In the first part of our series looking at England’s options after their 2015 World Cup debacle, we take a look at the position of full back. Below we look at the options both in the short-term (2016 Six Nations) and longer term (2019 Rugby World Cup);
Brown was one of the few England players to come out of the World Cup with any credit after a series of impressive displays where he continued to show great character. He looks likely to retain his spot for the 2016 Six Nations, however at 30 years of age is unlikely to make the next World Cup, so a replacement will need to be looked at sooner rather than later.
Watson was another of England’s stand-out players during the World Cup, although he found himself playing on the wing for the most part. Despite this, he has gained plenty of experience at Bath playing in the 15 shirt whilst he also has age on his side meaning he will definitely be available in 2019, so could begin to transition over from Mike Brown.
Foden still remains a class act and was unlucky to miss out on the World Cup after a season that was heavily disrupted through injury. Unfortunately, like Brown, age is very much against Foden at this stage, and given his lack of recent international experience, it’s hard to imagine Foden claiming another cap for England again, unless he has a truly incredible season.
Goode went to the World Cup as the backup full back, and at just 27 is likely to still be an option in 2019. Goode is well known for playing as a second distributor, whilst also having a solid boot on him which both count in his favour. He has however come in for criticism for his lack of a cutting edge with ball in hand, whilst his speed is also another question mark.
Despite winning the European Player of the Year award, Abendanon was still overlooked for England’s Rugby World Cup squad. Given he is now 29, it is hard to imagine the RFU relaxing the overseas based rule given he is unlikely to be a serious contender come the 2019 World Cup. He could however be a good short term option should there be an injury crisis.
The Worcester Warriors man could well have become a key figure for England had his side remained in the Premiership last season such has been his form over the last couple of years. He has very much picked up where he left off this season, and could well find himself being called up for the 2016 Six Nations, although at 28 his opportunity may have already passed him by.
The Wasps man’s versatility means he is equally comfortable at fullback as he is at outside centre where many fans see his future. Given England have options at 13, Daly may be best off focussing on the 15 shirt where his eye for a break, pace, and huge boot could see him become England’s next international full back once Mike Brown steps down.
The Sale Sharks full back has already ousted an Italian international from the 15 shirt, and is now holding down a regular start in the Premiership. He’s currently a little inexperienced to be considered for the 2016 Six Nations, but if he continues his good form he could find himself getting a call up before the 2019 World Cup.
At this stage, it’s hard to see anyone other than Mike Brown starting for England during the 2016 Six Nations as he clearly deserves to retain the 15 shirt given his form. That being said, there does need to be some succession planning for 2019, and for that reason, Anthony Watson needs to be given an increasing amount of game time at fullback over the next couple of seasons ready to step-up for 2019 given there are plenty of options to take his spot on the wing.