Stuart Lancaster has named his 31-man England squad for the World Cup with very few surprises. Here are the seven things that stand out for me…
1.There has been a willingness to try the untested
The inclusion of both Henry Slade and Sam Burgess is quite exciting from an England perspective. We had a similar situation with Manu Tuilagi in 2011 and he ended up being England’s player of the tournament, so keep a close eye on Slade.
2.There is a worrying lack of experience in the squad
Of the 31 players named, only three of them have more than 50 caps. Now in fairness, there isn’t exactly a huge pool of highly experienced players for England to select from, however there have to be some concerns when compared to most other squads who have multiple test centurions.
3.The Sam Burgess selection makes total sense
Ok, so Burgess may not have the experience of playing union, and on that point I can understand some of the criticism. What he does have however is experience of winning things and playing on the biggest stages. Given the squads lack of experience his inclusion makes total sense.
4.The second row looks a little lightweight
It’s obviously fantastic to see Launchbury and Lawes back together, whilst Parling and Kruis both have their merits. The concern however is that by not selection Attwood, there isn’t much bulk in the second row, and given the recent scrum troubles this has to be a concern.
5.There wasn’t much room for manoeuvre in the backs
The only real decision to make in the backs were which centres to take, and whether to select Cipriani or Goode as the replacement full back. I just hope Lancaster’s decision to release other wings early doesn’t come back to haunt him.
6.The decision is tough on Cipriani but understandable
There’s no doubting that Cipriani probably deserved more of a shot at selection, however given as he was seen as the backup full back the decision is understandable. Had he spent more time at 15 for Sale then it would have made more sense, but as is Farrell & Ford provide a nice contrast.
7.The back row selections don’t look particularly balanced
In many ways Billy Vunipola and Ben Morgan are the same kind of player, whilst Haskell, Wood and Robshaw all offer very similar attributes to one another. Whereas in other positions there is good variation, the back row perhaps lacks some balance.