England coach Stuart Lancaster named his Rugby World Cup squad last week as the nation focusses on both hosting and competing in the upcoming tournament. Having lifted the trophy in 2003, England fans are hopeful that their side can lift the William Webb Ellis trophy for a second time.
The main talking point surrounding the squad selection was the news that Lancaster has chosen to select Rugby League convert Sam Burgess. Burgess made the transition from league side the South Sydney Rabbitohs to union side Bath at the end of last year and Lancaster has chosen to select the 26-year-old at centre, as opposed to flanker where has played most of his games for Bath. The discussions rage on about whether the selection of Burgess is a gamble and whether he deserves a place in the squad, especially in place of players such as Luther Burrell who has been a mainstay of the England midfield for the past two seasons. Many argue that Burgess has the potential to take the World Cup by storm and point to the effect that Sonny Bill Williams, another rugby league convert, had for New Zealand in the last World Cup.
At fly-half, Lancaster has chosen to omit Danny Cipriani, opting instead to choose only two fly-halves in Owen Farrell and George Ford. Many thought Cipriani would be named as he can cover both fly-half and full back but Lancaster clearly thought otherwise.
The squad does have talent but it could be argued that it lacks a player with the ability to change the game, such as Jason Robinson back in 2003. Players such as Jonathan Joseph and Jonny May have shown their ability to compete at Six Nations level but now they need to prove their ability against southern hemisphere teams such as Australia and New Zealand. There is also a question mark over the experience of the whole squad, with the selected backs having only 290 accumulated caps between them and only three players in the whole squad having in excess of 50 caps. If England are to win the World Cup, then they are going to have to do it the hard way, with an inexperienced squad. With the squad now announced, Lancaster now has the task of moulding the 31 players into a side that has the ability and hunger to try and emulate the 2003 squad and lift the World Cup.
England kick-off the Rugby World Cup on September 18th against Fiji at Twickenham. They then face group matches against Wales, Australia and Uruguay.
England’s Rugby World Cup squad:
Full-back – Brown (Harlequins), Goode (Saracens)
Wing – Nowell (Exeter), May (Gloucester), Watson (Bath)
Centres- Joseph (Bath), Barritt (Saracens), Slade (Exeter), Burgess (Bath)
Fly-half – Ford (Bath), Farrell (Saracens)
Scrum-half – B Youngs (Leicester), Care (Harlequins), Wigglesworth (Saracens)
Hooker – T Youngs (Leicester), Webber (Bath), George (Saracens)
Prop – Marler (Harlequins), M Vunipola (Saracens), Cole (Leicester), Wilson (Bath), Brookes (Northampton)
Second-row – Lawes (Northampton), Launchbury (Wasps), Parling (Exeter Chiefs), Kruis (Saracens)
Flanker – Haskell (Wasps), Robshaw (Harlequins), Wood (Northampton)
No8 – Morgan (Gloucester), B Vunipola (Saracens)
By: Scott McGlynn