With the World Cup just over a year away it seems there is still a great deal of debate surrounding who England’s best option is in the pivotal number 10 jersey.
As an interest piece I thought it would be worth looking at the top 10 contenders for the role as although Farrell looks likely to start, should injuries occur than anyone on our list could find themselves bumped up the pecking order.
Whilst it’s unlikely that anyone outside of the top 5 will even make the World Cup squad, here are our 10 best options for England number 10 shirt ranked in descending order;
10. Alex Goode
It seems unlikely that Saracens Alex Goode will be playing anywhere other than full back for England for the foreseeable future, however he does have history in the number 10 shirt. Goode came up through the age grades playing as a 10 before being moved to full back but has on occasion been utilised as a fly-half by Saracens. With this in mind there’s a chance he could be seen as third choice cover for the 10 shirt to free up space in the squad for other positions.
9. Ollie Devoto
Young Bath star Ollie Devoto has spent much of the last 12 months playing at centre for his club where he has impressed hugely in the Premiership. The departure of Tom Heathcote to Edinburgh over the summer may however mean he sees a bit more time in the number 10 shirt this season as cover for George Ford. Although still an outside bet for the England World Cup squad another good season combined with his versatility could see Devoto part of Lancasters team.
8. Charlie Hodgson
Currently the forgotten man of English rugby, many forget that it was Charlie Hodgson who was Stuart Lancaster’s 10 during his first Six Nations campaign. Hodgson may be getting on now but is still proving that he has what it takes to play at the very top level. Should Lancaster feel the need to inject some international experience into his World Cup squad then Hodgson would seem to be the ideal man. Although unlikely to start Hodgson would be a viable option as a backup fly-half at the World Cup.
7. Henry Slade
Exeter fly-half Henry Slade is already on Stuart Lancaster’s radar having turned out for England against the Barbarians earlier this year where he acquitted himself well. He has started the season in fine form for the Chiefs and could be an outside bet for next year’s World Cup. Although the promotion of Slade would represent a huge gamble by Lancaster the young 10 has shown that he is more than capable of stepping up and putting his head where it hurts (just watch his ‘tackles’ on Rene Ranger during the BaaBaas game).
6. Toby Flood
Whilst it looks unlikely Toby Flood will ever feature for England again having moved to France over the summer, should an injury crisis severely impact Lancaster’s option at 10 there’s a chance Flood may be recalled. One of the most experienced England players currently in the game Flood has shown he has the temperament to lead a backline on the biggest stages in the world. A year’s experience in France won’t do Flood any harm either, exposing him to top quality opposition and new styles of play every week.
5. Freddie Burns
On current for it looks like any one of Burns, Cipriani or Ford could find themselves as England’s third choice fly-half at the World Cup next year. This summer Lancaster preferred the option of Burns to Cipriani in the New Zealand tour but for me Cipriani currently edges this duel. That could change very quickly however with Burns looking like he has settled in quickly at Welford Road already this season. If he can keep hold of that Leicester 10 shirt he will have the chance to prove himself behind one of the most dominant packs in the league.
4. Danny Cipriani
A year ago nobody was even considering Danny Cipriani as a serious contender for the England number 10 shirt. 12 months on and he has forced his way back into the reckoning and is now firmly in Stuart Lancaster’s thoughts having toured New Zealand earlier this year. It is going to be a tough ask for Cipriani to break into the starting XV, however his form is so far suggesting he may just have what it takes. He now needs to be given the chance to perform in an England shirt before the World Cup to see if he can cut it as he is England’s most potent attacking threat when on form.
3. George Ford
Had Ford opted to tour New Zealand earlier this year instead of going in for shoulder surgery he may already have broken into the England starting side. As it is he still has plenty to do to make sure he is a part of Stuart Lancaster’s plans for the World Cup. Based on his current form there’s no doubting that he will be there or thereabouts this time next year. The only question marks remain over his big game temperament and whether or not he can close out a game in the dying stages.
2. Stephen Myler
Myler may not be everyones cup of tea but he has proven over the last 18 months that he is England’s most consistent option at 10. Last season proved to be a turning point for Myler as he led Northampton to domestic and European glory showing he has what it takes to perform on the biggest stage. The only issue is his lack of international experience. If Lancaster is serious about using Myler at the World Cup then he needs to be given time to prove himself over the next 12 months.
1. Owen Farrell
Farrell is England’s incumbent number 10 and looks likely to stay as such unless he picks up an injury or suffers a serious drop-off in form. He showed during this years Six Nations that he can be a threat ball in hand and if he continues to develop this side of his game then he should start. He is a rock in defence and has proven he’s an international class kicker. He may have to curb his temper slightly to avoid picking up cards but looks like England’s most likely 10 for the World Cup.
Which three players would you take to cover the 10 at next year’s World Cup?