Still somewhat confused about some of Martin Johnson's selections, I sat here (still in my perplexed state) and thought, if I were in Mr. Johnson's shoes how would my selections differ?
England's Six Nations starter against the ever-improving Italians draws closer, and my starting XV to get England off to the perfect start follows:
1. Andrew Sheridan: Your props are the corner-stone of the whole squad, and there is no better place to start off than man-mountain Andrew Sheridan. The front-rower with the strange hobby of brick laying is most famously known for destroying the Aussies pack. England will need a repeat of such performances if they are to overcome the Italians.
2. Lee Mears: The Bath hooker has been instrumental in Bath's rise to near offensive perfection. His only opposition for this position is the young Dylan Hartley who I think gives too many penalties to take the step up to the International stage.
3. Julien White: Even though the Leicester prop is 35, he is still the best replacement for Matt Stevens. Phil Vickery is still past his best even if his club form is improving and there is no one within the International capablility to step up.
4. Simon Shaw: The London Wasp's veteran is just what the current England pack needs, a loose forward who can clear rucks, so finally the backs can work off some quick ball.
5. Nick Kennedy: Nick Kennedy is easily the best jumper in the Guinness Premiership, he was one of England's stand out players in the Autumn and continues to impress for London Irish.
6. James Haskell (Capt): Definitely a captain for the future. The wasps coaching staff continuously talk of the leadership qualities of both Haskell and Rees, but seeing as Rees is going to miss the Six Nations, I would choose his club teammate to lead his country. Haskell has been one of wasps outstanding performers for a while now and just needs to make the six shirt his own.
7. Steffon Armitage: The Armitage brother has to be one of the Guinness Premiership's forwards of the season. He has pace, power and athleticism. The injury to Tom Rees would give Steffon the perfect chance to prove his England credentials just as his brother did in the Autumn.
8. Luke Narraway: The Gloucester number eight proved how good he could be in an England shirt in the tour to New Zealand, where the back row was easily the only good thing to come from a tour only remembered for the off-field disgraced antics.
9. Danny Care: The easiest conclusion in my mind. The Harlequins man this time last year was battling for the nine shirt with Andy Gomarsall, but the scrum-half position is now Danny Cares to lose. He has consistently proved that he is the best nine in the country with his sniping runs and perfect pass.
10. Shane Geraghty: One of the most, if not the most, important positions of the pitch, it is critical to pick the right man to lead the team from this position.
Danny Cipriani has lost form since his ankle injury and has fell a victim to a serious charge-down problem.
Toby Flood has found consistency at 10 for Leicester but still lacks the spark that made Cipriani such a class candidate. That leaves in my mind one class act left, that person being Shane Geragthy. We haven't seen Shane in an England shirt since he came on against France as a substitute and glided past a numerous amount of players to throw a pass to Tindall which won the game.
11. Ugo Monye: The Harlequins had a great Autumn and has bags of pace and strength which continuously impose problems for defences. Matt Banahan could consider himself unlucky not to make this position, but I would definitely give the Bath bulldozer a place on the bench for impact.
12. Olly Barkley: The Bath exile has continued his goal-kicking form at the Cherries, and with his inclusion in this team, it takes the pressure off Shane Geraghty at 10 having another option for kicking. As well as the left-right footed kicking always helping.
13. Dan Hipkiss: A very internationally under-rated player who has deserved a chance in the 13 position for a while. He has the amazing ability to take the outside channel, while still staying on his feet waiting for forward help, giving the forwards a great platform to work off.
14. Paul Sackey: A winger who never fails to impress. Armoured with strength and bags of gas to use, Mr. Sackey has become a great England player who is one of the more reliable players to count on.
15. Delon Armitage: The second Armitage inclusion. Delon secured his place in the England squad with great performances in the Autumn.
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