With England coach Stuart Lancaster set to announce his squad for the 2015 Six Nations next week we look at seven players who could offer something different to the existing squad. Whilst many of these players would be unlikely to walk straight into the starting XV, they would provide quality backup and offer something a little different to the incumbents.
Wade may have his issues (most notably in defence), however he is quite clearly one of the most electric finishers in the England game. He has proven over the last few years that he is capable of taking on the best defences in the Premiership and coming up with the goods on a regular basis.
Whilst Wade may not be the best option to start for England, there’s no doubting that he’s the kind of player who can make a big impact off the bench. Let’s face it, if England were four points down and needed a try at the end of a game, would you rather have Wade or Alex Goode coming off the bench?
Given that one of England’s primary areas for concern has been their recent try scoring record, surely Lancaster can no longer afford to ignore Wade? Especially given that the majority of England’s current wingers are hardly setting the world alight.
There’s been plenty of talk surrounding Cipriani for England over the last 12 months, however England have finally reached the point of no return. If they fail to select him for the upcoming Six Nations then it’s highly likely he’ll never pull on an England shirt again.
Over the last 18 months Cipriani has addressed many of his primary criticisms, most notably of which is his once flaky defence. Whilst he may not tackle as strongly as Owen Farrell he has been getting the job done for Sale, the only remaining concern now relate to his kicking percentage.
Much like with Wade, Cipriani may not necessarily be the man to start for England, however there is no doubting that he is the kind of player who can make a real impact off the bench. His all round playmaking and pace also offers something different to even George Ford.
There’s no doubt that Slade will be wearing an England shirt sooner rather than later, the question is just whether or not he gets his chance before the World Cup. Based on current form, for me there’s no doubt that Slade needs a call-up right away.
Not only is Slade capable of covering the 10, 12 and 13 shirts, he is now beginning to really excel for Exeter. Given England are continuing to struggle with their selections in the centres, Slades all-round ability surely means he must be given a chance.
Lancaster has been desperate for a ball playing 12 who can also kick, and in Slade they have exactly that. He’s proving that he can regularly perform each week in the Premiership so now needs to be given a chance to prove he can do it for England.
Until last weekend it looked unlikely Armitage would be getting anywhere near the England set-up, however Ben Morgan’s injury has opened the door somewhat. If Lancaster is ever to invoke the ‘exceptional circumstances’ clause then now is the time to do it.
With the World Cup just a matter of months away can England really afford to ignore the European Player of the Year if they genuinely have pretentions to the final? With Billy Vunipola currently struggling for form on the international stage, Armitage seems like the next best option.
Armitage brings a number of attributes to the English back row that they currently lack in, most notably of which is the ability to regularly win turnovers and make ground with big carries. Armitage offers a genuine game changing option for England that they perhaps currently lack.
Should Lancaster decide not to invoke the ‘exceptional circumstances’ option to call-up Armitage, then he should look no further than Harlequins stalwart Nick Easter. Whilst he may have left the England set up in disappointing fashion after the last World Cup, he is now looking back to his very best.
Easter has been instrumental in Quins recent upturn in form and is looking like the stand-out English number 8 in the Premiership this season. He offers something a little different to Morgan and Vunipola and therefore could provide England with some more options.
The other point in favour of Easter is his international experience. Given the current squad are somewhat lacking in international caps, Easter may just help add some extra experience to a relatively young squad during their biggest tournament to date.
Until relatively recently Foden was a regular in the England squad, however he seems to have somewhat dropped out of favour recently despite his improving form for Northampton Saints. Given his form so far this season then he definitely deserves another chance for England.
Whilst Mike Brown looks likely to be England’s starting 15 heading into the World Cup, Foden should be included as his backup option. His running ball in hand is a particular strength and something England would sorely miss should Brown pick up an injury.
It’s also likely Foden would be pushing hard for a start which would no doubt put pressure on Mike Brown for the starting shirt. This kind of competition for places can only be a bonus for England as a few players seem a little too comfortable in their starting spots right now.
Much like most of the players in this post, Will Fraser is unlikely to be starting for England during the Six Nations, however his inclusion would provide England with a player who offers something different to their incumbent back row.
Fraser is an out-and-out seven who has been fantastic for Saracens so far this season, keeping Jacques Burger out of the starting XV for periods. He is another player who looks like a long-term options for England, it’s just a matter of when he’s deemed ready.
Fraser is a physical presence who works well on the ground and will win England turnovers. Although it looks likely two of Haskell, Wood and Robshaw will start on the flanks, should injury strike England need to make sure the back-up options have as much game time as possible.
Which players would you include in England’s 2015 Six Nations squad?