We think that these four improvements to England’s 2015 Six Nations squad could be enough to help them claim the title this year…
1.Christian Wade in for Alex Goode
There’s no doubting that Goode is a talented footballer and would be certainly sit in the ‘nice to have’ category, however in a limited squad, what England need is their best players. For that reason I would consider bringing Wade into the senior fold, potentially at the expense of Goode.
With four fly halves in the squad there is no need for him to cover the 10 shirt, whilst both Anthony Watson and Jack Nowell are capable of covering the full back role should Mike Brown need replacing for whatever reason.
Whilst Goode is capable of moments of magic, Wade seems capable of consistently coming up with the goods and adds an extra spark to sometimes stale English backline. I wouldn’t necessarily consider starting him, however as an option coming off the bench, Wade is the kind of player who can totally change a game with one moment of magic.
2.Reduce the influence of Andy Farrell
There’s no doubting that the influence of Andy Farrell has helped turn England into one of the most defensively solid sides in world rugby right now. The issue however is that he isn’t employed as a defence coach, but instead as a backs coach.
This defensive mindset could be part of the issue that has been holding back England’s undoubtedly talented backline, and may also have contributed to an often conservative selection policy, particularly in the centres.
It is widely believed that England are planning to start Brad Barritt and Luther Burrell in the centres which will no doubt defend well, however it’s hard to imagine them running in too many tries. Instead why not bring in a specialist back coach and let Farrell focus on the defence?
This may just allow the likes of Kyle Eastmond and Jonathan Joseph to break into the England starting XV which would be no bad thing. It is also important he has absolutely no influence over the selection of Owen Farrell.
3.Bring Henry Slade into the senior side
Possibly the biggest oversight of the entire Six Nations squad is the inclusion of young Exeter Chiefs centre in the Saxons, rather than the Senior side. Slade has shown enough in the Premiership this season to suggest he can cut if on the international stage.
Not only that, but given the mixed form of England’s other centre options surely the opportunity to at least trial Slade is too good to miss out on? He is also more than capable of playing at either 10, 12 or 13 making him an ideal player for filling out a World Cup squad limited on numbers.
Slade is a solid kicker, has great vision, able to pass off both sides and can also make a break. He fits the mould of Stuart Lancaster’s ideal inside centre, i.e. he can act as a second received and kick well so why the hell isn’t he given a run out, even if it’s a cameo against Italy?
4.Start James Haskell on the Blindside
It’s hard to argue that Tom Wood should be dropped by England such has been his consistency on the international stage, however the form of Haskell this season surely dictates he must be given another opportunity to start by Lancaster.
He has been nothing short of sublime for Wasps this season in every facet of his game and would genuinely add something to the England pack. His potential ball carrying ability is something that England sorely lack right now so is a huge plus in his column.
Haskell also happens to be one of England’s most experienced players, and his time captaining Wasps can surely only add to the wider leadership group. For that reason he should be given the chance to start at least two games during the Six Nations.
What changes would you make to the England squad to improve it?