BEN RYAN

The coach who guided Fiji to gold and our res­i­dent colum­nist

Rugby World - - FRONT ROW -

UTTING AN Eng­land squad to­gether for next year’s World Cup didn’t take me long – all 31 play­ers are listed at the end of this piece – and I’m sure se­lec­tion would change a lit­tle be­fore the tour­na­ment as form and in­jury force peo­ple in and out of the squad. Still, the key for me in pick­ing a squad now was get­ting a blend that would al­low the right play­ing style as well as have the abil­ity to change if and when needed de­pend­ing on op­po­nents or the en­vi­ron­ment.

I don’t sub­scribe to the idea that you pick play­ers in a squad be­cause they have the flex­i­bil­ity to play more than one po­si­tion, but those play­ers are of­ten the most tal­ented and the best read­ers of the game, so I have a tonne of them!

My backs se­lec­tion is the most eye-catch­ing but in the for­wards there are still chances for Mercer, Ar­mand, Rhodes, Attwood, Slater, Sim­monds, Hill, Hep­burn and Kruis to come through. I would also in­clude Carl Fearns in­stead of Chris Rob­shaw if the RFU re­laxed their pol­icy on over­seas-based play­ers.

So, the backs. I have gone for three fly-half op­tions in Owen Far­rell, Danny Cipri­ani and Mar­cus Smith. Ge­orge Ford is a ter­rific player but those three have more breadth and width to their game. I would also con­sider Far­rell at 12, and in this squad you can play Manu Tuilagi and Joe Marchant in that role too.

Marchant is only get­ting bet­ter and he can also be used on the wing if needed

P– he can break the tight­est of de­fences. Manu can play 12, 13 and wing, and his phys­i­cal pres­ence out wide means young guns like Gabriel Ibitoye, Nathan Earle and Joe Cokanasiga miss out. I’m sure all of them will be in the 2023 squad.

I love the way Chris Ash­ton plays and works, but I’ve left him out. Un­avail­able for the first few Premier­ship rounds, he needs to get back to do­ing what he was do­ing at Toulon for Sale. The same goes for Ben Te’o – a good in­jury-free run and he could be back in the mix, but you have to pick on form and not faces.

My out­side-cen­tre choices are Elliot Daly and Henry Slade. Daly can also play a num­ber of po­si­tions but 13 is his best one for me and he’s my start­ing guy there – what­ever the op­po­si­tion.

Full-back is also re­ally in­ter­est­ing. I know I said I’m pick­ing on form but I’m back­ing An­thony Watson to re­turn from in­jury in great shape and he is a starter for me, ei­ther on the wing or at 15.

My bolter is Alex Goode. Ed­die Jones doesn’t seem to want him in­volved but he breaks a game open with guile and in­ge­nu­ity, and is as cool as they come un­der pres­sure. He should be con­sid­ered. That means Mike Brown misses out. Mike is a world-class back-three player and has the ex­pe­ri­ence you need for a World Cup. He’s been one of my favourite play­ers over the past few years, but Goode is play­ing bet­ter than him. A string of strong per­for­mances and these rank­ings could change. I guess that’s my over­rid­ing theme in this squad. Eng­land have the play­ers to win a World Cup. Yes, coaches could pick favourites rather than on form or not take play­ers who per­haps chal­lenge them, but if they show mea­sure and clar­ity in se­lec­tion it won’t be the qual­ity of the play­ers that will de­cide Eng­land’s fate. It won’t be their con­di­tion­ing ei­ther, as the staff in the Premier­ship and at the RFU are amaz­ing at what they do.

In­stead, it will come down to two sim­ple fac­tors: cre­at­ing the cul­ture that gets the best out of these play­ers and play­ing the game in the right way tac­ti­cally with a set­tled team that isn’t reg­u­larly chopped and changed.

My 31-man Eng­land squad for the

2019 World Cup: Cole, Genge, Sinck­ler, M Vu­nipola, Wil­liams; Cowan-Dickie, Ge­orge, Hart­ley; Isiekwe, Itoje, Launch­bury, Lawes; T Curry, Hughes, Rob­shaw, Un­der­hill, B Vu­nipola; Care, Rob­son, Youngs; Cipri­ani, Far­rell,

Smith; Daly, Marchant, Slade, Tuilagi; Goode, May, Now­ell, Watson.

Bright spark Joe Marchant scores for Quins

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