England kick off their Autumn Internationals against Australia on 02 November 2013 at Twickenham and many people, including the Eggchasers on week 5’s podcast, have been speculating what the team will look like for the series of Autumn internationals which also includes games against Argentina and Rugby Championship winners New Zealand – who will be looking to continue their undefeated run in 2013.
Our first article on the subject will cover the back three, and it’s very much a stick or twist decision for Stuart Lancaster. England started the same back three for all 5 of this year’s Six Nations matches, with Chris Ashton and an out of position Mike Brown on the wings and Alex Goode at full back. This unit performed solidly throughout the first four matches, with England winning all of them. However the back three only contributed a single try in those matches, with England only scoring 5 tries in total, four of which were against Scotland. The failings of the England team were then well and truly exposed in the hammering by Wales at the Millennium Stadium where Cuthbert scored 2 tries and England only managed to respond with a solitary penalty.
The summer tour to South America saw several changes to the squad due to injuries, players being rested and call-ups to the British and Irish Lions. Over the tour, six players started in the back three from England, bringing the total that have played there in 2013 to eight with Mike Brown, Christian Wade (whose tour was cut short to comb his hair on the sidelines of the Lions’ final test against Australia), Marlon Yarde, Jonny May, David Strettle and one of the Eggchasers’ favourite singing rugby players Ben Foden all getting game time. During this tour, admittedly against weakened opposition, Yarde scored three tries, Foden two and Wade and Strettle bagged one each.
We are now three weeks away from the first match of the Autumn Internationals and quite unsure of who will line up against arguably the most dangerous back three players in the game, including Israel Folau, who scored a hat-trick in his last appearance against Argentina.
If Stuart Lancaster were being conservative, he could put forward the same line up that played in the Six Nations. However I think this is not making the most of the available options. Mike Brown is a superb full back but was exposed on the wing against Wales. Alex Goode has great distribution and a good kicking game but does not offer a huge amount of attacking potential. Chris Ashton is a great finisher and poacher, but he is sometimes exposed defensively at the highest level and still appears to struggle with some of the rucking rules.
I would personally like to see the current Aviva Premiership’s top scorer Yarde (he is joint with David Strettle) given a chance to perform. He has impressed me with both his attacking ability and defensive strength so far and I would back him to continue that form on the biggest stage. Joining him on the other wing I would keep Chris Ashton who can be so dangerous because of his ability to run lines off the three quarters and I also think that he is still improving and will continue to do so until the 2015 World Cup. At full back my first two choices would be Mike Brown and Ben Foden. I don’t think there is a huge amount between them, with Mike Brown being arguably the slightly safer option, with Foden offering a touch more in attack. Although, because of the close nature of international rugby I would edge towards Brown for the starting slot.