We take a look at who we think should be in England’s starting XV for their World Cup opener against Fiji in September…
Brown may not have been at his best over the last 12 months, but he is still a solid full back and England’s best option here. During the 2013/14 season we also saw just how good he can be when firing on all cylinders.
This certainly isn’t going to be the most popular choice, but in a backline somewhat lacking in international experience, Ashton provides this and a try scoring threat. Reports out of the England camp are also claiming he’s the fittest member of the squad.
Joseph lit up the Six Nations for England this year, and looks set to star once more during the World Cup, especially in the absence of Manu Tuilagi. England will be hoping he can continue his great try scoring form throughout.
Farrell was absolutely sublime during the Premiership final, and has previously played outside of Ford during the Junior World U20’s Championship. This combined with a lack of other genuine contenders means he gets the nod.
Watson may not have quite found his try scoring form for England yet, however he was a constant threat during the Six Nations. The fact he can also cover full back means England can afford to be a bit more flexible with their bench options.
With Ford at 10, England are able to play a more expansive style of rugby that appears to suit them well. He has also shown that he has drastically improved his kicking this season, so he should continue to start.
Youngs proved during the Six Nations that he is currently the stand-out scrum half in England right now. His experience and leadership will be vital at the World Cup, where he can hopefully re-ignite his partnership with Ford.
This is a tough call between Vunipola and Morgan, however the incumbent gets the nod after a fine second half of the season for Saracens. With his fitness continuing to improve, he is also now able to see out a game if needs be.
Robshaw is England’s captain elect, and one of their most consistent players. His on-field leadership will be vital at the World Cup, and he will be expected to deal with a significant amount of pressure throughout the tournament.
In a side that is somewhat lacking in caps, the experience of Haskell could be vital. He didn’t quite live up to expectation during the Six Nations, but was impressive for Wasps this season so deserves the nod for now.
Lawes return from injury during the Six Nations was a huge boost for England and they will hope he can remain fit for the World Cup. His ability to run the line out, and put in huge hits will be seen as a huge asset by the coaching team.
Having spent most of the last 12 months out injured, there is a risk Launchbury may come in somewhat undercooked. That being said, he is simply far too good to leave out, so needs as much game time as possible.
Cole is currently one of the very best tightheads in the world, and proved how important he is to England during the Six Nations. Not only is he a fine scrummager, but he wins turnovers on a regular basis.
Youngs was phenomenal for Leicester this season after returning from injury, and could well have started even if Hartley was available. There will be grave concerns in the England camp though should he pick up an injury.
Alongside Marler, both Corbisiero and Vunipola deserve a mention, however the Quins man gets the nod as the incumbent. Marler has improved markedly over the last couple of years, and is more than holding his own.