Home > Uncategorized > Fifty Shades of Beige – A 6 Nations Reprise Part 2

Fifty Shades of Beige – A 6 Nations Reprise Part 2

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A week on from the Battle of Cardiff and the 6 Nations decider and the dust still has not quite settled. Many commentators and critics have though adjusted their guns and lined them up on England Head Coach Stuart Lancaster rather than match referee Steve Walsh.

I suppose it was inevitable that Lancaster would have to take the flak eventually after a record defeat to the Welsh, and the ill-advised comments from his Coach Graham Rowntree regarding his “forensic analysis” of the scrum. His team selection has been pored over ad nauseam by the national rugby media and whilst Lancaster does need to keep his systems and selections flexible only a fool would conclude that Engalnd have become a lesser team in this Championship.

The autumn win against a knackered All Blacks side raised the bar of expectation a little too high in the evolution of Lancaster`s squad. Wales came along and adjusted it and now we all know where we stand.

He will have to make changes and he will have to discard some of the current crop of talent he has before the RWC of 2015 gets near. Like all athletes rugby professionals at the very top level of the game only, by and large, have a relatively short peak to their careers before the physical demands of the sport dull some of their edges. That is why succession planning is key and why somebody with the resources Stuart Lancaster clearly possesses must use this summer`s tour to Argentina to the full.

English rugby has a well trodden path to the senior international squad though the age-grades and Saxons set ups, but that must never become an exclusive members club whereby anyone who suddenly bursts into the kind of form worthy of a senior white jersey later in their careers is ignored.

The game in Cardiff highlighted some key areas where Lancaster and his team need to re-assess the weaponry at their disposal – front row, flanker, wing and full-back. I would then add to that centre.

The flanker issue is a problem for England but it should not be. Welsh rugby is in disarray if you believe everything you read in the papers but in Justin Tipuric and Sam Warburton they have two of the best flankers currently in world rugby. And then they have Dan Lydiate. Very nearly the best. Get your scouting hat on Stuart, the answer to your problems is out there.

At centre Manu Tuilagi is still the darling of the English press because he is big, smashes holes and plays for Leicester Tigers. But Wales have wrapped him up pretty well in recent meetings as I suspect the Aussies will do when he turns up in a Lions shirt this summer. In Cardiff his limitations were laid bare and his lack of creativity and guile were a concern. If only you could transplant the rugby brain of Gloucester`s Drew Locke into the body of Tuilagi.

And speaking of Gloucester therein lies the answer to the full-back problem. England need a 15 who can kick, is confident under the high ball, can run superb lines of counter-attack and will run and tackle all day. Rob Cook is the man. Capped only at England Counties level up to now and currently in his first season in the Premiership, Cook was not expected to become the first choice full-back at Kingsholm so soon. The fact that he has is the mark of the man, so get him on your roster Stuart and take him to Buenos Aires.

On the wing it is time to blood a man who would run rings around Chris Ashton all day on current form – Exeter Chiefs` Jack Nowell. He has already been tagged for senior international honours, just won the LV= Breakthough Player of the Year Award, and lifted the 6 Nations crown with the England Under-20 squad. It is rumoured that he will be in the Saxons set up next season but why wait? why delay? why ignore the fact that the lad is ready? Dont waste time picking Charlie Sharples again – he has had his chance – let Nowell in the door this summer and nobody will be disappointed.

Up front I would stick with Vunipola but one prop I would mention as a wildcard is Carl Rimmer, also of the Chiefs. The former Coventry and Cornish Pirates man has really flourished in the last two seasons and easily taken to the Premiership. A strong scrummager who carries well he would go well against the Argentineans.

So in summary I just want Stuart Lancaster to think outside the box a little more. Once you start change you cannot suddenly stop it and if the England coaching team stick to rigid thinking and inflexible systems they will end up no better than the Martin Johnson regime.

Out of adversity comes opportunity and this summer`s tour should be seen as a massive chance for everyone.

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