So England’s Rugby World squad is soon to be announced. Surprises? I wouldn’t think so! Other than the emergence of Manu Tuilagi, there seems few from outside of the old guard willing/able to put their hand up. England have been steadily improving for over a year now, perhaps starting with the performance in France at the end of the 2010 6 Nations. Granted, they blew the chance of a Grand Slam in Ireland and granted, and the performance at the Millennium on Saturday will far from strike fear into hearts of the main World Cup contenders. But there’s no denying that results have improved, performances look free flowing, and there’s smiles back on the faces of those who’d looked beaten men only 18 months ago.
Secondly, the World Cup is now upon us. Surprises and changes would do nothing but smack of desperation and point to uncertainty, not only for the management, but to the squad as well.
We can be pretty confident of the line-up therefore (with one or two spots up for grabs). Cole, Sheridan, and Hartley in the front row, Lawes and Palmer – second row, Easter at number 8, with a combination of Moody (which begs the question of captaincy), Wood, Croft, and Haskell.
The backs however now appear to more uncertain. Tuilagi has thrown the cat amongst the pigeons, whilst Floods apparent dip in form has opened the door to the once again impressive Jonny Wilkinson.
For a long time there has been a lack of invention in the English midfield. There seems an obsession for England centres to destroy rather than deconstruct, which they need to address if they’re to take the next step. Is Tuilagi the answer – I’m not to sure
Wilkinson (whose website funnily enough is well worth a look – Welcome to jonnywilkinson.com Jonny Wilkinson
) has the greatest experience to offer and there’s an argument to say his inclusion a midfield lacking in creativity could be a tactically masterstroke. Whatever the combination, that little spark that was so abundantly lacking at the Aviva Stadium in March an the Millennium last Saturday, will be vital for a serious World Cup challenge.
All things considered, the squad, whilst predictable, looks strong and capable of causing problems for any of the tournaments big boys. But without a game changer in the ranks, their stay in the land of the long white cloud may end a little too abruptly.