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World Cup heartbreak beckons as Johnson ponders final cut

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Bryn Palmer | 17:51 UK time, Tuesday, 16 August 2011

At some point this week, England's players will be taking a call they don't really want to answer.

The name on the screen will be 'Johnno', or however they refer to manager Martin Johnson in the privacy of their own phones.

For 10 of the 40 players technically still under consideration for the 30 available places in the squad, World Cup heartbreak beckons.

Martin Johnson (centre) expresses his anger watching England lose to Wales in their warm-up Test in Cardiff as forwards coach John Wells (left) looks on

Johnson was not impressed by his side's defeat in Cardiff but will ring every player this week to inform them if they have made the World Cup cut. Picture: Getty

Having trained like beasts for six weeks, and tasted action in some cases in the first two warm-up Tests, being told they are missing out on a potential career highlight will take some swallowing.

"I have tasted it and I don't want to taste it again," says flanker James Haskell, who experienced the final cut four years ago after playing in the second warm-up game against France.

"The next day I got a phone call from [then head coach] Brian Ashton telling me I wasn't in the mix. It was different for me then - I had only a couple of caps at the time. But the chance to go to World Cups and on Lions tours is why we play the game and the disappointment at missing out is like nothing else."

Lock Tom Palmer can testify to similar feelings, having also suffered the pain of rejection in 2007.

"I know how heartbreaking it can be to miss out after working so hard," he said. "It was definitely the biggest disappointment of my career, worse than losing a cup final or even being relegated."

Another member of the current squad to have experienced all manner of selectorial trauma down the years is Simon Shaw, who will be 38 by the time the 2011 tournament kicks off next month.

In 2003, Shaw was driving a removal van across London, trying to get his wife and then three-week-old daughter settled in their new home before heading off to Australia - or so he thought - when his mobile rang for a third time.

He had trouble making out the voice on the other end. "Hello...hello...Simon, this is Clive Woodward. Sorry, but you haven't made the World Cup squad."

"When it came to the personal touch Clive didn't hang about in giving you bad news," recalled Shaw, who admits he used a few choice words in Woodward's direction, and put the phone down on the future knight.

"I was left parked at the side of the road in this removal van looking very odd to passers-by. All they would have seen was a large, irate man swearing at the top of his voice, alone in the cab."

Simon Shaw holds off a Wales defender in England's 23-19 win at Twickenham in their first warm-up Test

Simon Shaw will be 38 by the time the World Cup kicks off but could still win a place in the squad. Picture: Getty

As it turned out, Shaw was called out to Australia as a replacement for the injured Danny Grewcock, and became infamous for picking up a World Cup winners medal without playing a single minute in the tournament.

If Shaw misses out this time, it will probably be because Johnson - as Woodward and Ashton did - has decided he can get away with three specialist locks because he has a back-row player who can fill in there if required. In 2003 and 2007, it was Martin Corry. This time it could be Tom Croft.

"It is something I have always done throughout my career," Croft told BBC Sport. "I have always had a bit of time in the second row. It doesn't overly faze me. If 'Johnno' or 'Wellsey' [forwards coach John Wells] ask me to go into the second row, I will do it because that is their choice."

The overall balance of the squad in terms of forwards and backs (most likely a 16-14 split) may already be decided, with Johnson and his coaches mulling over the final choices.

Assuming Ben Foden, Delon Armitage, Chris Ashton and Mark Cueto are on the plane, should an extra back-three spot go to Charlie Sharples or Ugo Monye? Or will both of them miss out, with Matt Banahan - also considered as a centre - providing the other wing option?

If Mike Tindall, Manu Tuilagi, Banahan, Toby Flood and Jonny Wilkinson are all going, does he take one or two inside centres - Shontayne Hape, Riki Flutey or both? If Flutey goes, will he act as emergency fly-half cover? Or does Johnson take a third 10 in Charlie Hodgson?

Is a third scrum-half - probably Richard Wigglesworth over Joe Simpson - behind Ben Youngs and Danny Care a luxury or essential? Does he free up a spot elsewhere and use Foden in an emergency?

Four or five props? If only four, then Andrew Sheridan, Dan Cole, Matt Stevens and Alex Corbisiero look inked in. If five, David Wilson appears likely to get the nod over Paul Doran-Jones.

If he only takes three locks, will Shaw or Deacon be the unfortunate one? (assuming Courtney Lawes and Tom Palmer are in, and Mouritz Botha is the outsider)

And assuming Lewis Moody is fit to travel, should a sixth back-row spot go to open-side specialist Hendre Fourie, or the versatile Chris Robshaw, who can cover all three positions?

Decisions, decisions. And agony aplenty for those on the wrong end of them.


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  • Comment number 1.

    I personally think that Martin Johnson has missed a trick by giving Chris Robshaw no opportunity to shine. He wasn't given any gametime in the two warmup games so I am not sure how he can be picked.

    The glaring weaknesses in the England side are the backrow and centres. Can he solve either before the world cup? No.

    Leaving the two best inside centres in the AP - Brad Barritt and Anthony Allen is a costly error.

    He will have to stick to his guns and pick Flutey,Tuilagi,Hape and Tindall in the centres.

    The 30 man squad will look something like:

    Scrum Halves:Youngs,Care
    Fly halves:Wilkinson,Flood
    Full Backs:Armitage,Foden

    That's 26 with four of Wigglesworth, Hodgson,Sharples or Monye,Botha, Fourie or Robshaw, PDJ or Wilson.

  • Comment number 2.

    Regardless of the different positional decisions Johnson has to make, one man who definitely doesn't deserve to go to New Zealand, based on the two warm-up games thus far, is Banahan. For a man of that size to be consistently unable to break the gain line, let alone score from ten metres out when he has a four stone advantage, is unacceptable. Just because he is a giant at 6'7 and 18st doesn't mean he has to be picked.

  • Comment number 3.

    Johnson isn't known for making choices out of left field, so i'm assuming the 5 who didn't play either warm up game won't go. I very much doubt sharples will go either. Backs: Care, Youngs, Wigglesworth, Wilko, Flood, Flutey (i hope!), tindall, Manu, Banahan, Foden, Ashton, Armitage, Cueto, Hape (although i hope not!)
    Forwards: Sheri, Cole, Stevens, Corbs, Shaw, Palmer, Deacon, Lawes, Croft, Haskell, Easter, Moody, Wood, Thompo, Hartley, Mears

    That's my guess anyway!

  • Comment number 4.

    Apologises for missing out Simpson at scrum half.

    It is 10 players fighting for 4 places. Have I missed out anyone?

    If I was picking the squad I would probably add Wigglesworth,Sharples,Robshaw and Wilson to the 26 I mentioned.

  • Comment number 5.

    my squad would be;
    sheridan, corbisiero,
    hartley, thompson
    cole, stvens
    lawes, shaw
    palmer, deacon
    croft, wood
    moody, flourie
    easter, haskell
    care, youngs
    flood, wilko
    ashton, monye
    tindall, tuilagi
    hape, banahan
    cuetto, sharples
    foden, armitage

    actually, i'd have put strettle in ahead of sharples, but as he's out that's that.
    real shame that flutey hasn't re-discovered his lions form but injuries seam to have taken their toll.
    QF is the best i can see us managing, i'm afraid

  • Comment number 6.

    Beshocked - Hate to mention it but we should take some hookers!

  • Comment number 7.

    Completely agree with your list beshocked although you've forgotten that we'll likely be taking three hookers, Hartley, Thompson and Mears.

    I also reckon we'll only take 3 centres with Armitage and Banahan as cover. Also with Easter and Croft able to cover lock, MJ might well only take three locks although I don't think he will.

    Which leaves two places between the players you mentioned. Should MJ take another prop, another scrum half, another flyhalf or another winger? I reckon he'll go with another prop and another flyhalf, Wilson and Hodgson, with Foden as emergency scrumhalf cover.

  • Comment number 8.

    If Banahan gets on the plane then I will be shocked. Unlike the top 3 backs, Foden, Cueto, Ashton, who can all swap into each others potition, he is totally one dimensional and offers nothing other than grunt, and Shane Williams at five stone lighter proved he isn't even good at smashing into people. Whilst people mention his ability to cover centre, he was also rubbish at covering said position and I have yet to see him perform once in an England shirt.
    As people have said, it is a shame Johnson has sent Robshaw home, he has played well last season few seasons but given Johno's known conservatism I can't see anyone getting on plane who hasn't played.

  • Comment number 9.


    I think you might need to add at least 2 hookers to your list.

  • Comment number 10.

    i really hope Robshaw gets on the plane ahead of Fourie. in the centres what i can't get my head around is the Saxons are meant to be the sattelite team but Twelvetrees who was excellent and, in my opinion, would be a great companion to Tuilangi has been completly overlooked for someone who hasn't donned an England Jersey for a while in Flutey. With the excellent back line we have we need service at 10 and 12, i think Hape is the reason England play so narrow on attack.

  • Comment number 11.

    There's not that many tough decisions to be honest, most players we know whether they are going to be going or not.

    We can virtually discount the player who haven't played in either warm up so PDJ, Chris Robshaw, Joe Simpson, Tim Payne and Ugo Monye will not be making the squad. Cameo appearances from Charlie Sharples and Mauritz Botha are unlikely to be enough to book a place also.

    Apart from these players, that leaves only three players with a realistic chance who are going to be dissappointed. The three who will miss out are likely to come from a list of these players; Shaw, Flutey, Wigglesworth, Tuilagi, Deacon, Fourie, Wilson and Hodgson.

    My money's on Flutey, Wigglesworth and Fourie not making the cut.

  • Comment number 12.

    Topsy Ojo?

  • Comment number 13.

    Beshocked @ 1 - Real shame that Allen and Barritt weren't really considered as they are both quality centres that perform in two of the best sides in the premiership. I think Allen has won a couple of caps that didn't really go very well - too young and inexperienced possibly. Bad call in my opinion.

    As for the team, I don't really expect any surprises, Johnson will be quite conservative and go for players that have experience - so no Sharples, Botha, Robshaw and PDJ. He should take a 3rd scrum half in Wigglesworth as cover, but not really sure about Hodgson, Flutey and Banahan, although he will probably go. Armitage will walk through with his recent performances.

  • Comment number 14.

    I really think Johnno should start Tuilagi or Flutey rather than Hape. He really lacks creativity in the middle of the park. Also if Banahan makes the plane, he should only play as a last resort i.e. if Ashton, Foden, Cueto or Armitage get injured.

  • Comment number 15.

    Oh no that's a bit embarrassing.

    I can't edit unfortunately.

    Hartley and Thompson would be the 2 hookers meaning 11 players fighting for 2 places.

  • Comment number 16.

    To Ric Andrews comment at 11:32 - Couldn't agree more. Remember Lesley Vainikolo? Build of Jonah Lomu but as about as useful as having Andrew Sheridan on the wing (at least Sheri would smash through one or two players).

    Also agree that Hape is not even close to being an International player. Our centres worry me.

  • Comment number 17.

    Centre seems the weakest area of the England team. Johnson may want to introduce Tuilagi but would he consider dropping Tindall?

    Sorry to go off topic but will there also be Blogs about the make-up of the Scotland and Wales squads this week?

  • Comment number 18.

    I think Jonno should experient with a 2nd 5/8 combo against Ireland - this would give him some extra creativity / vision at 12 (as well as an extra kicking option) and he has 4 people in the squad - Wilko / Flood / Flutey and Hodgson (who is perhaps the least likely to travel IMHO) who can cover both roles. Personally I would like to see Wilko at 10 with Flood at 12 against Ireland.

    This means 13 becomes highly competitive. Regardless of many people's misgivings about Tindall, his expereince and defence mean he is certain to travel (rightly in my view). Jonno will also find it hard to resist the increased clamour for Tuilagi's inclusion. This puts Hape at risk. The minimum 10/12/13 travelling group (if he goes down the 2nd 5/8 route) could be:-

    Wilko / Flood / Flutey / Tindall / Tuilagi (the first three covering both 10/12)

    A further back up at 13 could be provided by Armitage / Banahan both of whom offer versatility which in a limited squad could push them ahead of Hape.

    My squad would be (in no particular order):-

    Sheridan / Stevens / Cole / Corbisiero
    Hartley / Thompson / Mears
    Lawes / Palmer / Deacon
    Croft (providing additional 2nd row cover) / Haskell / Easter / Moody / Wood / Robshaw
    Care / Youngs / Wigglesworth
    Wilko / Flood / Flutey
    Tindall / Tuilagi / Armitage / Banahan (the last two covering back 3 also)
    Foden / Ashton / Cueto / Sharples

  • Comment number 19.

    Am I the only one who wouldn't have Mark Cueto anywhere near the plane for New Zealand let alone the starting 15?

  • Comment number 20.

    Although he's not as versatile as croft, would love to see Shaw there recreating the form he showed on the Lions tour 09.

  • Comment number 21.

    Hi Why where all doing the what squad will it be heres my take -
    Props sheridan, corbisiero, cole, stevens.
    Hookers hartley, thompson
    2nd Row lawes, palmer, deacon, shaw (lawes can cover B/row)
    Back row croft, wood, moody, Robshaw, easter, haskell
    scrum half care, youngs, wigglesworth
    10 flood, wilko, hodgson
    Centres tindall, tuilagi, Fluety,
    Back 3 ashton, cuetto, sharples, foden, armitage (can cover centre)

  • Comment number 22.

    Generally I think Johnson has moved us in the right direction and, while I don't always agree with all his picks, I can at least see why he has chosen another player or overlooked one I favour.

    However, I think he will regret his blindness over the inside centre position. I think he was banking on Flutey and Hape stepping up during the warm ups but if anything they have both gone backwards. If only we had Allen - an inside centre who is recognised as a key part of the Leicester team - I think this squad would be seriously threatening the semi-final spots rather than hoping for things to go their way on the day.

  • Comment number 23.

    Beshocked - I would be shocked if Jonno takes no Hookers as you are suggesting - your 26 does not include the three he is likely to take lol - I think your selection is unfortunately correct but with only one coming from the remianing players.

  • Comment number 24.

    I think we will do very well, we could win it! Simon Shaw has to go.....Hape no!

  • Comment number 25.

    just put your faith in JW. It's a myth that he can't attack. If you take out Flood, Hape, Tindall and Cueto, our backline could actually be quite good.

    Says it all that Guiteau hasn't made the Aussie 30, and yet banahan, flood and hape will be in ours. They're utterly useless. Does anyone here know if Guiteau has any distant English relatives and can give back his Aussie caps?

  • Comment number 26.

    Props: Stevens, Corbisiero, Sheridan, Cole
    Hookers: Hartley, Thompson, Mears
    Locks: Lawes, Palmer, Deacon
    Back Row: Moody (Worsley if Moody is injured), Easter, Wood, Haskell, Croft
    10s: Wilkinson, Flood, Hodgson
    9s: Youngs, Care, Wigglesworth
    Centres: Tindall, Tuilagi, Flutey, Hape
    Wings: Cueto, Ashton, Sharples
    Fullbacks: Armitage, Foden

    Not saying that this would be my preference, but it's how I see it happening.

  • Comment number 27.

    Loose Head Props - Sheridan/Corbierso
    Hookers - Hartley/Mears/Thompson
    Tight Head Props - Cole/Stevens
    Locks - Palmer/Lawes/Deacon
    Flankers - Moody/Fourie/Croft/Wood
    No.8 - Easter/Haskell
    Scrum Halves - Youngs/Care/Simpson
    Fly Halves - Wilkinson/Flood
    Inside Centres - Hape/Flutey
    Outside Centres - Tindall/Tuilagi
    Wingers - Ashton/Cueto
    Full Backs - Foden/Armitage

    Not sure on Toby Flood? Would Owen Farrell be a better shout? Also Anthony Allen/Olly Barkley are surely better than Hape?

    Can't have Banahan in. For his size is useless!! Can he actually break a gain line and set the ball up without being turned over or giving away a penalty?

    Sorry to leave Shaw out but I believe Deacon is the better player.

  • Comment number 28.

    Allen has been mentioned a lot but just because you have done well for club doesn't mean you do well at international level. Lesley Vanikolo scored 5 tries on his Gloucester debut and had a fantastic season bu the was a flop in an England shirt. I agree that Alle should have had a chance to prove himself but he could not be expected to walk into the team and set the world alight in an instant. Good club performances should give you a chance to shine at international level. If you do, then you are a proven performer.
    This is where Banahan falls down. Very good for club, given chance but hasb't taken it. Has never had a quality performance for England. If he goes on the plane to New Zealand I won't be suprised but I will be very disapointed in Johnson. Sharples should have been given a proper chance.
    Also, Sharples is the quickest player in the England team at the moment in tests.

  • Comment number 29.

    Personally I don't think Banahan should go! I think he should have had more of a look at Simpson - Daniel he could have covered a lot of position's. The position I am unsure about is the cover for Fly - Half, Flood and Wilko can cover the centre position so I would rather take Hodgson instead of Flutie being cover for 10.

  • Comment number 30.

    Howieallstar - you'd really consider Flood at 12? He'd get eaten. He runs away from tackles as it is, imagine him against Nonu/SBW/De Villiers/Fourie/Darcy/Jauzion. He's not even a good fly half - despite what Stuart Barnes says, catch and pass, or a little dance before stitching up a forward does not actually amount to 'playing flat and setting your backline alight'. Try to bare in mind Barnes also likes Cueto, I think that says it all - the Emile Heskey of world rugby.

  • Comment number 31.

    Danny Care now ruled out with a toe injury? surely that would only make him play better as he might then not take 3 steps before passing each time!

  • Comment number 32.

    Anyone but Danny Care abd Charlie Hodgson. If Care plays we won't get out of the group.

  • Comment number 33.


    no no no no no

    Matt Banahan in the final 30

    He typifies all that is wrong with England's back play. His inability to get through Shane Williams on Saturday when 1 on 1 surely must make everyone realise that he is not an international winger/centre

  • Comment number 34.

    I do feel sorry for Care being ruled out so late, but I'd love Joe Simpson to be given a run out against Ireland. Unlike Care he gets the ball out quickly and doesn't spend every ruck with his hands flapping around in exasperation!

    Gazzla - I agree with you. Can't understand how a winger who doesn't score tries finds himself in the England team! Would like to see Armitage fitted in their somewhere

  • Comment number 35.

    My two penneth for what it's worth.
    The squad must comprise the following - A match day 22 plus replacements for every number from 1 - 22. That means the following 3 hookers, 3 scrum halves, 3 fly halves. Foden cannot cover 9 and Flutey cannot cover 10 (he can't place kick for a start). That does make things a little tight as this time we has no Corry and no Catt. Squad therefore becomes something like :
    Sheridan / Stevens / Cole / Corbisiero
    Hartley / Thompson / Mears
    Lawes / Palmer / Deacon
    Croft / Haskell / Easter / Moody / Wood
    Care / Youngs / Wigglesworth
    Wilkinson / Flood / Hodgson
    Flutey / Tindall / Tuilagi / Armitage / Banahan
    Foden / Ashton / Cueto
    Which leaves 1 remaining pick between Shaw, Robshaw, Hape or Sharples. I have a feeling we will go with Shaw.

  • Comment number 36.

    If in these warm up games they insist on playing weaker sides, then they really should test out players. Give players like sharples a go, i rate him far higher than cueto. Sharples would run round players, cueto tends to run into them and doesn't even score tries, too 1 dimensional, sharples scored loads for gloucester last season and to lose out to banahan, whose only attribute is his size and he doesn't even use it that well.

    With regards to the centres, if they see Tuilagi as the future 13 with no shining 12, then why isnt tindall put at 12 (where he played in WC 03) then we at least wouldn't lose the experience he apparently brings. If we are to compete with the likes of NZ, SA & Aus then we need more place in our centres, wings (cueto) and backrow and with Easter & Moody in the backrow we certainly don't have it!

    We will do well to get past France in the Q/F, thats if Argentina don't beat us first!!

  • Comment number 37.

    I hope he doesn't take Charlie Dan Ackroyd Hodgson, probably the least exciting fly half in England for some time.

  • Comment number 38.

    Sad to hear that Care is out injured. I haven't been his biggest fan recently (why oh why does he take a step or three before passing for England, when he doesn't do that at Quins), but its harsh luck on him. I hope he makes a fully recovery and gets playing again for his club soon.

    Also in the scrum half position. I don't know why Johnno has not given Joe Simpson an opportunity yet? Wasps have had a bad season, yet he has shined. One thing that I like about him is the fact that despite playing behind a pack going backwards he still produces quick effective ball for the Wasps back line. Imagine what he could do with the Wasps pack of four years ago or even the current England pack.

    I hope he makes the squad with Youngs and Wrigglesworth, but I think 1) the fact he hasn't played yet and 2) Foden can cover (with Armitage finally returning to form) Foden can change position if needed.

  • Comment number 39.

    We will be dreadful and go out in the quarters….

    Mainly because from 10-13 we are all over the place and Johnson hasn’t a clue about anything that happens outside the set piece and neither will he listen to anyone who does.

  • Comment number 40.

    Here's my squad (taking into account the injury to Care).


    Sheridan Cole Wilson Stevens Corisbiero


    Hartley Thompson Mears

    Second Row

    Shaw Palmer Lawes

    Back Row

    Haskell Wood Moody Easter Croft

    Scrum Half

    Youngs Wrigglesworth Simpson

    Fly Half

    Wilkinson Flood Hodgson


    Flutey Tindall Tuilagi


    Banahan Foden Ashton Cueto Armitage

  • Comment number 41.

    Starting XV:

    1 - Sheridan
    2 - Thompson
    3 - Cole
    4 - Shaw
    5 - Lawes
    6 - Croft
    7 - Haskell (Moody only if 100% fit)
    8 - Easter
    9 - Youngs
    10 - Wilkinson
    11 - Cueto
    12 - Tuilagi
    13 - Tindall (c)
    14 - Ashton
    15 - Foden


    16 - Hartley
    17 - Stevens
    18 - Palmer
    19 - Wood (Haskell if Moody is fit to start)
    20 - Wigglesworth
    21 - Flood
    22 - Armitage

    Final 8:

    23 - Corisbiero
    24 - Sharples
    25 - Deacon
    26 - Flutey
    27 - Hape
    28 - Mears
    29 - Fourie
    30 - Monye

  • Comment number 42.

    We have to pick Manu and Flutey in the centres to have any hope with Tinds on the bench or Tinds playing 60 mins and being replaced by Manu maybe. Combining them with a backline containing Ashton, Foden and Armitage is starting to take shape. I do worry we havent got world class half backs though with Wilko probably just over his peak and Flood appears to have lost a bit of form at the worst time. I think Cueto is a bench player to be replaced in the team by Delon who has pace.

    Matt Banahan couldn't catch a cold, I dont understand what they see in him.
    Hape is a lump who cant tackle , with no finesse and I would be really disappointed if these players go as it shows a conservative mindset. I do however fear both will be on the plane.

    For me Moody (awesome player) is done and should focus on his pension at Bath - too injury prone - I would not take him.

    Back row would be
    Haskell Wood Croft
    Fourie Easter

    Having said all that Brian Ashton showed in 2007 you only have to click over a short period and who knows? If we meet a real big gun in the QF I think we could be going home. Realistically not many teams make 3 consecutive world finals do they?

  • Comment number 43.

    If Hape gets on the plane I will presume this is to see his relatives in NZ. Centres score tries. How many has Hape scored in Rugby Union? 5. Thats right 5 tries since 2008 for Bath (none for England). Whilst I will admit he has a role in breaking the gain line, he often fails to release the ball, and is penalised. Shape is a nice bloke, but not an international center.
    Banahan is not great as a centre, and Bath never ever played Banahan and Hape together in the centres - I wonder why?

  • Comment number 44.

    On the crazy notion we will need a plan B at some point and our plan A is kick for territory, bludgeon until penalty, kick penalty or failing that a drop goal (youngs and wilkinson at the fore). Plan B must include some skill and speed out wide (which we have in abundance). I would go back to familiar pairings and pair Wigglesworth with Hodgson as plan B and let the fast guys have a go. Flood should now be third choice as he offers nowt different to wilkinson at best and a choker at worst. We can put who the hell we want in the forwards and we will win OK ball but as the last 3 internationals have shown posession ain't worth ..... if you cannot use it in a variety of ways.

  • Comment number 45.

    Agree with you, beshocked, that Robshaw should have been given gametime in the Wales fixtures: what's the point in having him in the squad and not giving him a chance to perform?! It's not as if there was any chance of Johnson not taking Moody, so why start a guy about whom you know everything and have already made a decision, over a guy who's unproven and needs a time to shine?! I don't understand it.

    Agree with everything said about Banahan, but - realistically - he will go for his versatility, comparative experience and freak dimensions. He is awful, though - I've thought so since he was first capped. It's alright for Johnson/England critics to point out the differences in how he is deployed at his club vs his country, but for me, he has fundamentally failed to step up to the increased physicality and intensity of international rugby, which for a guy of his size is not only disappointing but, frankly, embarrassing.

  • Comment number 46.

    As much as I feel sorry for him, Care's injury is a blessing for England. His service in the past 2 games has been awful. He has the ability to turn quick ball into slow by taking at least 2 (and sometimes 5!!!) lateral steps before lobbing (rather than passing) the ball to Flood). This made it very easy for the Welsh defence. All they had to do was move across with him, and then target the England midfield when Care FINALLY released the ball! When you have plodders like Hape and Tindall in midfield, there is no coming back from such awful scrum half play

    Wigglesworth has a far better pass, and Simpson has the better running game.

  • Comment number 47.

    I saw a comment about JSD getting a call.

    Sadly for him and England, whenever he hears the words 'International call up', one of his legs spontaneously breaks.....

  • Comment number 48.

    Starting XV: Sheridan, Hartley, Cole, Shaw, Lawes, Croft, Moody, Easter, Youngs (only because of care injury), Wilkinson, Tuilagi, Tindall, Ashton, Cueto, Foden
    Bench: Thomson, Stevens, Palmer, Haskell, Wigglesworth, Flood, Armitage
    Reserves: Corbeserio, Mears, Deacon, Fourie Hape, Banahan, Sharples and Flutey

  • Comment number 49.

    @33 - I know what you mean. Even though I have picked him in my England squad. He should've scored the try. What annoyed me most about that missed opportunity was that he used to score from positions like that at Bath with ease. He just seemed to think that the way to score that position was to drive straight through. When actually changing his angle and heading towards the corner would've been the better option avoiding contact long enough to reach the line. Maybe we've been using him in the centre too much.

  • Comment number 50.

    The problem with Banahan is we never get to see him running in the line/in the loose for England due to the pedestrian delivery from the rucks. By the time he has the ball, the defence are all over him. More often than not when he comes inside, he used as a supplementary forward, driving around the ruck to set up another phase.

    Remember what he did to that forward (forget his name) in the last 6N.

    If we can engineer some clear grass for him, to get going, that's when we see what he does so well as club level. That however brings us back to the midfield issues....

  • Comment number 51.

    Really bad news for Dnny Care, and for the team. He's upped his game and proved himself worthy of his seat on the plane. Well bearing this news in mind, here is my 30.
    Stevens, Sheridan, Cole, Corbisiero, Wilson
    Hartley, Thompson, Mears
    Lawes, Palmer, Botha,
    Croft (providing cover at lock), Haskell, Moody, Wood, Easter
    Youngs, Wigglesworth, Simpson
    Wilkinson, Flood, Hodgson
    Tindall, Tuilagi, Flutey, Armitage,
    Ashton, Cueto, Foden, Sharples

    We have to remember that Croft can cover lock, and Lawes can cover the back row. By taking Armitage as a centre, it leaves room for Sharples, who really should have had his chance against Wales last weekend. He has searing pace that a lot of teams will struggle to deal with. And I think we should play Tindall at 12 with Tuilagi outside him. Cueto has not been great in the last two games, but he is a big game player who plays much better with better players around him. With Hape and Banahan in the backline he's had nothing to play with. Same woth Foden, very ineffectual last weekend, but mostly because Hape and Banahan couldn't break out of a paper bag. And for those wondering why Botha. I think he's more of a ball carrier than Deacon, and not just a line out man. Deacon to me is too similar to Borthwick. Nothing against that, but I assume Palmer would run the lineouts, so Deacon's not needed.

  • Comment number 52.

    Cole, Corbisiero, Sheridan, Stevens
    Hartley, Mears, Thompson
    Lawes, Palmer, Shaw
    Croft, Easter, Fourie, Haskell, Moody, Wood
    Simpson, Wigglesworth, Youngs
    Flood, Wilkinson
    Flutey, Tindall, Tuilagi
    Ashton, Banahan, Cueto, Monye
    Armitage, Foden

  • Comment number 53.

    MagicDarkShadow you ol’ copy cat. You’ve just taken my squad and changed Shaw for Deacon. You are clearly a well informed and knowledgeable follower of rugby.

  • Comment number 54.

    1.Corbiesero 2.Hartley 3.Stevens 4.Lawes 5.Deacon 6.Croft 7.Robshaw 8.Easter 9.Youngs 10.Wilkinson 11.Sharples 12.Fluety 13.Tuilagi 14.Ashton 15.Foden

    16.Cole 17.Thompson 18.Palmer 19.Haskell 20.Simpson 21.Tindell 22.Armitage

    other 8. Sheridon, Mears, Shaw, Wood, Wigglesworth, Flood, Banahan, Cueto.

    not ideal (bringing Banahan) but out of who's left I would be happy with that. with Wilkinson hopefully making 80mins but if not covered by Fluety or Armitage - Again not ideal but its just a bit of fun

  • Comment number 55.

    @51 - Deacon was calling the lineouts in the 6N this year and had a stat of something like 36 out of 38 won while he was running them. The lineout was also one of the few pieces of good news from Saturday's game. I'd be very surprised if MJ overlooks that and goes for Botha instead.

  • Comment number 56.

    The team i would pick:

    1. Sheridan
    2. Hartley
    3. Cole
    4. Palmer
    5. Lawes
    6. Croft
    7. Robshaw
    8. Haskell
    9. Youngs
    10. Wilkinson
    11. Sharples
    12. Twelvetrees (i know this won't happen so Flutey)
    13. Tuilangi
    14. Ashton
    15. Foden
    16. Thompson
    17. Stevens
    18. Deacon
    19. Wood
    20. Wigglesworth
    21. Tindall
    22. Armitage

    excellent set piece, a strong scrum and lineout (especially on opposition throws) distribution at 12 an intelligent 10 who can take drop goals (the points from which were the difference at Twickenham) and speed and finishing ability in the back line.

    other 8:
    Corbisiero, Flood, Botha, Simpson, Banahan, Easter (I cant decide on the other 2 but definatly not Cueto or hape)

  • Comment number 57.

    Tindall's only ever played 12 for England under Andy Robinson - it was alongside Jamie Noon and was quite possibly the least creative midfield pairing in the history of rugby. Given the dearth we have in that position, if Tinds was an option at 12 he would have been put there long ago.....categorical 'no' to that idea.

    Also, HMMurdoch - for me, all of these reasons why Banahan's more effective for Bath than he is for England do not suggest that he is being misused, but that he's only ever going to be a good club player, and doesn't have the guile, strength, speed or physicality to make it as an international. Banahan took the ball up in midfield several times on, fair enough, he wasn't in space, but explain to me why a 6'7" 18st lump taking the ball up at pace can get knocked back, as he has been time and time again when trying to cross the gainline in international rugby?! Cos he's a one-dimensional lump who's actually just not very good, that's why.

  • Comment number 58.

    Adam - Do you think Flood would be an option at 12 with Tuilagi outside him? Or maybe play Wilkinson at 12, becuase you know what you're getting wherever he plays. I think either Tuilagi or Armitage should be at 13. I've seen Armitage playing 13 for London Irish, and he looked pretty handy.

  • Comment number 59.

    @53 - Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Ha ha! Seriously I think we're just similar minds rather than me copying you. Also I've included a fifth prop in the shape of David Wilson. I would rather England took four props and use the place for another position. But Andy Sheridan's injury record makes me feel we need five.

  • Comment number 60.

    Flood or wilkinson at 12. Neither are line breakers and neither have any real acceleration. For sure if they don't pass the ball out at 10 then it will never see the light of day at 12. I am still not sure what the biggest issue is. Poor decision making or low confidence in their own skill level. Tuilangi and Tindal could do a job in the centres but our strength is the back 3. The inability to get the ball to them is the biggest worry. Interstingly Wales never kicked the ball to them to allow them to counter (which is a surprise considering we spent 75% of the match in their half) top teams know that is our strength so will avoid playing to it. Seeing us run Banahan on an inside line from a lineout is bread and butter for a good defence. Getting the ball to the back three is a job of the 10 in terms of the move called or the longer pass. Only Hodgson posesses a good enough pass of both hands.
    Does anyone think Wilkinson and Flood are told how to play or are told to play what is infront of them. Either way no ball to the back three shows being in at 10 or 12 won't really increase our level of attacking threat only stifle the midfield more.
    The 9 - 10 - outfield link is where we are now weaker than all the other top nations.

    Lets hope we get loads of penalties and Wilkinson turns up with his best boots on.

    Never thought I would write that!!!!!

  • Comment number 61.

    wonderpopeye, I'd be worried putting Flood or Wilkinson at 12 to be honest. It's a long time since Flood's played there (although some of his later performances for England in that position were decent), and Wilkinson's never really played there - plus, if you put your two 10's on the field then you're taking a huge risk in case of Hodgson or Flutey, the FH backup to Flood and Wilko ain't pretty! Plus, it's getting very late in the day!

    I actually don't think 13's the problem. Tindall does a lot more than he gets credit for in terms of marshalling the line, leadership and general nouse, and Tuilagi is exciting bench backup.....the problem comes when Tindall's paired with another lump (Hape) who's skills are primarliy defensive. I've got a feeling that MJ was praying for Flutey to show some form, but since he hasn't we're in a bit of trouble when it comes to 12, really!

  • Comment number 62.

    Adam, re Banahan, I think you'll find the slow ball allows the opposition to line him up against forwards (more often then not 2 of them), mostly negating his main attributes. I think he can be effective, but currently we don't have the speed or quality of supply to make him effective.

  • Comment number 63.

    Adam - I tend to agree with you about Tindall, but I just think without a better answer for the 12 issue, I would still rather see either Tuilagi or Armitage on the pitch, and 13 is the ideal position. Armitage has clearly found some form at the right time, but to oust Foden would be a little unfair, and the wing is definitely not where Armitage is best used.

  • Comment number 64.

    Why on earth would he take the leaden-footed Banahan to the RWC? Hape is another who should be left behind, along with Deacon.

    Flutey is the only real option for 12, with Tuilagi as 13 back-up. Armitage can cover there as well as wing and full back.

    MJ should have been trying this stuff out long ago, but as per usual we now travel with combos that don't threaten, and plodders (Deacon, Banahan) clogging up the works.

    Care's injury has one good point...Simpson should now go. As our only scrum half with real pace and daring, that's a great prospect.

  • Comment number 65.

    We'll see, HMMurdoch.....there's no doubt that he can be barnstorming for Bath, and his physical attributes are all too obvious. I can certainly see why people say he isn't being used effectively.

    But, for my money, his ineffectiveness is more likely the result of the increased physicality at the very top level which he seems unable to impose himself on. Yes, the ball was slow, and this needs to change. But the defence was quicker, stronger and more committed than a premiership defence and that won't change - except against the big SH teams where it will be even more aggressive. Give Banahan space and he still runs at the man - he might be big and strong, but he's not big and strong enough for this to be effective at the top level.

  • Comment number 66.

    The pack is fine and will be generally competitive. The issues are always the same. Jerry Guscott must be so tired of talking about this; our centres are incapable!

    Oh and Flood isnt good enough!

  • Comment number 67.

    I think 5 props are too much of luxury for a 30 man squad. Essentially you need a squad that covers 1 – 22 and then covers each player in the event there is late injury. In your instance if Sheridan is injured then Corbisero comes in and Stevens can cover. If injury is more serious then he simply gets replaced in squad. With Stevens able to play both sides ironically prop is one of the few positions where we have flexibility.

  • Comment number 68.

    wonderpopeye, yeah - it does seem a shame not to use Armitage more, but his versatility makes him the ideal bench man for me (over that lummox Banahan), and I don't see 13 as his best position.

    Slightly depressing though it is, I think England's best midfield bet is to stick with Hape and Tindall as 1st choice partnership, but use Flutey and Tuilagi as heavily as possible in the group stages in the hope that at least one of them will play their way into a starting berth (I personally think an on form Flutey, at the expense of Hape, is exactly what this England team needs, and I think Tindall would prove his value in that partnership - only problem is we haven't seen any form out of Flutey for a fair while now!).

  • Comment number 69.

    Adam – I agree that unfortunately for Armitage he is a high class #22 and that (barring injury) should be his starting number. I don’t want to damn with faint praise as I am pleased to see him return to some good form after an “unfortunate” few months.

  • Comment number 70.

    here we go again. Everybody moaning about who we are taking to the rwc - this person is better than that person, that person cant play as good as this person - blah blah blah blah. Its the same every 6 nations and i heard all this last rwc - england arnt going to win they will be knocked out at group stage. Positive thinking people - our boys had it and got to the final. Isnt it about time we support our players and coaching staff. Im sure whoever Johnson picks will play their hearts out and give everyhting they have for the cause. Win or lose we should be proud and support who johnson picks - what makes us better to decide - lets all have a good time and enjoy the great rugby we are bound to get - win or lose i will cheer england and our boys. If we lose - oh well always next time.

  • Comment number 71.

    twickenhamloyal- totally agree with your comment, the fact that there are so many players playing for positions at this late stage proves our team is still clearly lacking quality unlike the southern hemisphere teams that largely pick themselves!

  • Comment number 72.

    Re 57 Adam- Woodward used Tindall at 12 for most on RWC 03 so its not total out of the question, personally that's where I would play him with Armitage at 13 as he seems to have found his form of a few years ago.

    Overall I think we should get to at least the semis, we've got a strong pack, with good scrum and line out, and had the welsh game Saturday been a world cup quarter final we would of taken the points when there were on offer.

    Finally Twickenhamloyal, I couldn't agree more with you.

  • Comment number 73.

    I think it's pretty clear that MJ is a pretty hopeless coach/manager and doesn't really know what he's doing. Any successes England have had over the past couple of years years have been despite MJ and even the selections that have worked out well in recent times (Foden & Ashton to name but two) appear to have been flukes in that he was forced to select them to begin with. I hope I'm proved wrong come the RWC.

    English teams just never appear to have any guile or wit about them - we're the sort of nation who choose to overlook the James Simpson Daniel's of this world yet give the likes of Tindall loads of caps.

  • Comment number 74.

    Sorry to hear that one step care can't go as he performed well in both warm ups, but as so often happens we may get a lifeline. Top class sport is about PACE & SPACE ergo Sharples & Simpson. Confident & quick both posess talent aplenty. I like Banahan but jack of all trades isn't going to cut it in NZ. Ben Youngs with limited training & game time is a risk now but what a surprise for the rest of the world when they see we have a faster & better defensive 9 in Joe. Can't wait to see him behind a pack that works, invariably on the back foot at Wasps so now's his chance Johnson permitting. Don't forget u20's world cup voted best english player.

    Please Please Please see the light & take both these Tyros.

  • Comment number 75.

    So World Cup heartbreak for Danny Care already - - and Johnson hasn't even named the squad yet. Real shame for the Harlequins man, whose pace around the fringes is highly valued by the management, even if - as a few of you have highlighted - his passing can sometimes be a little laboured. Wonder if this setback will alter Johnson's thinking about taking a third scrum-half. Considering Youngs is only just coming back from surgery himself, suspect both Wigglesworth and Simpson will go as back-up. Taking only two now seems an unnecessary risk, though every coach has the same dilemma. You are always going to be a light in one department with 30-man squads.

    Re: 51) wonderpopeye and 55) sineadhw37 - Tom Palmer - when he was playing with Lawes in the second row - was calling the line-outs up until the South Africa game last autumn, when the management decided he had a bit of a shocker. So after Lawes was injured and Deacon came in for the Six Nations, it was the Leicester lock, not Palmer, making the calls (as sineadhw37 says). England only lost 6 out of 61 line-outs in the whole tournament, the best record of any team, so you have to say he made a pretty good job of it. Deacon was another to miss out in 2007 after completing the training camp, but don't think he will be missing this one.

  • Comment number 76.

    "Re 57 Adam- Woodward used Tindall at 12 for most on RWC 03 so its not total out of the question"


    Na, he didn't. Tindall wore 12 because Greenwood thought the 13 shirt was lucky, so they swapped. Tindall played and wore 13 when Catt played 12. I'm 99% sure that Tinds never played 12 under Woodward, and certainly not in the 03 campaign.

    Bryn - too true about Deacon's lineout capabilities. I can't understand any of the stick he's getting to be honest - I thought he was one of our better players last week and in the 6N's.....good set piece as always, but decent carrying, defence and all-round graft.

  • Comment number 77.


    I agree that southern hemisphere teams pick themselves. It will be hard for england,france any northern hemisphere teams with a chance to beat nz. I think it will be harsh to say if we go out it is because we have a bad team it is just nz are far more superior. And have been gunnig for this world cup.
    I trully beleive we have a team who can beat the best. We have a team with so much quality (shame about danny care and the grief he is getting from people who analyse everthing - seriously just engoy it) unlucky danny but you are cool enough to make the next one.
    Its gonna be tough for the northern hemisphere teams to crack the might of nz - but where is the fun if it was easy.

  • Comment number 78.

    Sheridan, Stevens, Corbisero, Cole. Hartley, Thompson, Mears,
    Deacon, Lawes, Palmer, Shaw, Croft, Haskell, Easter, Wood, Robshaw,
    Youngs, Simpson, Wigglesworth, Wilkinson, Flood
    Flutey,Tualagi, Tindall, Banahan,
    Ashton, Sharples, Cueto, Foden, Armitage.
    Weather alert " Its winter out there & were playing in the South Island"(like scotland in th winter although under a roof )
    Now for Why;
    If somebody gets injured you can call for replacements & understanding that helps selection
    Front row ok,
    Plenty of cover 2nd row & flankers with this selection.
    9 & 10 Youngs untried since operation so we need 3 & Joe is a real threat.
    Wilkinson has shown his resiliance So just him & Toby. (shame for Charlie but if need we can call him up)
    4 centres only as Flood,Armitage,Banahan can all cover if needed.
    Back 3 pace pace pace & experience

  • Comment number 79.

    Re Adam, I never knew that learn something new everyday.

    I still move Tindall to 12 and play Armitage at 13 as he is more experienced than Tuilagi and Flutey is out of form. I think that would give us a better balance in midfield and more pace too, to allow the back three some room to move.

  • Comment number 80.

    I hope he picks:

    Props: Sheridan, Cole, Corbisiero, Stevens
    Hookers: Thompson, Hartley
    Second Rows: Deacon, Lawes, Palmer, Shaw
    Back rows: Haskell, Croft, Wood, Moody (C), Fourie, Easter
    Scrum halves: (Care is ruled out for injury) Youngs, Simpson, Wigglesworth
    Centres: Tuilagi, Flutey, Tindall
    Wings: Cueto, Ashton, Monye, Sharples
    Full backs: Foden, Armitage

    I'm not being harsh on Banahan and Hape, but neither have shown form, and both have performed a level below most of their team-mates (and their teammates haven't been that good.

    It's really tough on Robshaw and Doran-Jones, neither of whom have been given a shot to prove themselves, but Monye and Simpson are both good players who can add pace to the attack.

    Having said that, I think Johnson will take Hape, Banahan, Mears and a couple of other bewildering options...

  • Comment number 81.

    Simpson and Sharples have to go as apart from Tuilagi and maybe Armitage we have no impact players off the bench at all and these guys are livewires who can score from anywhere on the paddock...Simpson has been electric all season behind a bad wasps pack...imagine what he could do to a defence if he played behind Englands current pack??

    my match day 22:
    1 Stevens
    2 Hartley
    3 Cole
    4 Lawes
    5 Palmer
    6 Croft
    7 Moody/Wood
    8 Easter
    9 Youngs
    10 Wilko
    11 Armitage
    12 Flutey
    13 Tuilagi
    14 Ashton
    15 Foden

    16 Thompson
    17 Corbisiero
    18 Shaw
    19 Haskell
    20 Simpson
    21 Flood
    22 Sharples

    Although I'm not holding my breath for this as is it is far too a liberal selection for the conservative Johnno...

  • Comment number 82.

    May be a blessing that Danny Care is not going. His ponderous service in the 2 games against Wales did not help a stodgy England midfield

    Whay does he always have to take up to 5 lateral steps before lobbing the ball to Flood? THis made it easy for the Welsh defence to simply move across and wait for the ball to (finally) be given to a static midfield.

    Wigglesworth is the better passer; Simpson the better runner...

  • Comment number 83.

    So the unfortunate nine are:

    PDJ, Wilson, Payne - I just can't see the need for a fifth prop. Can always fly one out and Stevens gives the flexibility.

    Botha - He's not going be in the 22, let's have Shaw's experience.
    Fourie - 7th in line
    Mears - Do we really need three hookers? Worth the sacrifice to bring in Robshaw.

    Hape - Gavin Henson he is not. Flutey and Tinds, with Manu on at 55' or lets try Charlie and Jonny together....anything.
    Banahan - blah blah doesn't get the service to set him free - well I can't see that changing too much so lets go with those that can create things themselves. Armitage (agreed - great 22) and Sharples have him covered
    Monye - Not really had much opportunity - back of the queue unfortunately
    Care - Unlucky with injury - would have made it.

    So for my money its
    Sheridan, Stevens, Corbs, Cole
    Hartley, Thompson
    Lawes, Palmer, Deacon, Shaw
    Croft, Haskell, Easter, Moody, Wood, Robshaw
    Youngs, Wiggins, Simpson
    Jonny, Toby and Charlie
    Flutey, Tindall, Tuilagi
    Foden, Ashton, Cueto, Armitage, Sharples

  • Comment number 84.

    Please, please. please... Mr. Johno... not Hape or Hodgson.

  • Comment number 85.

    It would be a risk to only take two hookers, if it were being held closer to home then yes just the two fair enough, but ever so what if one is injured in training two days before a match you haven't got time to get a replacement over to New Zealand, plus it is mighty unfair if they are only ruled out for one game to be sent home because we didn't take another cover. All three will surely go.

  • Comment number 86.

    Taking Mears wouldn't help anything - he was fairly good in some ways - but he's shown time and time again that his size forces the other two props to invert their stance - upsetting the scrum completely and forcing England's 8 backwards. He didn't many of his lineout targets, and isn't in the same form as Thomo or Hartley - he can't go for that reason.

    Hape and Banahan are not in form, and haven't exactly set things alight yet either.

    Seriously, Tuilagi at 12 and Tindall at 13 are very worthy shouts, Tuilagi has the skillset to pass, and the power and speed to break the line - he showed he can play well with Wilko - and he looks as if he's going to get the 10 shirt, so it's got to be worth a shot against the Irish or Argentine teams?

    I still believe in Tindall and Cueto, even when others don't, but I just don't think that Hape and Banahan are the answers. Cueto provides a lot of solidity and footballing prowess at the back, and has a good sidestep and hand-off. I would like to see Monye and Sharples included though, because they seem to have that thing that wingers need: PACE!

    If we can't find the right centre combination, it's worth persevering with Flutey/Tuilagi and Tindall. Johnson has really shot himself in the foot by not looking at a number of decent English centres who may not have answered all our problems instantly, but certainly have more talent than a 30 year old kiwi rugby league convert.

    Johnson proves that he can make things happen as a manager on occasion, but then he makes you doubt him straight after with some really asinine calls.

    He has to drop Banahan and Hape, they just aren't performing well.

  • Comment number 87.

    Has anyone mentioned that we need a player or two with brain as well as brawn. Both in the pack and the backs. The last few games have shown that without Ashton's flair there is no-one with any guile and understanding of how to combat what the other team is doing. Sadly I am not sure we have anyone like that - ideas please experts!

  • Comment number 88.

    Gutted about Danny Care. That hinders us no end which is the last thing we needed.

    Honestly though, I think it is largely irrelevant who goes if our coaching team cannot cope with the task in hand. Wells and Smith are powerless in today's game and given the amount of Leicester old boys, you would have expected us to know what to do with the forwards 5m from the opponents line. Driving maul anybody.

    Personally, I would like to see flexibility and variations for positions.

    In reality, this coaching team have one model, and if you don't fit, you are out.

    I would like to see two scrum halves, even without Care, Foden, who made his debut at 9 could cover. Similarly, Armitage can cover a variety of positions as can Banahan.

    I would take Flood and Wilkinson and start with Wilko. I would leave Hodgson as far from the game as possible. His cameo last week was embarrassing.

    I would also leave Hape behind, revered for his off loading game, which is strange because his off loading game is non existent for England.

    I would also leave Sharples behind, not because he is bad, but because I genuinely think his talent will confuse the hell out of the England coaching team, and I don't want him damaged for when a proper set of coaches takes over.

    I would also take Robshaw as he can cover all back row positions, but I suspect Johnson may opt for someone who reads the game a little less well so they are not shown up by a quality player.

    I think Simpson should go as the second scrum half, but I suspect that Johnson will for Wigglesworth because he is not as young.

    I think this world cup will be the final nail in the coffin for this bunch of out of date coaches who have managed to convert top talent into mindless numpties. Johnson still seems like a sound bet as head coach, but the others (who oversaw the last shower of dung) have delivered rock all.

  • Comment number 89.

    Some really tough calls for Johnson to make. Here is my starting XV before the sad announcement that Danny Care will miss out due to injury. Check it out..

  • Comment number 90.

    Skippo 87:

    Good question.

    I believe that Gallileo was ostracised by his colleagues because they had no idea what he was going on about. They locked him up and called him mad.

    I firmly believe that this England coaching set up feel that they too cannot cope with some of the more talented backs and forwards we have at our disposal in the Premiership.

    Brad Barritt of Alex Goode for example. Perhaps Mike Brown for Quins or Nick Abendenon of Bath, Chris Robshaw is about as good as it gets at current back play in this country (player of the season 2 years ago), Simpson-Daniel continues to perform to high levels, I think Dan Bowden qualifies now as well.

    These are all players who have adapted to the new laws, have shown real 'heads up rugby'.

    But this coaching team doesn't like thinkers - they want drones. Hape was bought in as an off loading specialist, yet his off loading stats for England are awful - it was about 3 during the six nations.

    Armitage came into the team a bit of maverick a couple of seasons ago, then lost his form - he became a completely different player whilst in the national set up and it took a while to regain his form for the Exiles.

    I don't think Johnson and co want anything too extravagant - like Gallileo they would be kicked out for being on a higher plain.

  • Comment number 91.

    am i right in thinking that an injured player can be replaced?

    If so then surely the logic is to pick 2 players per position (ideally offering the potential for different game styles)? Therefore why would you take 3 hookers or 3 scrum halves? Just offer a couple of the guys some plane tickets and accommodation to New Zealand to watch the games and if someone gets injured.....phew no jet lagg!

    The centres (where, in my opinion, the weak point lies) should offer the options of scoring tries to boost the points difference for games against the minnows and stability for the harder games to ensure best qualification to the knock outs. At the moment (at least in the last couple of games) the theory seems to be boring big bashers.

  • Comment number 92.

    completely agree with skippo. brains and 2 dimensional thinking is needed to combat the real footballing skills of our opponents. Just watching the ABs makes you realise how 1 dimensional some of our players are. Is that natural or is it coached!

  • Comment number 93.

    With Danny Care out now, Joe will come in, but some out off form players appear to still be in, Harpe, Tindall and Bannahan, on last Saturdays form they had poor games, backs to tour should be,
    Young, Simpson, Wiggleworth, Wilko, Flood, Flutey, Tuilagi, Tindall, Cueto, Ashton, Sharples, Foden, Armitage.One other(Bannahan or Harpe)

  • Comment number 94.

    As an aside i do think it is sad that not 1 member of the 2009 U20 Elite squad has made it - I would have hoped someone like Freddie Burns or Tom Homer might have been pushed to the fore as is seen with James O'Connor or Patrick Lambie.

  • Comment number 95.

    A lot of people missing the point here. Johnson is picking a team to play in the World Cup. Which is knockout rugby. It's a different kettle of fish to the Autumn Internationals the warm up games and the summer tours. England has performed well in World Cups by playing knockout rugby. Big pack, win ball, keep possession, gain territory, force mistakes, kick goals, defend. South Africa did it better than us in 2007 and won (albeit with a few moments of magic from key players). Johnson and his team will (hopefully) have a plan that involves this style of play. So he has to pick the appropriate squad for it. If it means we don’t see a similar performance to that which we produced vs Australia in the Autumn Internationals then I am not too bothered as long as we progress through the tournament…

  • Comment number 96.

    Just a note on the injury replacement situation. Its not as easy people think to replace an injured player. The rules on it are very tight. Let’s say we took two hookers officially. Then we had another one out in NZ. The other hooker cannot train with the team or even stay in the same hotel. He has limited access to coaches, team doctors, physios etc. His movements would also be monitored to an extent that he cannot even mix with the team. Considering its a 30 hour flight out there and the restrictions, its not as easy as people are thinking or suggesting.

  • Comment number 97.

    It would appear from the comments made about Banahan, that his contribution to Ashton's try scoring feats during the 6 nations have been forgotten.

    The problem with Bnahan is that Johnson seems to be at a loose end as to where to play him? If he is going to the world cup then he would be best placed in the centre where he can off load and drag in the opposition leaving space for the more creative players.

  • Comment number 98.

    I think a lot of the squad will pick itself, Johnson is risk averse. He only makes changes when backed into a corner. I.e. throwing in Foden and Ashton when the writing was on the wall. Then Lawes and Youngs. If he goes with Hape and Tindall as our first choice centres then we will be not better than QF. I would go with Flutey and Tuilagi again against Ireland hoping they may do something better. No one is a worse passer / butcherer of chances than Tindall. He offers nothing (yes experience blah blah).

    The other one that drives me mad is Banahan. Utterly pointless rugby player who seems to get chance after chance and look awful everytime. The press keep saying England don't use him as well as Bath, but if all we're going to do is use him as a battering ram on the wing, then he's a waste of a seat (2 seats!) on the plane.

  • Comment number 99.

    I suppose the chances of picking an all English 30 man squad is out of the question? The BBC article on "Johnno's foreign legion" was quite shocking. I know it's not a new issue (Mike Catt, Henry Paul etc) but I do find it hard to feel patriotic about a team when I suspect half are only playing because they get more opportunities, or more money, than they would playing international rugby for their own country.

    People should be asked to decalre their nationality at either 18 or 21 and stick with it. Not hang about to see if South Africa will call and if not play for England.

  • Comment number 100.

    "It would appear from the comments made about Banahan, that his contribution to Ashton's try scoring feats during the 6 nations have been forgotten."


    You're too right they've been forgotten!!!! Remind us, please!!

    I've never seen Matt Banahan do anything outstanding for England when it mattered, and I really don't think too many people could argue with that - whether you see him as a font of untapped potential or a useless great lummox!!


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