The final 31-man England squad revealed on 27 August is a young one. With an average age of 26, only three of the squad have over 50 England caps. Seven of the selected men have accrued ten or less caps for their country. By Taylor Heyman
Rugby World’s predicted England Squad 2015
So Stuart Lancaster has named his England Squad for 2015. But who did we believe he should pick? There is no place for Nick Easter, Danny Cipriani or Alex Corbisiero for the reasons given, but it has balance and a smattering of stardust that will equip England with a squad to be feared at the Rugby World Cup.
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Joe Marler – Looked rusty against France but Marler has established himself as one of the world’s foremost loosheads. A thunderclap tackler and larger-than-life character to have around the squad.
Dan Cole – Cole is another with the epithet of world class. Humble, quietly spoken yet the 6ft 3in, 19st tighthead will comfortably anchor England’s pack throughout the tournament. An asset at the breakdown.
Mako Vunipola – Not yet a renowned scrummager, Vunipola is nevertheless and whirling dervish in the loose, a strong-carrier and always racks up a high tackle-count. The perfect impact sub to bring on with legs tiring.
Davey Wilson – Wilson was a more than able deputy for Coles, locking down the scrum during the Six Nations, and despite a sizeable physique, he often pops up in the loose to make the hard yards.
Kieran Brookes – On ability alone, Alex Corbisiero would be a shoo-in, given his ability to play on both sides of the scrum and technical acumen at the scrum but his injury record has been woeful, so the fast-improving Brookes is on the team bus.
Tom Youngs – Honest, fearless and with a phenomenal work rate, in Dylan Hartley‘s absence, Tom Youngs is first-choice hooker, but he will be concerned about England’s wobbles at the lineout and working hard to rectify the situation. Under scrutiny.
Jamie George – Missed his first lineout but handled himself with aplomb on his debut last Saturday. George is an intelligent, mobile hooker who had a breakthrough season with Saracens and deserves his place in the squad on merit.
Rob Webber – Webber has been in and around the squad for several years without troubling the starting spot but his standing has been enhanced due with woes elsewhere.
Courtney Lawes – England’s most experienced lock at just 26, Lawes’ athleticism, rib-shaking tackles and ability to call line-outs make him England’s first choice No 5. World-class on his day.
Joe Launchbury – Launchbury’s qualities dovetail neatly with Lawes. Heavier-set, he is a classic No 4 with a huge engine and decent hands in the loose. He’s been name checked by Stuart Lancaster for his work at the breakdown.
Dave Attwood – The big Bath forward adds considerable muscle to Lancaster’s engine room. Able to make hard yards against France in Paris, his ball-carrying and aggression sees him get the nod.
Geoff Parling – Parling squeezes into the squad on account of his relationship with Tom Youngs, leadership qualities and workrate around the field. George Kruis was breathing down his neck but the new Exeter Chief is in.
Chris Robshaw – Usually such a reliable presence in the backrow, the Harlequin was off-colour in Paris, but he is fundamental to Lancaster’s ethos and culture. An everpresent, he is nevertheless under pressure to perform.
Tom Wood – Another hugely valued member of the core leadership group, Wood hasn’t been at his most effective in recent months, but his ability at the tail of the lineout and dirty work in dark places means he will start the tournament with a 6 on his back.
Billy Vunipola – Trimmed down to 130kgs after a summer staying off the pizzas ‘Big’ Billy has the power to trouble the most robust of defences. A confidence player, he will benefit from the calming presence of elder brother Mako in the squad.
James Haskell – Haskell is included on two counts. He is versatile enough to play at 6, 7 and 8 and with 60 caps is England’s most experienced player. In a squad shy on caps, that becomes a valuable commodity. Another effervescent character.
Ben Morgan – This is a very tight call. Fully-fit, Morgan would be nailed on, but with only 40 minutes under his belt, Nick Easter gets very, very close to usurping him. If he proves his fitness, his ability to skittle players onto their backsides from the bench, earns him the nod. Otherwise, welcome back, Minty!
Ben Youngs – Youngs finished the Six Nations with his best performance in years against France, but he was off-the-pace in Paris and will come under renewed pressure for his place. Still starts as No 1 choice.
Danny Care – Care has shared the No 9 shirt with Ben Youngs for a number of years, and while, arguably blessed with more match-winning talent, he has also been prone to poor decisions and inconsistency.
Richard Wigglesworth – At 32, the oldest member of the squad, Wigglesworth has worked hard to get back into the squad. Highly-rated for his box-kicking and snappy service, he is worthy of his place.
George Ford – Ford’s progress was checked in Paris for the first time, behind a beaten pack. He will hope England can retain ascendency up front, where he can showcase his full-repertoire of creative skills. A vital cog in England’s machine.
Owen Farrell – Farrell will start the tournament in the shadow of his school friend, Ford, but his hard mental edge, superior place-kicking and aggressive defence will see him as a more than capable deputy. Able to cover as an auxiliary 12.
Brad Barritt – Watertight in the middle of the park, totally unflashy and robust in defence, Barritt is the counter-weight to the lightweight Bath duo Ford and Joseph who flank him on either side. A trusted Lancaster Lieutenant who will put his body on the line, time after time. Expect to see him bloodied after each game.
Jonathan Joseph – Alongside Ford, Joseph is the attacking catalyst. Prodigiously gifted with sharp footwork, a solid defence and the ability to sniff out midfield gaps, Joseph could be one of the tournament’s stars.
Henry Slade – The 22-year-old Exeter Chief has only one cap but such was his impact on the French game in Twickenham that the multi-talented back, who has the vision, kicking game and intelligence to play at 10, 12 and 15, is the one bold call Lancaster has to make.
Sam Burgess – The call that will dominate the column inches, Burgess is no international centre but such is his presence, winning mentality and ability to chew up the opposition midfields that he demands inclusion. Burrell can feel hard-done-by but the rapidly improving Slammin’ goes.
Mike Brown – Out for five months as he sensibly recovered from concussion, Brown was one of England’s stronger performers in Paris. Able to beat his man, strong in contact and with a siege-gun left boot, he’s still inked in to start against Fiji in the opener.
Alex Goode – Another playmaker, who can comfortably play at 10 if required, Alex Goode has nimble footwork, a sharp brain and brilliant footballing skills – witness his crossfield kick to Jonny May against France at Twickenham. Underrated.
Anthony Watson – Comfortably able to cover at full-back, the jet-heeled Bath wing showed his potential with a stunning brace against France. An athlete with a rugby brain, he’s another England player poised to become a household name well-beyond The Rec.
Jack Nowell – The safe option. Nowell is rock-solid under the high ball, able to break tackles and very sound in defence. Highly-rated by the management for his error-free game, he will likely start against Fiji
Jonny May – May is another whose confidence has been paper-thin, but a determination to ‘relax and not think too much’ has resulted in a more rounded, more dangerous No 11. Dangerous broken-field runner as legs seize up in the last quarter, just ask Conrad Smith.