An Analysis of the Latest England EPS

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With the England EPS announcement earlier today Stuart Lancaster and his coaching staff gave us an early hint of what next year’s World Cup squad may look like.

It is important to remember however that a number of players however are likely to be available in a few months (as below) whilst there could potentially be another five players named in the squad on Sunday when a further announcement is scheduled.

The following players will not be available for the 2014 QBE Internationals: Alex Corbisiero (shoulder), Dan Cole (neck), Tom Croft (knee), Tom Johnson (neck), Geoff Parling (concussion), Chris Pennell (groin), Ed Slater (knee), Mako Vunipola (knee), Tom Youngs (shoulder).

It seems the England coaching team have gone for a more conservative approach leaving out the likes of Danny Cipriani and Christian Wade whilst a number of other form players such as David Strettle and Michael Paterson can also consider themselves unlucky.

In to the squad are three new caps in Semesa Rokoduguni, Calm Clark and George Kruis whilst the likes of Matt Mullan and Kieran Brookes make the squad due to injuries. Here we take a look at the selections in each position and what they may mean for England ahead of the World Cup.

Loose-head props

Selected – Joe Marler (Harlequins) Matt Mullan (Wasps)

Injured – Alex Corbisiero (Northampton Saints) Mako Vunipola (Saracens)

Unlucky to Miss Out – Alex Waller (Northampton Saints)

Verdict – Injuries to two key players left Lancaster’s hands tied somewhat meaning the players pretty much picked themselves. The extra game time for Mullan and Marler could also prove to be a blessing in disguise as they receive more international exposure ahead of the World Cup.

Tight-head props

Selected – Kieran Brookes (Newcastle Falcons) David Wilson (Bath Rugby)

Injured – Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers)

Unlucky to Miss Out – Kieran Longbottom (Saracens) Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins) Henry Thomas (Bath Rugby)

Verdict – Tight-head must be the position of most concern for the England coaching staff with the cupboards looking pretty bare beyond Cole and Wilson. The call-up for Brookes could be an inspired decision whilst either Sinckler or Thomas should get the nod as part of the extended squad announced on Sunday.

Hookers

Selected – Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints)  Rob Webber (Bath Rugby)

Injured – Tom Youngs (Leicester Tigers)

Unlucky to Miss Out – none

Verdict – Hooker is another area of slight concern for England, although there is slightly more strength in depth here. For me Hartley and Webber represent the best options for England so this is definitely a positive whilst it would be useful to look at someone like Dave Ward as a backup measure.

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Locks     

Selected – Dave Attwood (Bath Rugby) George Kruis (Saracens) Joe Launchbury (Wasps) Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints)

Injured – Geoff Parling (Leicester Tigers) Ed Slater (Leicester Tigers)

Unlucky to Miss Out – Graham Kitchener (Leicester Tigers) Michael Paterson (Sale Sharks)

Verdict – Once again injuries have forced Lancaster’s hand slightly, however you can’t be disappointed with the selections. Lawes, Launchbury and Attwood will all be part of the World Cup squad whilst Kruis has been in fine form for Saracens this season and provides yet more competition.

Flankers

Selected – Calum Clark (Northampton Saints) James Haskell (Wasps) Chris Robshaw (Harlequins, captain) Tom Wood (Northampton Saints)

Injured – Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers) Tom Johnson (Exeter Chiefs)

Unlucky to Miss Out – Dave Ewers (Exeter Chiefs) Will Fraser (Saracens)

Verdict – As expected Robshaw and Wood are in the squad and look likely to start whilst Haskell will be pushing them both all the way. The inclusion of Calum Clark is an interesting one however and seems extremely unfair on Will Fraser who has had an excellent season and would provide genuine competition for the number seven shirt.

Number 8s

Selected – Ben Morgan (Gloucester Rugby) Billy Vunipola (Saracens)

Injured – None

Unlucky to Miss Out – Thomas Waldrom (Exter Chiefs)

Verdict – There is no great surprise here in regards to the Number 8 shirt with Morgan and Vunipola set to once again battle it out for a place in the starting line-up. It would be nice however if they could prove they are capable of playing a full 80 to free up the bench spot whilst Waldrom’s excellent season so far must have seen him at least consdiered.

Scrum halves

Danny Care (Harlequins) Lee Dickson (Northampton Saints) Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers)

Injured – None

Unlucky to Miss Out – Joe Simpson (Wasps)

Verdict – Once again there are no great surprises in the battle for the number nine shirt with the three top contenders all set to battle it out once more. Care should start once again whilst I hope Youngs can start to get back to the kind of form he displayed 18 months ago.

Fly halves

Owen Farrell (Saracens) George Ford (Bath Rugby) Stephen Myler (Northampton Saints)

Injured – None

Unlucky to Miss Out – Danny Cipriani (Sale Sharks)

Verdict – Farrell and Ford offer no surprises in the squad whilst the selection of Myler has riled some. There’s no doubting Myler is a safe bet, however we already know what he can do. Cipriani should have got the nod this time and been given a chance so we can see if he has what it takes, if not then Myler should be in for the World Cup.

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Centres                

Brad Barritt (Saracens) Luther Burrell (Northampton Saints) Kyle Eastmond (Bath Rugby) Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby) Billy Twelvetrees (Gloucester Rugby)

Injured – Manu Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers)

Unlucky to Miss Out – Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs)

Verdict – I’m delighted to see Joseph and Eastmond in the squad and would love to see the pair given a chance to play together at some point. Burrell is in as expected whilst Barritt may not be a fan favourite but has proven he is solid at this level, but how the hell is Twelvetrees still involved? Slade is also incredibly unlucky to have missed out.

Wings

Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby) Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs) Semesa Rokoduguni (Bath Rugby) Marland Yarde (Harlequins)

Injured – None

Unlucky to Miss Out – David Strettle (Saracens) Christian Wade (Wasps) Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby)

Verdict – The inclusion of Rokoduguni is fantastic to see and he should start alongside Yarde on the wings. I struggle to see how May and Nowell are deserving of their places, especially given the form of Strettle recently. It also would have been nice to see a game changer like Watson or Wade included to provide an extra spark.

Full Backs

Mike Brown (Harlequins) Alex Goode (Saracens)

Injured – Chris Pennell (Worcester Warriors)

Unlucky to Miss Out – Ben Foden (Northampton Saints)

Verdict – It’s hard to look past Mike Brown as England’s starting full back at the moment, the only debate is who should support him. You have to feel a bit for Foden, however Goode represents a more solid option who is also capable of covering the 10 shirt if necessary.

The Additional Five?

On Sunday Lancaster could name up to five more players to join up with the EPS, given the above I think these should be the names included;

Danny Cipriani (Sale Sharks) – Cipriani is currently in the form of his life and without doubt England’s most potent attacking fly-half, he needs to be given a chance before the World Cup to prove himself in the Red Rose.

Will Fraser (Saracens) – The Saracens flanker has been dogged by injuries in recent years but has made an impressive start to this season and looks like England’s best long-term option for the seven shirt.

Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins) – This was a toss up between Sinckler or Henry Thomas but the former wins out for his form at the end of last season. England need another option at tight-head so now seems the perfect time to blood one.

Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs) – Over the last two season Slade has proven he can play 10, 12 and 13 effectively and was an absolute rock for England against the Barbarians so deserves at least a chance to show what he can do.

Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby) – It was tempting to include Christian Wade but for me Watson is the better all-rounder whilst still providing that spark that the England backline has been missing in recent years.

What are your thoughts on the latest England squad?

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