So Stuart Lancaster has announced his latest EPS, did he get it right?
Put simply no, then again there is no way he could get it right. Who ever he picked it was going to be wrong to one set of fans or another. I’m not going to go through the list in detail as it’s been done else where way better than I can. This is just going to be my brain dump.
Something that has not caused much noise is the extra players getting added on Sunday or Monday. Lancaster is playing nice saying that it’s after the next round of games. In reality it’s due to the agreement between the RFU and the clubs that he is only allowed to name the players later. This all seems a bit silly when the main squad announcement was moved to much later. It’s good for writers as it means more discussion but not so good for squad harmony when the pecking order is out in the public. It’s part of life for the players but if they were all named at the same time it could lead to some players having a little more belief that they might get game time.
As always it’s the around the edges that causes the most discussion. Oh sorry no, one of the big talking points in the build up was that Robshaw not having had a great start to the season. So we should be getting Amitage from Toulon over to play 7 even though he plays 8 over in France.
Two things, Lancaster has picked Robshaw as captain consistently from the start and there has always been talk that he isn’t the best player for his position. Lancaster is loyal in his selections and Robshaw was always going to be picked if he was fit.
Secondly Lancaster hasn’t picked anyone from France yet and isn’t about to start now. So it doesn’t matter how great Armitage or anyone else is playing over there they aren’t going to get picked. For me it’s all about causing controversy to sell papers and nothing more. Armitage is a good player but there is no one good enough to mess-up the relationship between RFU and clubs.
Within the pack there have been two names that have come up in discussions the most. George Kruis, the second row from Saracens, has made the squad due to Geoff Parlings extended break due to concussion. He has been involved before so I’m confront able with this one and think it’s more about club favourites.
The one that I’m less comfortable with is Calum Clark with his disciplinary record. A good point that has been made is that once a player/person has served their punishment we need to move on. This is something I find easier with other types of crime. My head says he should not have a double punishment but emotionally it makes me uncomfortable.
I’m happy with the selections made and I’d have been happy with Cipriani or Burns being in there. I can see that Sale will be unhappy though as Cipriani will be thinking that he’d have a better chance at a “bigger” club. Quins have already been talked about but he has matured well at Sale and any move will come with risks.
Fairly predictable in the end, personally I’m disappointed that Slade didn’t make it. I see the reasons why with him having played more at fly-half and this being his break through season but I’m still disappointed. Also the London Irish fans will also be disappointed that Geraghty didn’t get the nod after a good start to the season. I think that he needs to perform at this level for longer and settle into one position rather than flipping between fly-half and centre to get Lancaster’s attention. After writing that I realise it all applies to Slade too.
The main thing I hope that he does is play players in their positions. Already it sounds like Barritt is going to play outside centre when he normally plays at inside. In the end 4 out of 5 centres in the squad play at inside centre for their clubs, so I’m not happy with the balance.
I have seen people questioning Nowell’s inclusion, during the 6 nations last year he did drop the ball with his first touch but apart from that played well. People will point at his lack of tries but there were at least 3 overlaps where he would have scored but players inside took it into contact. So he could very easily have 4 tries from 5 games and there would be no question that he should be included.
I’m a bit surprised by May’s inclusion, for me he didn’t run straight enough and wouldn’t pass the ball during the 6 nations. Reading the Gloucester board though, he has run straighter this year and I hope he carries that in the England camp.
There are obviously people wondering why Wade was not included. Basically his defensive work is not good enough. This season he has given away 2 tries by not grounding the ball in the in-goal area for me that’s enough to not get selected.
I think that Goode is very lucky and I would personally have gone for Foden as he is such a dangerous runner with ball in hand. Nowell is a junior world cup winning fullback so he can obviously cover here even if he has played his senior rugby at wing. I would like to see him given a shot in this position but Brown is one of the first names on the team sheet.
So there are my thoughts on the squad, Lancaster was always going to be damed if he did and damed if he didn’t. There are no glaring omissions or inclusions even if I’m not comfortable with a couple of selections.