The Day The Rugby Died

Discussion in 'The Clubhouse Bar' started by Bullitt, Jan 10, 2008.

  1. Bullitt

    Bullitt Guest

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    Wednesday 9th January 2008. That was the date which may well be remembered as when England blew their chances for the 2011 World Cup. Despite being less then 4 months since the unexpected World Cup final appearance and the wealth of young talent presently in the Guinness Premiership, England may well have already thrown their chances away.

    How is that possible? It’s a full 3 1/2 years until the world turns it’s eyes to Middle Earth and the next All Black hype machine becomes a disappointment… Well, yes, there is a long time to go. However if England’s rapidly ageing squad is to evolve onto the next generation, the old guard need to take a step to the side along with the upper echelons of the Union who prefer old names for money rather then young talent for success.

    With the announcement of this squad for the Six Nations, there were many familiar faces amongst the names reeled off; Ben Kay, Mark Reegan, Joe Worsley, Ian Balshaw, Charlie Hodgson, Jamie Noon, Mike Tindall and Jonny Wilkinson, with Phil Vickery as captain. In fact, there is little change between the squad announced for this tournament and the squad taken to France in 2007.

    This is a worrying turn of events considering how few the young English talent who’ve turned heads so far this year in the Guinness Premiership have been only called up to the Saxons, more worrying the number whom are ignored completely; Gloucester’s Andy Titterell, Ryan Lamb & James Simpson-Daniel, Leicester’s Ollie Smith, Jordan Crane and Danny Hipkiss, Bath trio Abendanon, Banahan and Lipman, London Wasp Tom Palmer and from ND1, Saints Dylan Hartley and 20-try Chris Ashton all missed the cut for Brian Ashtons squad.

    For those still unaware, England’s Six Nations squad currently looks like;

    Backs: Balshaw (Gloucester), Cipriani (Wasps), Cueto (Sale Sharks), Flood (Newcastle), Gomarsall (Harlequins), Hodgson (Sale Sharks), Noon (Newcastle), Richards (London Irish), Sackey (Wasps), Strettle (Harlequins), Tait (Newcastle), Tindall (Gloucester), Wigglesworth (Sale), Wilkinson (Newcastle), Vainikolo (Gloucester).

    Forwards: Borthwick (Bath), Croft (Leicester), Chuter (Leicester), L Deacon (Leicester), Easter (Harlequins), Haskell (Wasps), Kay (Leicester), Mears (Bath), Moody (Leicester), Payne (Wasps), Rees (Wasps), Regan (Bristol), Shaw (Wasps), Sheridan (Sale), Stevens (Bath), Vickery (Wasps, capt), Worsley (Wasps)

    Some fans will say with great enthusiasm “that looks like a step in the right direction†seeing the inclusion of Haskell, Croft, Rees, Cipriani, Wigglesworth, Payne and Vainikolo, but how many of these names get starts over the 5 match series is questionable. With the selected 32 as it stands, a likely XXII for the 2nd Feb against Warren Gatland’s Wales will be as follows;

    1. Sheridan
    2. Regan
    3. Vickery
    4. Shaw
    5. Kay
    6. Haskell
    7. Moody
    8. Easter
    9. Gommersall
    10. Wilkinson
    11. Sackey
    12. Flood
    13. Tindall
    14. Strettle
    15. Tait

    16. Mears
    17. Stevens
    18. Borthwick
    19. Rees
    20. Richards
    21. Cipriani
    22. Vinakolo

    That team simply isn’t good enough and it certainly isn’t “moving forwardsâ€. Sure, a couple of names have been brought in on the bench, but as a side with the perfect opportunity to build a strong squad before the next world cup, debuting 29 year old Vinakolo as a sub (who will be 33 years old in 2011 and has been pretty average since he promising Gloucester debut) or making the bright young talent of Cipriani play second fiddle to Jonny Wilkinson, who’s once bright superstar talent is fading fast, is a far too conservative selection for even the most Nazi of political commentators.

    Other annoying risks being taken include the Matthew Tait, whom can’t neither tackle or go into contact without knocking on, at fullback where he’s been playing poorly for Newcastle and old warhorse Mike Tindall at centre, whom even the most one eyed Gloucester fan will tell you isn’t a shadow of his former self.

    In the pack, Vickery, who has displayed neither the leadership skills nor playing the ability since his horrific injury 2 years ago, not only remains in the squad but also retains captaincy. Ben Kay, who’s not been remotely useful for neither club nor country since 2003 and Mark Regan, who’s only possible use is to wind up the opposition and annoy the referee, also worm their way into the side somehow.

    Also on the wings are have Paul Sackey and David Strettle. Both are good workers for their club sides in the Premiership, but neither player is of international standard for power, pace, vision or skill. This presents a problem all of it’s own against any team managed by Warren Gatland and Shawn Edwards; Countering the Blitz defence.

    There are 3 ways to get through a team using a Blitz;

    - Cut out to the centre who will scissor with the wing, which requires very deft hands from your 13 and perfect timing from your winger.
    - Chip over the fullback and collect, which will require the wings and centres to burst out the blocks and maintain the pace.
    - Bulldoze your way through, which requires your whole pack and both centres to pick, drive and protect for the duration.

    As the expected XV does not have anywhere near what is required, chances are high of Williams or Brew coming up the outside and intercepting everything Wilkinson or Flood float out to Strettle and Sackey, provided the Newcastle duo don’t simply hoof the ball downfield every time they get it. Should those wide passes happen and get intercepted, every time the Prince of Wales will end up one-on-one with Tait it’ll be try-time.

    Add to this Jones’ trickiness or Hooks’ running ability pulling the string at 10, the rejuvenated Henson running the show at 12, the balls to the wall play of Thomas at 13 and the dangerous counter attack running from Sweeney at fullback, then England could be in deep trouble against a very different Welsh side to that which disappointed during the World Cup. A win is still expected of the home side, but an easy victory certainly will not be.

    Consider the backline of;

    9. Andy Gommersall
    10. Jonny Wilkinson
    11. Paul Sackey
    12. Toby Flood
    13. Mike Tindall
    14. David Strettle
    15. Matthew Tait

    Apart from Jason Robinson, that is as near to the best England could have hoped for in Paris last year, but now it is completely unacceptable. Consider the Saxons backline likely to appear at some point against Ireland ‘A’ on Feb 1st at Welford Road;

    9. Danny Care
    10. Ryan Lamb
    11. James Simpson-Daniel
    12 .Anthony Allen
    13. Danny Hipkiss
    14. Chris Ashton
    15. Nick Abendanon

    In every position on the field, the Saxons will feature younger, quicker, stronger and better players then their 1st XV counterparts. This looks fantastic for the future (one would assume), but because of the way the England team is run and the nepotism involved in selection according to what club they play for, the world be lucky to see more then 3 of those players ever progress to the full international squad.

    The hope that a new, young, hungry England team would run out against Wales at Twickenham on the 2nd of February 2008, aiming to rebuild and reclaim their world crown was dashed with the announcement of the same old squad England have used for the past 5 years.

    And that’s why January 9th 2008 will be remembered, at least in English minds and hearts, as the day the rugby died.

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  3. Dmx#1

    Dmx#1 Guest

    I cant see the English team NOT f***ing over their younger talent for older OVERRATED players.

    Even though i like it this way, I'm starting to question if i should because the last world cup England almost took out the world cup with old men.
  4. Vambo

    Vambo Guest

    Ashton does't exactly have much access to these new wonderkids though does he? Until the new club-country agreement comes into force next season there is no way we'll see an 'an out with the old, in with the new' philosophy.
    Both France & Ireland would destroy that Saxons backline at this moment in time. Nyanga, Dusautoir et al would be all over Lamb like a rash.
  5. Gay-Guy

    Gay-Guy Guest

    Very well written Teh Mite.

    Brings up some interesting debates.

    Preparing players for the rugby world cup four years away can sometimes not be a sure guaranteed way of success (NZ out in quarterfinals 2007). England and South Africa just turned up in 2007 and made the final without a 4 year plan in place. France apparently had a long term plan in place and so did Australia and Ireland. Long term preparation is a good idea but perhaps it is the way it should be done.

    I would probably guess that NZ is gonna go back to its old method pre RWC era of playing the best team on the day and only looking at the RWC in 2011. Though there are also flaws with this system (lack of depth experience for the fringe players).

    England kept all their all old players when they won the RWC in 2003. That is a fact. Would it have been different if they had a few key injuries? Judging by some scares leading up the their triumph (Samoa) I would say that perhaps they would have fallen if certain players were not on the field.

    So....perhaps the England team are simply sticking to what works now. Perhaps they are simply trying to consolidate some success post RWC to reinforce that the 2007 final was not a fluke. Maybe they are waiting for 2009 to begin to rebuild.

    I think the Saxons team is a fantastic way for English players to gain experience. They need to raise the profile of this team and give them some tough fact...every time a team tours England and plays more than one game they should say that the first game HAS to be against the Saxons. The Saxons can forge a feared reputation and the fact that they beat the NZ Maoris shows they are in that top class that is worthy to compete. Then perhaps from the performances of the Saxons (who should be named the "Young Saxons" and be age limit based....Under25 perhaps) players who stand out should be introduced into the English team.

    Vainokolo is a big risk in the English squad and perhaps too spells of desperation. Even if Vainokolo was a huge success this year he would probably lose the surprise aspect and be shown up in four years time to be lacking pace and nous.

    Well one thing is for sure. If England does fail this year then that may be a blessing in disguise as it would probably spell the end of some of those senior players who are aging.
  6. Vambo

    Vambo Guest

    That makes perfect sense.
  7. Steve-o

    Steve-o Guest

    Gay Guy, your comment about SA not having a long term plan before the WC couldn't be further from the truth. It is well documented that White's motto during his 4 year stint was 'judge me at the World Cup'. Something just as well known is that when he first took over the Boks he picked a core squad and told them that they are gonna win the World Cup in 2007. They were also not the most experienced Bok team ever by flook
  8. You never know this 6 Nations might just be a respectful swansong for the world cup finalists before the coach changes the guard!
  9. el_tk

    el_tk Guest

    Did you just give a backhanded compliment to Wonderboy Henson?

    It's fine and well talking about the future and 4 years time but if England were to ditch their experience now I don't think the benefits would be as great as people make out.
    This slow integration process seems to be the only feasible approach to development. NZ didn't end up with two world class players for every position by starting a rookie halfback pairing in a Tri-Nations match, what makes you think it will work for England?
    At international level, players like Wilkinson, not the player he once was maybe, can still win you games and success breeds success which makes it easier to introduce players, as opposed to the crisis-management approach of English rugby for the last 4 years which has seen a huge amount of players make a couple of appearances and then disappear from the international stage (Allen, Hipkiss, Abendenon, Geraghty, Morgan). Exposing Cipriani and Care without experience around them could hinder their development for years.

    Of the starting backline you deride all but Gomersall and Tindall could probably make it to the next RWC, while Sackey may only be a club player Strettle could definitely develop into a class act. Ellis can probably take over from Gomersall so all that's really needed is a centre and a winger (according to taste)
  10. shtove

    shtove Guest

    TM's player assessment is spot on - good article. He speak heap big sense - for once! But the death bit is premature - it could even be a long bloody birth, with TM screaming in horror all the way.

    Tait has had too long to prove himself (small and feeeeble), and the Tongan winger shouldn't be there. Apart from that, all the thirty or so backs named in both squads are well worth a go. Forwards? Vickery's not the man, and I hope someone in the backrow develops some "Italian Cnut" arrogance.

    England should take it gradually, IMO. There is a mass of talent in those two squads, and Ashton has perhaps a long term opportunity to show his true colours. His reputation is for back line strategy - it got him nowhere in Ireland, and he was bound hand and foot at the RWC - but England can build something powerful for years to come, instead of relying on Jonny's drops.

    Who will be their play maker? Who was SA's play maker last year? The best thing White did was to give his team the confidence to play in different modes - shut it down, grind the yards, open up the park, kick the lines, rush defence, flash it wide. I guess Steyn was key to all of that, but there's nobody else like him.

    I don't give a ****. As long as Ireland rip out England's guts at Twickenham - again and again and again.
  11. O'Rothlain

    O'Rothlain Guest

    You, England, are your own worst enemy. You have just as many internal political problems as S.A. has externally. I'd be beating my head against an effin' wall if I was a St. George's Cross wearing nutter.
    The GP has been full of some extremely amazing young talent. It's been really exciting, and what is the pay off for the national team? Nothing. Well, good job old boys, smoking your pipes wearing your monicles and planning on return to the imperial power of yesteryear. I bet they pay the players with coinage minted from the East India Trading Company. I agree with Shtove...Ireland will demolish this handicapped team.
  12. Gay-Guy

    Gay-Guy Guest

    Yes you are right...I do stand corrected. All the big nations have RWC plans.

    What I meant to say was how White continued with older players who at the time did not look the goods for 2007 (Montgomery/Os Du Randt) and did not go for players to develop and be dynamic for 2007. There seemed to be as many selection changes as the NZ rotation policy in the 4 years leading up to the cup. I know a lot of the selection changes were political and outside of White's control....however it still looked like White was chopping and changing players with no obvious plan behind it all except perhaps to win in the moment. This erratic selection policy seemed to reflect what England were doing.
  13. Steve-o

    Steve-o Guest

    Point taken. White did give a record number of debut caps. Even though he was the longest standing Bok coach his percentage, in that regard, is fair bit higher than his predecessors. Thanx for clearing that up
  14. Gay-Guy

    Gay-Guy Guest

    In the end though White and South Africa won and England came second. I think perhaps that England have done the right thing and kept Ashton to see if he can show that he really does have what it takes. South Africa seem to have taken a huge step backwards by dropping White who is a fantastic coach.

    Some say Ashton was not the real driving force behind the English squad. However you could look at it from a different angle and say that Ashton unknowlingly empowered the English squad....his apparent lack of input FORCED the English players to take destiny into their own hands....and they almost won it!

    I think though that with this thread.....if England still had the same players in 2010 who are well past their prime playing in their national squad....then they are pretty much toast. Letting them try and prove themselves this season seems to be the appropriate thing to also creates an environment for the new players to perhaps get into a team that is already settled and experienced and has tasted victory a few times. To do a thorough cleanout might have a negative effect that may take a bit too long to recover.
  15. Mr. Laxative

    Mr. Laxative Guest

    Yes, to me it would be a little disappointing to see Vainikolo in the team. Sure he's a good player, from what I've seen watching here in Australia, but he still smells of a certain Sailor. Players like Cipriani need to be brought in fast for England to move forward - whether that would be good for Australia is yet to be determined, of course.

    At least England have some amazing young talent to be used. Australia has a little but without a decent level of competition here we'll see some problems occuring in the future.

    I'd still love to see Mark Van Gisbergen back. Apparently he has been out of form for some time, but at his best I truly believe he is one of the best.
  16. melon

    melon Guest

    Vainikolo has always been overrated.

    I remember years ago when he first burst on to the Rugby League international scene for NZ and he was being heralded as the next Jonah Lomu and whatever else. HE ENDED UP BEING A USELESS LUMP! He had a couple of shining seasons in ESL and thats all.
  17. stormmaster1

    stormmaster1 Guest

    The key thing seems to be how to bring in Talent. New Zealand integrated their squad well and it worked pretty well. I beleive that their players lacked a little grit, composure and they were a little unlucky. They still arrived at the WC as the top team.

    SA did it differently. white picked his squad early and developed them for the world cup.

    Ireland built an experienced core, and din't integrate many new players. They then suffered big style, partly due to lack of experienced quality replacements.

    the English 03 side integrated key players very early on and arrived at the tournament a settled side with strength in depth in most areas.

    Personally i beleive Ashton is doing it right. We can argue over individual choices all day, but he seems to have picked some young promising players and plans to introduce them slowly. Like how England introduced Wilkinson. I think introducing them to a settled side with a strong pack is the way. England's problem has been handing experience to the wrong players in a side that is struggling. We now have players like Jamie Noon having oodles of experience, but not having the natural gifts to be a world beater when JSD or Ollie Smith could have become phenomenol with that experience.

    TBH selection is only part of the issue anyway. Englands form in the WC knockouts wasn't just down to selection, and this years 6N form won't be simply down to choosing Wilko over Cipriani, whatever happens.
  18. danny

    danny Guest

    135 tries in 139 appearances for Bradford Bulls
    12 tries in 15 tests for New Zealand
    9 tries in 8 appearances for Gloucester
    Vainikolo is overrated???????? :wall:
  19. stormmaster1

    stormmaster1 Guest

    135 tries in 139 appearances for Bradford Bulls
    12 tries in 15 tests for New Zealand
    9 tries in 8 appearances for Gloucester
    Vainikolo is overrated???????? :wall: [/b][/quote]

    Got to say if he finds that sort of form for England why wouldn't you want him in the side???
  20. Vambo

    Vambo Guest

    Big Les is the best winger from the SuperLeague era... simple as that really.
  21. stormmaster1

    stormmaster1 Guest

    So many skills are transferable for wingers: finishing tries, beating players one on one, breaking tackles, offloading and making ground in the tackle. He just needs to deal with the decrease in space, the ruck/tackle situation and the kicking game.
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