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.
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.
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.
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.
The Rugby World Cup is just months away and the pools have long been public knowledge. With more teams set to be chasing the favourites New Zealand than usual we take a look at which pool could be dubbed the perilous Group of Death.
Pool A contains hosts Japan as well as form team of last year Ireland, a vastly improved Scotland, a competitive Samoa and minnows Russia.
Japan’s heroics from 2015 are still very much in the mind and they pushed England hard at Twickenham back in November. They have some very good players in workhorse, Michael Leitch, veteran scrum-half Fumiaki Tanaka and skilful centre Ryoto Nakamura.
Samoa are always physical and they possess their own array of international stars. Samoa will bring power and pace but much like their Pacific neighbours Fiji and Tonga they lack the finesse and poise to challenge the bigger boys of international rugby.
Russia are there for the ride, it’s taken a valiant effort to get there but realistically they aren’t going to trouble the runaway favourite two from this group, Ireland and Scotland.
There is just too much class from Ireland and Scotland for this to be called the Group of Death. Japan and Samoa might provide the odd moment of magic or a scare but unlikely to qualify for the last eight.
Pool B has favourites New Zealand, a very strong South Africa, a competitive Italy, Canada who have really struggled recently and African also rans, Namibia.
New Zealand and South Africa are the clear frontrunners. Canada may have been a challenging prospect two years ago but not now and Namibia aren’t going to beat them.
Italy have beaten South Africa before but if we are honest even at full strength Sergio Parisse and co. Aren’t likely to have enough to qualify for the quarter-finals.
Now here it’s a little more complex, it has the ridiculously inconsistent France, highly competitive Argentina, a rebooted England, sleeping giant USA and Pacific juggernaut Tonga.
USA did have their moment in the sun last summer as they beat Scotland. They are still far more of a force in sevens, their time in the expanded version of the game is yet to come but that result in June certainly suggests they could trouble England and Argentina and with the temperamental France we all know anything can happen.
Tonga, a good team. However Wales’ 74-24 win over them in November proved just how big the gap is between the Pacific island nations and the Six Nations giants. Like USA if they copy their cousins Fiji they could beat France.
France, they are among the three most likely to emerge from the group the question is will they have enough to beat England or Argentina? You never know.
England are favourites for the group and rightly so. They should come out of this relatively unscathed.
Argentina was much better in the Rugby Championship last time out and building into the World Cup they will be confident. They have reached the knockout stages in the last three World Cups, their game against France could decide who qualifies for the last eight with England.
Definitely a competitive pool.
Six Nations winners Wales, an Australia in disarray, the Flying Fijians, the rising force in Europe, Georgia are joined by South American minnows Uruguay.
Again this is complex. Fiji are exciting they have some real stars Nemani Nadolo, Viliame Mata, Leone Nakarawa, Semi Radradra and Peceli Yato are household names and tearing it up in Europe. They produce some breathtaking stuff and they knocked out Wales previously way back in 2007.
There is a clamouring for Georgia to join the premier international tier by being inducted into the Six Nations. They are known for their terrifying forwards and their famed scrum has seen having a Georgian prop as almost a requirement to win the Top 14 in France. Wales and Australia who are the two obvious leaders should brace themselves.
Uruguay like Namibia and Russia have done really well to get to the World Cup and they are much stronger than they once were gone are they days where New Zealand beat Namibia 142-0 or England beat Uruguay 111-13. They deserve to be there.
Will Fiji or Georgia beat Wales or Australia? It’s unlikely but Fiji definitely could beat Australia the mess they’re in and with Wales not the same prospect outside the cauldron of Cardiff could hand Fiji the chance and Georgia’s scrum could cause both problems. It’s unlikely though.
A competitive pool no doubt but unlike Pool C two clear frontrunners.
So there’s our verdict, Pool C as they have three teams that have the know how to reach the latter stages of the competition.
Following the proposal’s put forward detailing a 12 team World League, we thought we would take a look at how we would change the calendar without putting player welfare at risk, increasing travel for the larger southern hemisphere nations drastically or shutting out strong tier two nations such as Fiji and Georgia.
SANZAAR Tier Two Agreement
The November tests are great, they are some of the best games of the year and showcase the best talent the southern hemisphere has to offer in the great European amphitheatres of rugby.
I would have New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and Argentina all sign an agreement stating that one of their Internationals in the autumn would be against a European side outside the Six Nations.
Having New Zealand travel to Tbilisi or South Africa play in Bucharest would firstly be a great cash maker for these smaller nations by brining in large crowds and a chance for these nations to test themselves against the very best.
2. Six Nations Tier Two Agreement
This would basically mirror the SANZAAR agreement, in November the major Six Nations teams would agree to play at least one game against a southern hemisphere (including Japan and USA) team outside the Rugby Championship.
3. Six Fixed Destinations
For the next six non World Cup years 2020, 2021, 2022, 2024, 2025, 2026 I would have a deal where New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, Argentina, Japan and Fiji tied would host one of the Six Nations each year on a rotation basis.
The deal would also state that the destination be a nation that you haven’t played the previous autumn, this would further allow the smaller nations Italy, Japan and Fiji to play a larger array of the world’s best.
In Lions tour years, one destination would be compromised due to the Lions tour, in this case Samoa and Tonga would be added as a joint destination for a two test tour.
On top of this in Lions years any Lions nations visiting would play just two tests to try and reduce the amount of players away for the start of pre-season.
4. A Revamped Churchill Cup
A new Churchill Cup being played on rotation in the USA or Samoa/Tonga. This tournament would include twelve teams in four groups of three.
The teams would be USA, Tonga, Samoa, Georgia, Romania, Russia, Canada, Uruguay, England Saxons, Ireland Wolfhounds, Scotland A and New Zealand Maori.
The games would be played over the course of three weeks whilst the larger nations are playing test series with each team playing two group games then like in 7’s play offs to decide rankings. This tournament would run up until the same year as the three test tours.
In Lions years Samoa, Tonga, England Saxons, Ireland Wolfhounds, Scotland A and New Zealand Maori would sit have not take part and an abridged version would be played.
We think our proposals would help grow the game and give us some mouthwatering rugby to look forward to as well as a brand new competition. Tell us what you think in the comments, do you think these proposals are better than World Rugby’s?
Wales’ classic style under Warren Gatland has been based on power with big ball carriers crashing into the line and using brute force to win games which for a time was successful in the northern hemisphere.
There’s been a shift in style recently with a new fly-half pulling the strings Wales have very much become a far more diverse and threatening opponent as shown by a clean sweep in the autumn.
vs. France (Stade de France), Fri 1st February, 20:00
vs. Italy (Stadio Olimpico), Sat 9th February, 16:45
vs. England (Principality Stadium), Sat 23rd February, 16:45
vs. Scotland (BT Murrayfield), Sat 9th March, 14:15
vs. Ireland (Principality Stadium), Sat 16th March, 14:45
Despite having only two fixtures at home Wales arguably have the best chance of completing a Grand Slam. The favourites Ireland and World Rugby’s 4th ranked team England both face a trip to the cauldron of Cardiff.
If Wales can win their first game away to France they will be confident of toppling Italy and Scotland away and they will always back themselves at home.
Wales have not lost a game since round there of last years Six Nations. Their autumn was very impressive as they swept aside Scotland, Tonga and Australia as well as claiming an impressive 20-11 win over South Africa.
This followed their win over South Africa in Washington DC just five months before which they followed up with two comprehensive wins over Argentina.
Wales have injuries aplenty especially in their back row. Taulupe Faletau is a notable absentee and despite being named in the squad Ross Moriarty is unlikely to play against France, as well as Adam Beard a doubt for the first game.
Add into that injuries to Aaron Shingler, Ellis Jenkins and James Davies and Wales look very light indeed in the back row even with cover provided by Wasps Thomas Young and Cardiff’s Josh Turnbull.
Leigh Halfpenny will miss Wales’ opening two matches but should be fit in time to face England.
Wales have no uncapped players in the squad but one cap duo Jarrod Evans and Jonah Holmes feature. Lions star Alun Wyn Jones will captain from the engine room.
Jarrod Evans is among four fly-halves, Dan Bigger, Gareth Anscombe and Rhys Patchell are all also in the squad. Gatland will have a selection headache there.
1 Rob EVANS 2 Ken OWENS 3 Tomas FRANCIS 4 Alun Wyn JONES (Captain)5 Jake BALL 6 Aaron WAINWRIGHT 7 Justin TIPURIC 8 Josh NAVIDI
9 Gareth DAVIES 10 Gareth ANSCOMBE 11 George NORTH 12 Hadleigh PARKES 13 Jonathan DAVIES 14 Jonah HOLMES 15 Liam WILLIAMS
16 Elliot DEE 17 Nicky SMITH 18 Samson LEE 19 Cory HILL 20 Thomas YOUNG 21 Aled DAVIES 22 Dan BIGGAR 23 Josh ADAMS