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[2020 Six Nations] England Squad

TRF_Olyy

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I feel like if you've got Earl you don't need Simmonds (and vice versa).
Though without another 8 option I wouldn't have been adverse to seeing Simmonds over Lawes.
 

Which Tyler

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I’m not sure how you can be so certain on who Eddie ‘doesn’t really fancy’?

You’re probably right on Simmonds, who deserves a call-up IMO, but as I’ve definitely posted before, the issue is that Exeter are set-up to play to his strengths. He’s good but he’s not so good that England would change the rest of their back row to accommodate him. It’s unfair, but not totally irrational.

I don’t know if you can be so equivocal about Mercer. He is not as lightweight as you’re suggesting and has been in a good chunk of Eddie’s squads when fit. He was definitely one of the players Eddie wasn’t happy with after the Japan game, but I think that was potentially a case of making a tough decision on who was going to be in the mix for the RWC or not rather than from a long-term POV. He’s too good to ignore and offers different qualities to our other 8s - particularly as a lineout operator.
Agreed - especially when you consider that at the time Eddie was looking for a #8 to play like Billy; whereas he's now saying that we need find a different way of doing things at 8 - which shouldn't be too hard to find given that A] no other teams has a #8 who plays like Billy; B] we have no other #8 who plays like Billy and C] we do have a lot of talented #8s who don't play like Billy.

Mind you - there does seem to be a reasonably common line of thought that says "Player X wasn't selected whilst injured, therefore he's been rejected by Eddie".
Though I guess that thought is given more weight when people like Slade, Nowell, Cokanasiga ARE selected whilst injured!
 

BPM

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I feel like if you've got Earl you don't need Simmonds (and vice versa).
Though without another 8 option I wouldn't have been adverse to seeing Simmonds over Lawes.

That’s fair. They’re similar types of players and it seems as though Eddie has a preference for Earl. On the one hand, I think Simmonds is hard done by as he did fairly well in his limited chances for England, but on the other, Earl has been genuinely excellent this season.
 

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Which has probably seen this before, but here’s what I posted a week or so re. Number 8s on another forum:

“With Billy out and no specialist Number 8 named in the 6 Nations squad, I think it is worth talking about Number 8s in more detail.

My impression is that the role of the 8 is evolving away from bigger bulkier players and is becoming slightly less specialised.

Looking at Ben Earl and the 8s we’re likely to face in the 6 Nations we have:

England: Ben Earl - 1.86m / 110kg

France: Gregory Aldritt - 1.91m / 115kg

Ireland: Jack Conan - 1.93m / 110kg

Italy: Braam Steyn - 1.94m / 110kg

Scotland: Magnus Bradbury - 1.93m / 115kg

Wales: Taulupe Faletau - 1.87m / 110kg

We can take all of those heights and weights with a bit of a pinch of salt, but they’re all pretty similar. I’ve also gone for the biggest player those countries can field when the first choice is not clear cut.

Yes, Earl is marginally the shortest and among the lightest, but not by much and Billy would have been an obvious outlier at 125/130kg. Earl is closer to the norm of the 3rd flanker most other countries are fielding - Faletau and Conan are specialist 8s, but Steyn, Bradbury and Aldritt are not drastically different to Earl. Likewise Moriarty when Faletau wasn’t fit.

Having Billy in the side dictates the way we play at least to some extent and I’d argue that playing with a lighter 8/3rd flanker as we did with Wilson in the 2018 AIs wasn’t as significant a drop off as expected.

Prior to the RWC semi final, we thought the lack of a third taller jumper would be a hindrance, but it didn’t work out that way and Earl is definitely a better lineout forward than Billy.

From a longer term POV, we should also recognise that the 8s we have and those coming through typically aren’t bulldozers. Dombrandt is big enough for that, but it’s not playing to his strengths which are picking good lines to hit space and making offloads. Likewise, Mercer is more of a rangy, Read style 8 and Simmonds is similar to Earl. Tom Willis is another who’s big but not massive. Rus Tuima is the only other big brute but IMO, we’d be far better at developing a more subtle, more modern style that takes us away from the Billy or bust model.

At his best, Billy is a huge (literal and metaphorical) asset, but he’s been a way off his best for a little while now, so I’d say we should focus on the opportunity to develop a credible alternative style rather than lament what we don’t have.”
 

TBeastT

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Agree with everything that you’ve said BPM, it’s in no way necessary for an 8 to be as large as Binny and someone of Earl’s size (is he really 110kg? Every stat I’ve seen is more around the 102kg mark and he looks closer to that size IMO) is perfectly capable of fulfilling the role of an international 8, but to accommodate an 8 of that size you need a significantly bulkier/more ball-carrying focused flanker pairing than Curry-Underhill. If Earl starts at 8 then (of the current squad) you need Hill at blindside to assist with the back row carrying responsibilities.
 

Old Hooker

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Totally agree with your thoughts on Binny, BPM, and have often said that his style is limiting.

In terms of specialists Faletau’s return is likely to show the value of an out and out 8. Earl really impresses me, but he’s a flanker who plays 8.

Dombrandt has settled at 8. He’s a big unit, can do the brick wall stuff, but he has good game awareness, can shift and has some fantastic skills. What’s not to like? Toby makes a good point on balance and he could have slotted straight in.

When thinking about weights, as well as being sceptical of the data there’s also pumped up cruiserweight syndrome. Wiki says Mercer’s heavier than Faletau, but there’s a difference between a naturally big strong man and one who’s had to spend hours in the gym bulking up even if the scales say the same.
 

Which Tyler

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England: Ben Earl - 1.86m / 110kg (BMI: 31.80)
France: Gregory Aldritt - 1.91m / 115kg (BMI: 31.52)
Ireland: Jack Conan - 1.93m / 110kg (BMI: 29.53)
Italy: Braam Steyn - 1.94m / 110kg (BMI: 29.23)
Scotland: Magnus Bradbury - 1.93m / 115kg (BMI: 30.87))
Wales: Taulupe Faletau - 1.87m / 110kg
Always interesting - I did something similar about 2 years ago, when again, people were saying that Mercer was too small, so we should pick Simmonds instead (at the time, Zach was 105kg, and I was saying that I expected hos playing weight to stabilse around 110-112 - his currently quoted weight is 110):

Zach Mercer: 190cm; 110 kg (BMI: 30.47)
Sam Simmonds: 184cm; 102kg (BMI: 30.13)
Ben Earle: 186cm; 110kg (BMI: 31.80)
Lewis Ludlam: 190cm; 110kg (BMI: 30.47)
Mark Wilson: 191cm; 112kg (BMI: 30.70)

Louis Picamoles: 192cm; 116kg (BMI: 31.47)
Sergio Parisse: 196cm; 112kg (BMI: 29.15)
Taupe Faletau: 187cm; 110kg (BMI: 31.45)
Jamie Heaslip: 192cm; 110kg (BMI: 29.84)
Kieran Read: 193cm; 110kg (BMI: 29.53)
David Pocock: 183cm; 103kg (BMI: 30.76)

Billy Vunipola: 188cm; 130kg (BMI: 36.78)
Nathan Hughes: 196cm; 125kg (BMI: 32.54)
Ben Morgan: 191cm; 116kg (BMI: 31.8)
Thomas Waldron: 185cm; 114kg (BMI: 33.31)

The only reason people seem to think that 110kg is too light for a #8 is Billy Vunipola; who is an absolute physical freak. There is no-one in world rugby even close to him in terms of physical stats without playing front row.
What you're used to skews your perception of "normal" - I have big dogs; normal sized dogs look tiny; I have small cats; normal sized cats look huge. England have a huge #8; all other international #8s look too small in comparison. However, looking at the list of top international #8s, someone like Mercer really isn't giving up much already.
 
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Which Tyler

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I'm on board with selecting smaller 8s but transitioning a winger to the position may be a step too far ;)
Well - we've tried Cokanasiga and May; talked about Nowell (Don't recall seeing him actually pack down though).
Not to mention the ultimate winger/flanker combination: the Luxury Giraffe ended up with 45 caps! (Tom Croft)
 

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Actually gutted big joe is injured i hoped post world cup he was going to be getting more England game time. He is a real talent but obv has stuff to work on too. I like thorley but think thorley will be pushed out eventually by big joe.
 

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Actually gutted big joe is injured i hoped post world cup he was going to be getting more England game time. He is a real talent but obv has stuff to work on too. I like thorley but think thorley will be pushed out eventually by big joe.
Joe > Thorley is an easy call for me. Joe's a better athlete and a significantly better player IMO.
 

TRF_Olyy

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Eeeehhhhhh, is he though?

Joe is really overrated and Thorley is pretty underrated - if Joe lives up to potential then he could be really special but atm?
Thorley is nothing particularly exception but has an excellent strike rate - I rate that higher than Joe's flashes of brilliance and large periods of nothing. Joe's defence and positional play leave a lot to be desired atm as well.
 

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Eeeehhhhhh, is he though?

Joe is really overrated and Thorley is pretty underrated - if Joe lives up to potential then he could be really special but atm?
Thorley is nothing particularly exception but has an excellent strike rate - I rate that higher than Joe's flashes of brilliance and large periods of nothing. Joe's defence and positional play leave a lot to be desired atm as well.
I don't disagree with anything you've said, but I would argue that while Joe's defence and positional play leave a lot to be desired, he's still significantly stronger than Thorley in these areas of the game. Thorley's incredibly erratic in just about every aspect of the game, which has its benefits and weaknesses offensively at club level because defences have no idea what he's going to do or where he'll pop up, but at international level against more organised defences he won't find nearly as many holes. I imagine it also makes him a nightmare to be in a back three with and to coach, which Jones will not be a fan of. In stark contrast, Joe always looks composed and assured with ball in hand and while he often doesn't make the best choices offensively, he's rarely going to do anything that'll lose you the ball. I don't think that the same can be said for Thorley.
 

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Mercer has a lot of fight about him and often stood out in otherwise poor Bath performances. At U20 level his intensity was way above anyone else. He isn't exactly small but has a lot of fight about him. You can't train that.

Also simply looking at height and weight stats is a bit lazy (not here but for a coach). Take Hamish Watson or Jack Nowell, both are relatively small yet are very good carriers. We shouldn't just look at a players weight but instead their natural ability to break through tackles and drive with their legs. Granted a bigger, heavier player should be better at this but it isn't always the case. Cole for example is notoriously **** at making ground, even in less heavy traffic, compare him to Sinckler for carrying ability and it's laughable.

I think with Billy V we've become obsessed with huge 8's and seem to think nothing else is even feasible. Lighter back rows are not inherently poor, especially if they are more mobile and good at getting to breakdowns. As long as they aren't awful carrying or getting driven back in the tackle then it's fine. Underhill and Curry are both deemed light yet they are some of the most fierce tacklers in the squad. I doubt there are many players internationally who would choose to run at Underhill over Vunipola for example.
 

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I think with Billy V we've become obsessed with huge 8's and seem to think nothing else is even feasible. Lighter back rows are not inherently poor, especially if they are more mobile and good at getting to breakdowns. As long as they aren't awful carrying or getting driven back in the tackle then it's fine. Underhill and Curry are both deemed light yet they are some of the most fierce tacklers in the squad. I doubt there are many players internationally who would choose to run at Underhill over Vunipola for example.
I don't think that anyone in the world doubts the defensive abilities of an Underhill-Curry flanker pairing, nor do I think that there's anyone who thinks that the bigger the player, the better the tackler. Defence isn't the issue that a Curry-Underhill pairing presents. In the final we didn't have too much trouble containing SA's big units defensively - we were beaten in the set piece and by the fact that offensively we just couldn't find go forward ball. It's in the latter of those 2 that the pairing really falls short - Curry is no slouch with ball in hand but I doubt he really troubles defences too much, while Underhill (as good of a tackler as he is) really doesn't offer much going forward. I'd take a back row with 2 strong ball-carrying forward options (Hill-Curry-Dombrandt/Earl, for example) that can split a defence over a back row with 1 outstanding carrier (Curry-Underhill-Vunipola) who can be easily marked by a defence.
 

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I think some of the current fear around lack of weight comes from SA comprehensively beating us in the scrum in the RWC.

A silly argument IMO given no other team has given us that much trouble and technique makes more of a difference than sheer size.
 

TBeastT

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I think some of the current fear around lack of weight comes from SA comprehensively beating us in the scrum in the RWC.

A silly argument IMO given no other team has given us that much trouble and technique makes more of a difference than sheer size.
That’s a massive oversimplification IMO. Yes, technique matters more than size, but size and strength are still massive factors and you can’t just negate them. Vunipola gets a lot of stick for the crumbling scrum in that final, and a lot of it is deserved, but ultimately the best loosehead in the world would’ve struggled in a situation where his lock pairing was nearly 20kg lighter than the oppositions. Weight is far from the biggest factor in a scrum but it damn well makes a difference.
 

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I think we underestimate how passion and determination to win SA bought to the final
 

BPM

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That’s a massive oversimplification IMO. Yes, technique matters more than size, but size and strength are still massive factors and you can’t just negate them. Vunipola gets a lot of stick for the crumbling scrum in that final, and a lot of it is deserved, but ultimately the best loosehead in the world would’ve struggled in a situation where his lock pairing was nearly 20kg lighter than the oppositions. Weight is far from the biggest factor in a scrum but it damn well makes a difference.

My point is that we shouldn’t simply focus on size when picking our side. Clearly Eddie isn’t anyway as he’d have called up one of the bigger 8s.
 
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