling away from teams in the final quarter, their win over South Africa in the most recent Rugby Championship was a fine example that they are the undisputed comeback kings.

If England want to beat them they have to remain calm and keep the pressure on, this game will be a battle of fitness in the dying stages. It will be draining but if England can stand up and match New Zealand pound for pound in those decisive final moments they have every chance of upsetting the odds.

3. Kick well

If you kick loosely you will get punished. Fullback, Damian McKenzie is one of the best broken field runners in the world and he will be backed up by Rieko Ioane and Ben Smith.

By http://www.davidmolloyphotography.com from Sydney, Australia – 2017. McKenzie, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=61951950

Kicking ball away to these three without any sort of chase will be inviting trouble, if Ben Youngs is going to kick there needs to be a serious chase and not just from Jonny May as was the case against South Africa.

England can control the air if they want to, it’s the one part of McKenzie’s game that could use some work. If May, Chris Ashton and Elliot Daly can cover their own space well and smother the young fullback. England have a chance.

England play New Zealand this Saturday. It is sure to be a thrilling contest.

England XV to face New Zealand

1 Ben Moon 2 Dylan Hartley (cc) 3 Kyle Sinckler 4 Maro Itoje 5 George Kruis 6 Brad Shields 7 Sam Underhill 8 Mark Wilson

9 Ben Youngs 10 Owen Farrell (cc) 11 Jonny May 12 Ben Te’o 13 Henry Slade 14 Chris Ashton 15 Elliot Daly

New Zealand XV to face England

1 Karl Tu’inukuafe 2 Codie Taylor 3 Owen Franks 4 Sam Whitelock 5 Brodie Retallick 6 Liam Squire 7 Ardie Savea 8 Kieran Read ©

9 Aaron Smith 10 Beauden Barrett 11 Rieko Ioane 12 Sonny Bill Williams 13 Jack Goodhue 14 Ben Smith 15 Damian McKenzie