On last Tuesday, the England team to play France was announced by Stuart Lancaster. In stark contrast to the in experienced, experimental Team that beat France at Twickenham, 19-14, last weekend, this team looks very much like the best team available.
The change in staff style is vast, going from 15 relatively inexperienced staff to 15 hardened test players. Lancaster’s experimental team was to decide on the identity of some of the fringe players whereas the team to play France this weekend in Paris is much more by the handbook.
In a normal employment situation, the staff handbook would most likely detail the policies required to change this many staff around. However in this case I’m not sure there would be a staff handbook!
I’ve spoken with a number of people on this and a large majority are inclined to use this game as a further experiment to finalise the fringe players. I don’t subscribe to this view as the reality is that the vast majority of the first XV haven’t played a rugby game for months!
They need to get up to speed with test rugby before the world cup, not go out cold against Fiji and lose the game! If you look at what the most likely centre partnership is, based on the style of game that Lancaster will opt to play, Jonathan Joseph and Brad Barritt, they’ve not even played a single game together.
No unfortunately, Brad Barritt has a tight calf this weekend so Luther Burrell gets the chance at inside centre but that means that Lancaster’s first choice centre partnership won’t get a run out until at least the Ireland game at Dublin the week after.
Building a relationship, particularly in the centre, is crucial. What if they can’t build that understanding and one of them decides to hand in a grievance? What would the staff handbook detail about this situation??
Another key player that hasn’t played for a while is Joe Launchbury. In my opinion, England’s outstanding player. A buy the handbook lock forward that can carry, has pace, can jump in the lineout, turn ball over and even kick.
Joe hasn’t played test rugby for 12 months so he needs to play in both of the remaining warm up games to get him up to the level that’s required to compete at the highest level. In the next article, we’ll look at some of the other key players that Lancaster will be looking at!
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