With the World Cup less than a year away, England are still on a steep learning curve that they must speed along during the 2015 Six Nations. Stuart Lancaster and his coaching staff should therefore focus on these seven points below in order to ensure the squad is as well prepared for the World Cup as possible…
1.Barring injury, who the 31-man World Cup squad will be
By the end of this year’s Six Nations, Stuart Lancaster and his coaching staff need to have a pretty clear idea of their 31 man squad for the World Cup. Now obviously injuries may dictate certain players availability, but beyond this England’s World Cup squad should be pretty much set in stone.
There isn’t a huge amount of time between the Six Nations and World Cup, and England don’t exactly have the luxury of much game time between now and then. Therefore Lancaster needs to figure out his best 31 players and plan to go to the tournament with them, otherwise they will be in all sorts of trouble.
2.The most effective half back combination
The key combination at nine and ten is still undecided from an England perspective which is absolutely perplexing given its importance to the team. Does Danny Care deserve another chance at nine, and should George Ford hold on to the number 10 shirt?
These are all questions that must be answered by the time the curtain closes on the 2015 Six Nations. Ideally they would have already been answered by now, but given the situation England now need to pick a combination and stick with it rather than constantly tinkering.
3.Which backline is capable of creating tries
Whilst the England pack pretty much picks itself these days, there are still a number of question marks in the backline. The centre combination continues to be an issue whilst out wide questions remain over who the best wing options are.
Given one of England’s biggest issues over the last couple of years has been a lack of tries, Lancaster needs to focus on finding the backline that score tries whilst not falling apart in defence. This may not necessarily be the best seven players, just the ones who work most effectively together.
4.How to employ a tactical kicking game
Possibly the biggest criticism that can be made of the current England side is that they couldn’t kick their way out of a paper bag. On so many occasions recently they have come undone against a side whose superior kicking game has kept them pinned in their own half.
Whilst George Ford looks to have gone some way to rectifying this, England need to find other options in the backline who can help ease the pressure on the fly half. It should therefore be a focus throughout the team to improve on this area of the game throughout the tournament.
5.Whether anyone can add to the existing back row
Englands current back row combination of Tom Wood, Chris Robshaw and Ben Morgan looks to be the one to take them through into the World Cup, however this shouldn’t entirely rule out other contenders. One or two others should be given a chance off the bench to see if they add anything to the existing dynamics.
Players like James Haskell and Dave Ewers both potentially offer an extra ball carrying option from six, whilst also being able to cover other positions in the back row. They therefore need to be given some game time to see if they are best saved for the bench, or if they deserve a chance to start.
6.Which bench combination actually makes an impact
Another key issue for England has been a lack of impact off the bench. On too many occasions replacements have come on only to continue to repeat the same processes as those starting the game. Instead England need to find options off the bench who can really change the game.
Someone like Christian Wade in the backs who may not be the most solid option, but can score tries and someone like Dave Ewers in the forwards who can ensure some good front foot ball. It is these kinds of players who will help England win in tight games whilst still allowing for solid options on the bench.
7.How to beat Wales
Let’s face it, England’s recently history against Wales has been patchy at best. If they’re going to have a real chance of progressing from their group during the World Cup then they need to ensure that their Six Nations opener in Cardiff is a positive one.
Now this doesn’t necessarily mean England have to beat Wales in Cardiff, however they need to at least be close and to ensure they take as much away from the game as possible. They can then put this into practice when they face off at Twickenham later in the year.
Do you think there’s anything else England need to focus on during the Six Nations?