Interesting Autumn Ahead!
The autumn is here and into November we go, the international squad selections have now overtaken the hype about the ELVs (Experimental Law Variations). Johnno has taken the reigns of England and it hasn't been since the Woodward era that I have really felt any anticipation or excitement towards the possibilities of an England team.
15. Delon Armitage* (London Irish)
14. Paul Sackey (London Wasps)
13. Jamie Noon (Newcastle Falcons)
12. Riki Flutey* (London Wasps)
11. Ugo Monye* (Harlequins)
10. Danny Cipriani (London Wasps)
9. Danny Care (Harlequins)
1. Andrew Sheridan (Sale Sharks)
2. Lee Mears (Bath Rugby)
3. Matt Stevens (Bath Rugby)
4. Steve Borthwick (Saracens, captain)
5. Nick Kennedy* (London Irish)
6. Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers)
7. Tom Rees (London Wasps)
8. Nick Easter (Harlequins)
16. Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints)
17. Phil Vickery (London Wasps)
18. Tom Palmer (London Wasps)
19. James Haskell (London Wasps)
20. Michael Lipman (Bath Rugby)
21. Harry Ellis (Leicester Tigers)
22. Toby Flood (Leicester Tigers)
Four new caps in the first international under Johnson's full control and everyone is hoping they will bring with them the new brand of rugby that England have been craving since we won the world cup.
The pack oozes experience and heavy guns in the front five and 8 and in Rees and Croft there are two very quick wing forwards. On paper, the backs dare you to think of the possibilities with Cipriani at ten, the pace of Sackey and Monye out wide. Flutey and Noon will provide strength and creativity outside Cipriani but both have the speed and power to beat their men.
Armitage at fullback is perfectly capable and has shown glimmers of what he is capable of but wouldn't have been my first choice at fifteen. Morgan and Abendanon of Gloucester and Bath respectively have both shown more in attack and Morgan would be the safer choice under the high ball. But, we shall see how he steps up on the day.
Put simply, Johnno says, "It's not a risk, they are good players and they can play." What kind of game they will be playing he is keeping close to his chest.
My hope is that this is another step towards a new English brand of rugby. It has felt since we won the world cup that England have been somewhat left behind in the evolution of the game since it turned professional. Our domestic competitions are second to none, but when it comes to the internationals that can define the direction the clubs will take, when we have faced big packs capable of dealing with us we have become stuck for ideas, when our structured game breaks down our backs have looked lost.
Hopefully with a new and inspirational coach and with the selection of new and exciting players we can forge not only a winning team but also a new kind of rugby.
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