England Rugby: England's Potential Future Starting XV

Dave Gibbs@thedavegibbsContributor IIIDecember 2, 2011

England Rugby: England's Potential Future Starting XV

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    Despite the chaos engulfing the RFU, the Six Nations are bearing down on England.

    With a caretaker coach being put in place, he will have plenty of young talent to choose from.

    As the RFU have come out and said that the World Cup in 2015 is now the priority, it’s time for England to clean house and start trying some young talent in place of the aging senior side.

    With an average age of 23, this is a young side without much Test level experience.

    However, giving this group a chance to grow together will provide England with a strong side to bring into a home World Cup in 2015.

Full Back: Ben Foden

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    Age: 26

    Club: Northampton Saints

    Caps: 22

    Ben Foden remains one of the world’s finest attacking full backs. Foden is also secure under the high ball and a solid fundamental tackler.

    His combination with Chris Ashton is lethal, and the two regularly terrorise opposing defences for both club and country.

    With pressure from Delon Armitage for the starting jersey, Foden will have to replicate his form to maintain his place.

Right Wing: Chris Ashton

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    Age: 24

    Club: Northampton Saints

    Caps: 18

    The most lethal finisher available for England selection, Chris Ashton adds another dimension to England’s attack whenever he is on the field.

    Fleet of foot with a good side step, quick burst and surprising power, Ashton makes for an ideal winger in modern rugby.

Outside Centre: Manu Tuilagi

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    Age: 20

    Club: Leicester Tigers

    Caps: 7

    One of the few bright spots from England’s 2011 World Cup campaign was the emergence of Manu Tuilagi.

    Combining great speed and strength, as well as solid handling skills, Tuilagi is a great runner from outside centre who can take some of the try scoring burden off the shoulders of Chris Ashton.

    His development will be crucial if England is to return as a force in world rugby.

Inside Centre: Owen Farrell

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    Age: 20

    Club: Saracens

    Caps: 0

    Owen Farrell usually plays at either fly half or outside centre for Saracens, but the skills of both translate well to playing No. 12.

    Mike Tindall is no longer a Test-calibre player, and is in the way of younger centres such as Farrell and Billy Twelvetrees from playing international rugby.

    Farrell is a very good distributor of the ball and has solid kicking skills both from hand and off the tee.

Left Wing: Charlie Sharples

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    Age: 22

    Club: Gloucester Rugby

    Caps: 1

    Charlie Sharples has been overlooked by Martin Johnson for too long, but with Johnson’s resignation as England manager, Sharples should get a chance to play.

    Named the fastest player in the England squad prior to the World Cup, Sharples is not just a speedster on the outside, as he also has a wicked step at his disposal.

    This has resulted in Sharples scoring plenty of tries, with 18 in 25 games for Gloucester last season.

Fly Half: Toby Flood

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    Age: 26

    Club: Leicester Tigers

    Caps: 46

    Another survivor from the World Cup and the most capped member of this squad, Toby Flood is a talented fly half who distributes the ball well and is an accurate goal kicker.

    He leads the line well and positions himself to attack the opposing back line the moment he receives the ball.

    His distribution is good and he has shown himself to be a tricky customer to deal with, using grubber kicks to get past defences, such as in this Aviva Premiership game against Gloucester.

Scrum Half: Ben Youngs

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    Age: 22

    Club: Leicester Tigers

    Caps: 17

    Keeping the Leicester half back partnership together is Ben Youngs. Youngs and Flood are used to playing alongside one another at club level, and this understanding can be seen on the international stage as well.

    Youngs distributes good ball from the breakdown to his fly half, providing a good attacking platform for the team to work from.

    Youngs also has great pace and makes good sniping runs around the base of rucks and scrums, keeping defenses honest.

Number Eight: Jordan Crane

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    Age: 25

    Club: Leicester Tigers

    Caps: 3

    Jordan Crane makes this team in place of James Haskell, who will be ineligible for selection as he plays his club rugby for the Ricoh Black Rams in Japan.

    Crane is usually one of English club rugby’s most frequent ball carriers, and his presence is felt at the base of the scrum with his good drives and body position.

    Crane is a bruising runner who is hard to take down, and is a like-for-like replacement for Nick Easter.

Openside Flanker: Matt Kvesic

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    Age: 19

    Club: Worcester Warriors

    Caps: 0

    Matt Kvesic is one of the rising stars of English rugby. With a gaping hole at openside flanker, Kvesic offers an athletic forward with an abundance of talent.

    As well as making his mark on the game through his skill at the breakdown, Kvesic also has a great turn of pace, as he showed in the U-20 Six Nations earlier this year.

    Kvesic is not alone in staking his place for this spot, with Steffon Armitage and Calum Clark pushing for international caps.

Blindside Flanker: Tom Wood

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    Age: 25

    Club: Northampton Saints

    Caps: 9

    Making the starting lineup at No. 6 is Tom Wood from Northampton. Wood is a natural leader, and is the captain of this young England XV despite having only nine caps.

    A powerful player, Wood carries the ball well and is fearless in defense. Wood would have a chance to develop into his role as captain with this young team around him.

    Pushing Wood for his place is Tom Croft, giving England great depth at blindside flanker.

Second Row: Courtney Lawes

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    Age: 22

    Club: Northampton Saints

    Caps: 13

    Courtney Lawes established himself somewhat in New Zealand in the World Cup. With good size and surprising speed, Lawes is the new enforcer in the England pack.

    However, while a mean streak is a good aspect in a second row, Lawes has to keep his temper under control, with a two-match ban during the World Cup for "recklessly striking" an opponent with his knee.

Second Row: David Attwood

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    Age: 24

    Club: Bath Rugby

    Caps: 2

    Having also had some previous Test experience, Dave Attwood would be a good complement to Lawes in the second row.

    With the two players of similar height (Lawes is 6’7” and Attwood 6’6”) at second row, it makes it easier  for both the forwards to drive in the scrum and for No. 8 to pick up at the back.

    Attwood is powerful at the breakdown and a good tackler in the loose. He is also a strong runner with the ball, capable of using his large frame to power over the gain line.

Tight Head Prop: Dan Cole

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    Age: 24

    Club: Leicester Tigers

    Caps: 23

    Dan Cole is another player who has already established himself within the England setup.

    Cole is a talented scrummager and carries the ball with purpose. His skills at the scrum have helped make up for those occasions when Andrew Sheridan is not present at loose head due to injury.

    Cole will have to continue as England’s key in the front row with an already injury-prone Sheridan approaching his mid-30s.

    The return of Matt Stevens from suspension will give Cole competition for his starting spot.

Hooker: Dylan Hartley

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    Age: 25

    Club: Northampton Saints

    Caps: 34

    Dylan Hartley is becoming better and better as he gets more game time at hooker. Hartley is a good runner for a big man, capable of making a fair few yards before being brought down.

    In the scrum, Hartley delivers a good strike, getting the ball straight to the back of the scrum. At lineouts, he is an accurate thrower who can get good distance.

    Lee Mears will continue to challenge Hartley for England's No. 2 jersey, while Joe Gray will also be looking to break out onto the international stage.

Loose Head Prop: Alex Corbisiero

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    Age: 23

    Club: London Irish

    Caps: 10

    Alex Corbisiero has looked good so far in an England shirt when filling in for Andrew Sheridan. Corbisiero has talent and should press for the starting role, even when Sheridan is fit.

    Corbisiero gets low at the scrum, and while not as technically skilled in the "dark arts" of the front row as Sheridan, he is young and has plenty of time to develop.

    Paul Doran-Jones is also in contention, putting pressure on Corbisiero to perform.


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    16: Joe Gray (Age: 23, Club: Harlequins, Caps: 0)

    17: David Wilson (Age: 26, Club: Bath Rugby, Caps: 19)

    18: James Gaskell (Age: 20, Club: Sale Sharks, Caps: 0)

    19: Tom Croft (Age: 26, Club: Leicester Tigers, Caps: 31)

    20: Joe Simpson (Age: 23, Club: London Wasps, Caps: 1)

    21: Billy Twelvetrees (Age: 23, Club: Leicester Tigers, Caps: 0)

    22: Delon Armitage (Age: 27, Club: London Irish, Caps: 26)