As a child, my Grandmother always opened the backdoor 1 minute past midnight on New Year’s Day, claiming it allowed the New Year to come into the house to get rid of the old and bring in the new! Whether or not that’s true is debatable, but I sincerely hope that those charged with selecting the national side are looking to do the same thing come the 6 Nations.
A lot of pundits and fans are looking for wholesale change; my own view is that whilst change is needed, it would be foolhardy to dispose of the cornerstones of the side that have the experience, reference points and ability to bring on newer additions to the team. However, there are positions that are serious issues for England and, very worryingly, in those positions, there are very limited options.
For once, English rugby’s conveyor belt of world class back row forwards seems to have developed a serious technical fault. With due respect to the incumbent captain, haven’t produced a truly world class openside since Richard Hill (although he spent the majority of his career on the other side of the scrum it was 7 that was his favoured berth). Our centres are makeshift journeymen or overseas imports, and the engine room is in severe need of a service. Paradoxically other areas have great options-= the outside backs, fly half to name two.
Look forward, I believe that a number of criteria should be laid down for selection- firstly, availability through age for RWC 2015 is imperative. Secondly, try to play players in their club positions. Thirdly, pick a skipper who is certain of his place, and fourthly pick players to play a pre-determined gameplan, not fit the gameplan around the players.
So, from the RWC side, I’d suggest the following should be the cornerstones: Foden, Ashton in the outside backs, Manu in the centres, Flood, Youngs, Wigglesworth and Simpson at half back, Corbisiero, Hartley, Cole, Lawes, Croft, Haskell and Wood in the pack. There’s a few others but that’s your core.
In terms of the youngsters, we must fast track the likes of Farrell, George Ford, Kvesic, Kitchener, Attwood, Alex Grey, Marler and others. From the slightly more experienced men, Robshaw must be given an opportunity to bring his club from and leadership into the international stage, and Gloucester favourites Attwood and Sharps should be given their chance too
So, if I were picking my side for February I’d like it to look something like this:
Grey (or Haskell depending on availability).
Not the worst side, but the one thing that it does lack is an obvious choice as captain. Tom Wood could be that man but at the moment, no-one knows where in the back row he should be playing or if he’s quite good enough.
Only time will tell, but I do hope that what we don’t see is the continued selection of those past their prime and those that fail to bring their club form into international rugby.