It would be an extremely interesting contest ⤵️⤵️⤵️
Another pre-season over, another transfer window closed. While the likes of Chris Ashton and David Strettle have returned home, there has also been an influx of international players that don’t know the lyrics to “God Save the Queen” (Brad Shields probably had a glance at the lyrics on his flight over from New Zealand). Although incoming international players may make the Gallagher premiership more competitive and thus, more exciting to watch, a very significant issue may arise. It’s easy to forget that these incoming players take the spots of potential English “home-grown” players and can therefore prevent them from gaining experience on the pitch or displaying their talent to give them an opportunity to be selected for England. In fact, this may the reason why England have lost 5 matches on the trot since their win over Wales at Twickenham in the Six Nations.
Nevertheless, there is no denying that it’s still interesting to compare the best imported players against England’s current XV. So below, I have been busy with my own fantasy transfer window, handpicking the finest foreign players within the Gallagher premiership to take down the English. First, let’s look at the England squad that saved their series in South Africa from being a total whitewash, with a couple of changes for optimal performance:
15. Elliot Daly
14. Jonny May
13. Henry Slade
12. Owen Farrell
11. Mike Brown
10. Danny Cipriani
9. Ben Youngs
8. Billy Vunipola (in for Nathan Hughes)
7. Sam Underhill (in for Tom Curry)
6. Chris Robshaw (C)
5. Maro Itoje
4. Joe Launchbury
3. Kyle Sinckler
2. Jaime George
1. Joe Marler
This is a formidable English side. At some stage, most of these players would have been involved in the 18-match winning streak, matched only by New Zealand. In fact, the only weakness in that team may be in the back row. Despite having a leader in Robshaw, a tackling machine that is Underhill and a mammoth in the number eight jersey, there is still no “real” 7 like a Pocock or a Warburton. Nevertheless, I believe England will be able to prevent the opposition from getting over the gain-line most of the time and therefore, this is where they will be able to generate turnovers.
In the Backline, from 10 to 13, we have three players who are more than capable of taking over the number 10 shirt. Furthermore, you have the speedster that is Jonny May on the wing who is joined by two men who are comfortable under any high ball and can kick. In fact, excluding May, every back is an excellent kicker. Therefore, on a wet windy Saturday, Daly would be able to kick down the line, forcing the opposition into a “pressured” line-out five meters away from there try-line. You then have Itoje and Launchbury stealing the line-out, Billy Vunipola hitting up and dragging four players with him, bending the defensive line, and then just hands from Cipriani to Farrell to Slade to May in the corner. TRY-TIME! Unfortunately, for England, I’m not their coach and they have to settle with Jones’ tactics and management.
On that note, I would like to introduce my new and made up squad, the Gallagher Barbarians. This squad is made up of the finest players with international test caps from countries other than England. Like the top 14, the Gallagher Premiership sides have been importing many more international players to bump up their ranking at the end of the season. This approach is very unlike the squads in the Pro 14 and Super Rugby where importing players is kept to minimum. This may be a result of relegation being present in both the Top 14 and Gallagher Premiership, pressuring the teams to look abroad for talent that will keep them from sinking.
Allow me to introduce the “Gallagher Barbarians” that are sure to topple the English in front of their home crowd in Twickenham..
15. Willie Le Roux (South Africa & Wasps)
14. Charles Piutau (New Zealand & Bristol Bears)
13. Michele Campagnaro (Italy & Exeter Chiefs)
12. Matt Toomua (Australia & Leicester Tigers)
11. Santiago Cordero (Argentina & Exeter Chiefs)
10. Lima Sopoaga (New Zealand & Wasps)
9. Faf De Klerk (South Africa & Sale Sharks)
8. Taulupe “Toby” Faletau (Wales & Bath)
7. George Smith (C) (Australia & Bristol Bears)
6. Francois Louw (South Africa & Bath)
5. Franco Mostert (South Africa & Gloucester)
4. Steven Luatua (New Zealand & Bristol Bears)
3. Logovi’i Mulipola (Samoa & Newcastle Falcons)
2. Tatafu Polota-Nau (Australia & Leicester Tigers)
1. Ben Franks (New Zealand & Northampton Saints)
I have chosen the veteran and leader that is George Smith to lead this squad. In the front row, we have another veteran that is Ben Franks with two players, Polota-Nau and Mulipola, that I don’t think even Sam Underhill fancies tackling. Furthermore, I have selected two exciting and mobile second rows that will looking for plenty of work around the park. In the back-row, there is a wealth of experience between Louw, Faletau and Smith. Furthermore, unlike England, there are actually two poachers within the back-row that will be looking to steal England’s ball at any opportunity presented to them.
The link man between the forwards and backs is South Africa’s Faf de Clerk, the man Nathan Hughes fears. De Clerk has become such an integral part of South Africa’s success and was key in the Springboks beating New Zealand at home. Directing things at 10 is the exiled Lima Sopoaga and he will be joined by Matt Toomua outside him. Again, similar to the English xv, there will three playmakers in the back field with Toomua, Sopoaga and Willie Le Roux more than capable playing at 10. These play-making attributes will open up space for Cordero and Piutau to wreak havoc against the opposition. I already feel sorry for May and Brown. Michelle Campagnaro, Italy’s best player in my opinion, will bring the physicality that will be required in this Backline.
There you have it, the Gallagher Barbarians squad that would be sure to cause an upset at Twickenham. Unfortunately, similar to a match between Leinster and Crusaders, this is another match-up fans want to see but is all but real.
Written By James O’Connor – 25/09/18