In the fifth part of our series looking at England’s options after their 2015 World Cup debacle, we take a look at the position of scrum half. Below we look at the options both in the short-term (2016 Six Nations) and longer term (2019 Rugby World Cup);
The current incumbent nine, and one of the current squad touted as a potential captain for the World Cup in 2019. Youngs has played well for England over the last 12 months and is developing a more expansive game under a new attack coach at Leicester Tigers, although could still do with improving the speed of his distribution. He is currently at the perfect age to go into the 2019 World Cup as one of the key leaders of the team given his current experience.
In the short term at least, Care seems likely to be Youngs most likely contender for the nine shirt. He was criminally underutilised during the World Cup but is displaying some fine form for Harlequins this season. He has bags of experience and is also taking on the captain’s responsibility for Quins which will only help develop him. Age isn’t on his side, however he should still be around for the 2019 World Cup, and offers something different to Youngs.
It seems unlikely that we will see Wigglesworth in an England shirt again given his age. That being said, he still clearly has something to offer and could therefore be utilised over the next year or two. He may not offer the higher tempo style of play provided by some of the other options, but there is no doubting that he is consistent, whilst he is also England’s best kicking scrum half. It is highly unlikely he will still be around for the next World Cup however.
At 30, and having missed out on England selection over the last 12 months it is difficult to see Dickson coming back into contention for a place in the squad, especially given Northampton’s poor start to the season. He is however still a top class scrum half, and could find himself in contention over the next couple of years should England require a more experienced head at nine, especially if one or two of the regulars pick up an injury.
Simpson’s omission from the England squad over the last 12 months has left some fans perplexed with many clamouring for his inclusion in the World Cup squad despite missing the end of the season with injury. It is easy to see why he would be such a popular choice however given his high tempo style of play that has seen Wasps produce some fine attacking rugby. Surely it is now a case of when, not if Simpson gets his chance in an England shirt.
The Bath man had a fine season last time around after spending a year gaining experience in the Championship. His form has tailed off a little over the last few months, however he has shown enough to suggest he could be a top international if he can find some consistent form. A solid run in the Bath first team with some silverware could see him rapidly rise up the pecking order where his well rounded skillset could be a big boost for the new coach.
We’re unlikely to be seeing Harrison in an England shirt anytime soon, however if he can continue his progress at Leicester he could well come into contention for England. He performed well in Ben Youngs absence earlier this season and is pushing hard for a regular start. If he can leapfrog Youngs at club level, he could well find himself in contention for a place in England’s World Cup squad come 2019.
Robson moved to Wasps over the summer in a bid to get out from under Greig Laidlaw’s shadow, but now finds himself going head-to-head with Joe Simpson for the nine shirt. Robson has proved he has all the skills necessary to succeed at the top level, but now needs consistent starts in order to really press his claim for an England call-up. This is unlikely to happen in the short term, but he could come into contention ahead of 2019.
At the moment it seems the sensible option would be to select Youngs and Care as first and second choice with the starter being decided based on the style of play the new Head Coach wants to employ. Currently Simpson should come in as the third choice scrum half to press his claim, whilst it wouldn’t harm to get the likes of Robson and Cooked involved for the Saxons with a view to promoting them in the longer term.