I am sure Eddie has a plan and I am sure it is a cunning one, but I don’t know it and I am a little worried. Why, you might ask? England have just come off an all power performance in beating Ireland 57-15 and showed Wales a clean pair of heels in the first half of their match at Twickenham that was enough to win the game. Admittedly they then lost to the same opposition in Cardiff in a rudderless performance with mixture of a team containing starters and finishers (I hate that term) and any way these are warm up matches. Things seem to be looking good. Eddie has a plan.
So why the worry? Let me give you some numbers and those numbers are 7 and 12. The same numbers that were a problem in the last World Cup, the one before that and probably going back to when Neil Back and Will Greenwood filled those positions.
Let us take a look at the inside centre, Eddie has options; Owen Farrell, Manu Tuilagi, Henry Slade and Piers Francis. Owen Farrell is a great player and has broad shoulders, he is a fine 10 but is he really a 12? Does that get the best out of him?
The battering ram that is Manu Tuilagi has had barnstorming warm up games but he is most destructive and more familiar with the 13 jumper. Does space have to be found for him? Or will we see him coming off the bench? Likewise, Henry Slade is more comfortable with 13 on his back he has twinkle toes and passes well. What I would not like to see him do is crash the ball up at 12.
I wanted to write, “If Piers Francis is the answer, I don’t understand the question.” But the thing is I do understand the question. Francis fulfils the role of second playmaker, has had a good season with Northampton and has not looked out of place in the warm up games. He just does not get the blood pumping. I would have preferred to see what Ollie Devoto of Exeter can do as he finished the last English season in fine style.
Now for the number 7. Every international team is looking for a Richie McCaw, the problem is there is not another one, he was unique. However, England are in a much better place than the last World Cup, when they went in with 6.5s, they actually have two out and out 7’s in the squad Tom Curry and Sam Underhill. The trouble is I don’t know which one they will go with. The answer may be both as the pair started the game against Ireland. The dynamic duo have boundless energy, tackle above their weight and are quick to the breakdown. What this pair might lack is the ability to carry in the heaviest traffic, but that’s where Billy Vunipola comes in. If there is an injury to Vunipola I cannot see Underhill and Curry playing in the same backrow.
So does England play Farrell at 12 and Tuilagi at 13? Does that get the most out of Farrell? Does England play Tuilagi at 12 and Slade at 13? Does that get the most out of Tuilagi? Does the back row consist of Underhill and Curry? Does that contain enough bulk? Does it win the lineout battle? Should we be asking these questions a month out from the world cup? A lot of questions, does Eddie have the answers? Eddie has a plan. In Eddie we trust.
Special thanks to CKH for putting this piece together. If you enjoyed reading what CKH has to say, leave a like and/or comment on the page to let me know and hopefully you will see more from CKH soon. Thanks for stopping off Behind The Posts!