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England's Centre Conundrum


Academy Player
Apr 13, 2010
Really well detailed report - although I disagree with a couple of your points.Banahan possesses all of Tindall's qualities but in greater amounts - he's bigger, stronger, faster, has a better offload and hits people back in the tackle. The only aspect in which he loses out to Tindall, and admittedly it is key, is experience. He sometimes gets caught out of position in defence. But so do all young centres - take Manu Tuilagi as a case in point. I'm sure Tindall will be starting at 13 come the world cup, but the only way these players will correct their flaws is by gaining experience and getting game time. I think Banahan has all the ingredients to make a very effective modern day centre. Although, as a centre myself, I would cry if he was my opposite number.I think you might be getting the Tuilagis mixed up - Manu, unlike his brothers, is a very clean tackler. As a regular match goer at Welford Road, I've only seen him pinged once for a dangerous tackle - and that was in a reserve team game, where he hit the guy so hard he bounced away before Manu could wrap his arms. Also not seen any case of him having a short fuse - he always seems pretty calm. However, you are right when you say he is sometimes a little naive with his positioning, but again, this will change with experience. This guy is the future for England at 13.
Fair assessment. Just to sum up, the centre possibilities you've mentioned are Hape, Tindall, Flutey, Barritt, Allen, Banahan, Turner-Hall, Tuilagi, Lowe, Waldouck, Twelvetrees, Clarke, Trinder & May.

If we're making a list of all English centres we can add Powell, Tait, Bell, Barkley etc. etc. and you can see that it's a pretty long list.

However, the list needs a cull, and I'm going to take out every player I couldn't possibly see wearing an England shirt in 2011, probably because they're too young or they've missed the boat.

That leaves you with the incumbents, Hape and Tindall. Tindall is injured and we'll get Banahan on Saturday. Of the rest, Flutey, Waldouck, Twelvetrees, Barritt & Tuilagi have been around the England setup of late, so if we see any more injuries/ experiments from Johnson, then it'll be from those guys that he'll draw.

Personally, I don't think whoever we have in the centres will make us a good enough side to win the world cup (as in I think England need to continue building and start dominating with 2015 in mind).

Now it's all about continuity for the current side - they're doing some good things and I think a world cup semi will be a sensible ambition, maybe with the hope of a final. So my feeling is that Johnson will take the 3 incumbents to the RWC along with Flutey and/ or Barritt. Those first 4 are far from the best centres England have got, but they might do a decent job in the crunch that is world cup rugby.

Then after the world cup, I think it's time to ditch Hape, Tindall and Flutey (jury's out on Banahan) and start getting some mixture of Barritt, Twelvetrees, Waldouck, Tuilagi and Allen involved.

England travel to Ireland this week looking to return with their first Grand Slam since 2003, but while they are clearly the strongest of the Northern Hemisphere teams this season they are by no means a faultless team. Their pack has dominated all their opponents, except possibly the Welsh, with ease and halfbacks Ben Youngs and Toby Flood have continued their efficient club pairing, with Flood leading the competition with 47 points. The back three, whose composition had been questioned in the past has begun to function successfully as a combination and Right Wing Chris Ashton also leads the tournament with 6 tries.

The one area of the team which hasnââ'¬â"¢t functioned as Head Coach Martin Johnson and Attack Coach Brian Smith is the midfield pairing of Shontayne Hape and team captain Mike Tindall. Tindall may well be in the team for his calming influence over the younger players in the back line like Young, Flood, Ashton and Foden but Hape has not been particularly effective carrying the ball and his handling have appeared at best shaky in all 4 games so far.While it may well be too late to make such a significant change to his team just 7 months before the start of a World Cup who else could fill the Centre berths for England?

Riki Flutey has 13 caps for England, was a regular in the number 12 shirt and looked to be Martin Johnsonââ'¬â"¢s preferred Inside Centre until he missed most of the 2010 season through injury. Flutey has experience at Fly Half so he does bring creativity and a kicking option to the 12 shirt whilst his New Zealand Maori heritage provides the physical presence in defence that Johnson favours. The major downside that Flutey has is his propensity to suffer quite serious injuries with alarming regularity. Despite being born in Wairapa on New Zealandââ'¬â"¢s North Island Flutey qualifies for England through residency as he has played in England since 2005.

Brad Barritt of Saracens has been hovering in or around the England set up since he arrived from Natal in 2008. He is regarded as one of the strongest 12ââ'¬â"¢s in the Aviva Premiership and his straight running would surely provide the English pack with a target in mid-field and his solidity in defence would be an asset alongside the suspect defence of Toby Flood. Barritt does not offer the same kicking ability that a Flutey does, but neither do either of the current incumbents. Barritt is English qualified through a British Passport holding Grandparent.An outsider for the Inside Centre berth is Harlequins number 12 Jordan Turner Hall, he is one of the most explosive players in English rugby but there are question marks over his ability to lead a defensive line as he tends to ââ'¬Å"shoot out of the lineââ'¬Â and fast opponents can expose the space that he leaves behind him. Turner- Hall also has no kicking game to speak of and his tendency to be drawn into contact instead of drifting into space and toward support runners should also be a concern.There are two potential replacements for Mike Tindall currently playing in the Aviva Premiership and while Johnson presently favours Bathââ'¬â"¢s giant winger Matt Banahan as Tindallââ'¬â"¢s replacement I am yet to be convinced that a player whoââ'¬â"¢s young club career has been on the wing can be successful converted into an International Centre.James Simpson- Daniel currently plays on the wing for his club Gloucester, the reason that Simpson- Daniel is currently picked on the wing is that when he plays in the centre he often leaves his supporting wingers in his wake with his combination of shear pace and his dashing lines of running. With the likes of Ashton and Foden in Englandââ'¬â"¢s back three his pace would not be such an issue, he is not known as the strongest tackler though and adapting from regularly appearing on the wing to playing an integral part in Englandââ'¬â"¢s defensive pattern may be an issue. Like Flutey Simpson- Daniel has had more than his fair share of injuries, the latest coming less than a month ago when he left the field on a stretcher during a game against Wasps, fortunately he suffered no serious ligament damage but would probably not be fit to play for England this weekend.Yet another potential England Centre whoââ'¬â"¢s career has been interrupted by injury is Dominic Waldouck of Wasps, the Wasps Academy product runs probably the best lines of any Centre in England and cuts great angles to wrong foot defenders. Waldouck is one of the smaller Centreââ'¬â"¢s playing in the Aviva Premiership at the moment, but this doesnââ'¬â"¢t stop him from putting in some crunching tackles and his quickness and superb footwork make him stand out from some of the bigger, ponderous 13ââ'¬â"¢s around today. Waldouck is just 23 and if he can stay fit and healthy he will surely be a regular in the England set up in the future.Manu Tuilagi is without a doubt the most exciting Centre playing in English rugby today and not just because heââ'¬â"¢s built like power lifter. Tuilagi may have one of the most powerful hand offs in professional rugby, but he also has the pace that means he can run around defenders and not just straight over the top of them. He is a ferocious tackler and leads the Aviva Premiership with 7 tries so far this season. Tuilagi is just 19 and has been known to have a rather short fuse, he is also not known for his discipline in terms of sticking to a defensive pattern or using his arms when tackling ball carriers, instead trying to lunge at them with his shoulder. Another exciting aspect to Tuilagiââ'¬â"¢s game is that his regular Centre partner at Leicester is also English qualified and has also been receiving rave reviews this season. In Anthony Allen England could bring in a player who is know much more experienced than when he made his International debut in 2006 despite still being just 24 years old. Like Waldouck Allen runs excellent lines and has good hands, knowing when to ââ'¬Å"fixââ'¬Â defenders and when to release the ball to his supporting runners. The down side of these two players as a pairing is that neither of them have particularly cultured boots, but with their Leicester team mates Youngs and Flood playing inside them they would surely not be put in a position where they needed to kick.There are a number of other options who England may be interested, the most senior being John Clarke of Northampton, early in his career he was one of the most exciting young players in England, but very serious injuries including a broken leg and knee ligament damage have seen not quite get back to exciting best. Harlequins George Lowe is potentially an International in waiting, but at just 21 and with just 27 senior appearances under his belt I think it would be too early for full England honours. Another Leicester Centre who has been making his mark for the England Saxons team this season is the sizeable Billy Twelvetrees, at 6 feet 3 inches tall and pushing 16 stone he fits Johnsonââ'¬â"¢s stencil of an International rugby player, he is only 22 years old but I expect it wonââ'¬â"¢t be long before he is drafted into an England Elite squad. Finally Gloucester have recently hit a fine vein of form and with Simpson- Danielââ'¬â"¢s propensity to get injured their reserve Centreââ'¬â"¢s are two of their most important players, both Henry Trinder and Jonny May have been very impressive when called upon, Trinder is 21 years old and has an uncanny ability to drift outside defenders like their not there, rather like Simpson- Daniel. May has also featured on the wing for Gloucester, such is his pace and at just 20 and having only made his club debut in August last year he is surely one to watch in the future.Blog by @Buck_Mitchell
Well written!
I did not know that Allen was only 24?! Though he was 28+, seems like he's been around forever
I'd like to see a Twelvetrees/Tuilagi midfield, though Barritt/Tuilagi (with Twelvetrees on the bench covering 10/12) would be very good (and an incredibly physical 12/13 partnership)
Pfft, bring back Erinle!

On a serious note, I've never quite undertood many international teams obsession with having a kicking centre. There are some advantages to it, and i can see how it takes pressure off of the fly half, but what it also does is put another player on the field who's preference is to give away possesion with a kick. I always think that being able to kick is handy, but with the great running rugby that England has played recently, why look for a kicking 12?

On a different note, I would bin both Tindall and Hape. Hape has looked average, and while I don't think he's been terrible, there are plenty of better options. While some people thought he had a great game against France at centre, I think it has taken away from two key facts. He's very slow and very one dimensional.

As much as I know I'll get boo'd for saying this, I'd bring back Riki Flutey, who's been solid on defence and is so much more creative than any of the current England centers. At 13, I can see why Bannahan would be good, although he has been caught out of position quite a bit, he certainly offers more than the ageing Tindall. If not Bannahan, chuck in Manu Tuilagi. Yes he's young, but he's been on fire lately, and I think it would do a lot for his career to experience a World Cup early on.
Such a shame Jon Clarke broke his ankle (or rather, that clumsy fuckwit Jamie Noon broke Clarkes ankle) just as he was about to make that step up. If he still had the pace he used to show, there'd be a perfect choice for the outside centre option for England with 40-odd caps by now. He and Flutey would (IMO) be a really good combination.
Certainly dreaming to think that. Barkley will be lucky to play again.
Barkley will be back but I don't know what effect he will have, awful couple of breaks he has had. What about Farrell?

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He has looked very handy - Does he play much 12? Strikes me as more of a 10 who player centre because there was already an established 10 (then again, Barkley is pretty much a flyhalf in the centres)
Would rather Billy Twelvetrees over Farrell, but either could work very well
Farrell is definitely not ready yet. A few more seasons in the prem. Also, I see him as an out and out 10. It's all about the famous five, Twelvetrees, Tuilagi, Allen, Waldouck, Barritt.
Barkley will be back but I don't know what effect he will have, awful couple of breaks he has had. What about Farrell?

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Genuinely panicked at the thought of another Farrell playing for England. Having said that, this ones looks bloody good.

you have been warned..
hey nickdnz.. if people cant handle me posting a picture of a good midfield combination then its a shame for them..

olly.. this was posted to show the standard of other midfield pairings.. such as my favorite of sbw and robbie "the beast" fruean
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This is thread is for talking about England's centre conundrum and not NZ :lol:
que an english rugby supporter.. yeah good point with those two being our likely opposition we should ensure we dont lack any phisical presence whatsoever.. tindall has the experiance to deal with these two as shown in thier last test with sbw palying.. if there was one on nz's lack of 1st 5 backups and you show toby flood and wilkinson you know what i wouldnt care to be honest..
I know this may sound bit crazy but would England ever consider trying Ashton in the centre. He has good lines and could be good there. Yes I know they loose a winger of top notch but I think they have prospects that could be sorted somehow
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