Anyone who has cast an eye over previous blogs will know I obsess about England’s midfield. I never wish injury on anyone, but at least Brad Barritt’s absence has given Lancaster the opportunity to play Billy Twelvetrees through to the World Cup, as he should have done after the Scotland game last year.
Unfortunately Manu Tuilagi’s injury has exposed our lack of midfield coaching, because there are so many midfield talents out there, but with no real game understanding or direction. I love the look of Trinder, with Burrell an outsider and Joseph the likely starter. With apologies, Kyle Eastmond isn’t good enough yet and may not even be a centre.
Remember, you don’t have to play inside and outside centre combinations – that’s more media and forward coaches ‘rubbish speak’. The greatest ever centre pairings played left and right regularly, and posed more threat as a result. Also, could we please have an early Christmas present – Catt confirmed as in sole charge of the backs, and leave Andy Farrell to do the defence, where he belongs.
As an aside, I love the new attacking intent of Saracens – with such a squad they look like nailed-on winners of the Premiership this season – allied to the rock hard Boka style defence. I really want to see them sort out Europe this year.
But … when director at Bath, I asked the Premiership CEO how Gloucester and Leicester could have twice the number of Internationals as Bath. We had 14 test players and were right up against the Salary Cap. I knew the answer of course and was warning him it couldn’t continue. Hmmm, and has anyone been to Franklins Gardens or Welford Road recently….. I can feel the frustration of Conor O’Shea at the Harlequins.
My old club Bath has had its best start for ages, inspired by the young guns of Jonathan Joseph, George Ford and the dynamic Anthony Watson. He played his first proper high profile match for the Help for Heroes at Twickenham 2 years ago and looked special then.
Ford has been unshackled from the pitiful protestations of Richard Cockerill that he needed protecting at a young age. He destroyed London Irish singlehandedly at the weekend and is a real option for England. What we need protection from is the ignorance of Forward (or should I say backward) Oriented Directors of Rugby. Lancaster now has three to choose from – Farrell, Burns and Ford…decisions decisions!
And so to the All Blacks. They look ominous as usual. How much do they hurt from last year’s defeat, did they have rocks under their holiday beach towels as Steve Hansen suggested following their surprise defeat.
We shall find out soon whether their end of season fatigue is more important than their pride. Remember this was the game when Barritt and Tuilagi seemed to have found an empathy. A year later, neither of them are playing and nor will Conrad Smith be for the All Blacks.
Time to light the touch paper and before it’s too late find a shooting star or two to take us on to 2015. I would suggest we are about to find out whether Lancaster can marshal and unleash all the talent we have in this country …
Where will England’s ‘shooting star’ emerge from and can they inspire another victory over the All Blacks?