Autumn, it’s that time of year again where the southern hemisphere leave their sandy beaches and lovely spring weather to venture up north, to get piss wet through and sample such delicacies as a Greggs steak beak and Wetherspoons all day breakfast, lucky buggers. First up for England this year are Argentina, fresh from their Championship campaign and certainly battle hardened from it, they will be a stern test for Eddie Jones’ young charges. Today I will give you my opinions, for what they’re worth, and select the team I would pick for November 11th.
The Front Row
1: Mako Vunipola
Not a difficult pick for me this one, I genuinely think he’s the best loosehead on the planet right now, always going to be a tough day at the coalface against the Argies but this guys has what it takes. Mako has all the traditional traits of a good prop, great scrummager, good engine, looks like he could sink 15 pints and has a face only a mother could love, but to add to these excellent virtues he is an incredible ball carrier and paired with beautifully soft hands he really is the all round package. Ellis Genge can absolutely feel hard done to here but what a man to bring off the bench, it’ll be like opening the gates to a rodeo bull.
2: Dylan Hartley
Now I realise a lot of you will disagree with me here but bear with me and I will try to explain my reasoning. If we know anything about Argentina it is that they will try to dominate up front before they will release their dangerous backs, the Pumas often look most dangerous around the 60 minute mark after they have sapped all the strength from the opposition, thus dominating possession. I would start with Hartley as a sort of buffer, letting him absorb the scrummaging, the hits, the constant grind of playing against Argentina, then after 50 minutes bring Jamie George, fresh, exciting and eager to impress, aligned with Ellis Genge the Argies won’t know what has hit them!
3: Dan Cole
This is one position England really need to improve their depth in, that is no slight to Dan Cole, he’s an excellent tighthead but when he gets injured there isn’t much cover. So I’ve gone for the big Leicester number three over Exeter’s Harry Williams purely for scrummaging nouce and experience. Cole has been a mainstay in this England team for the last decade and that’s for a reason, he is England’s Mr dependable, he won’t make the break that a Vunipola will or bounce someone 5 yards like a Genge but neither will he throw a stupid pass or lose a scrum through lack of concentration. Every team needs a Dan Cole and it will take someone special to dislodge him from his throne.
4: Maro Itoje
I daren’t leave this guy out as I’m scared of the backlash from his many fans. Well what can we say about this guy, the ultimate athlete, Eddie Jones was once quoted as saying he thinks Itoje could probably play international outside centre if he wanted, he’s that good. Not your everyday second row, a workrate that surpasses most sevens and a turn of pace a wing would be proud of he really is something special. In my opinion he needs to improve his lineout work to become the best in the world but he’s not a million miles away here. I’d be amazed if the young second row doesn’t captain England in the future.
5: Joe Launchbury
For me this was without a doubt the toughest call for me, up against another player I love in Courtney Lawes this was down to very minor calls. I’ve opted for Joe for much the same reasoning as the hooker Dylan Hartley. The big wasps lock will just graft and graft, put in tackle after tackle and hit every ruck his legs will take him to, one of the most unselfish players I’ve ever seen on a rugby pitch and this is why he’s a perfect starter. This obviously gives Lawes the opportunity to be the impact man, and with the hits he puts in, impact man could be the perfect description.
6: Chris Robshaw
In a back row I believe in balance, three big carriers together don’t work as three big grafters don’t. This is why Chris Robshaw is perfect in any squad, he’s a grafter, an out and out work horse, he’ll tackle for days and have the odd crafty dabble at a turnover, a modern day Richard hill. Unselfishly putting his body on the line without all the plaudits. If you don’t believe how influential the former skipper is check out his stats. Much of his work may be under the radar but is incredibly important all the same.
7: Sam Underhill
Finally, England have a seven!! But like buses, we’ve waited around for one to come and two have turned up at once. Underhill will battle for his position with young Sale starlet Tom Curry, another exciting prospect in the back row. Underhill though has been magnificent this season, an all out openside fetcher that will hit anything that moves and look for that turnover everytime it’s available, he will work fantastically well with the steadier Chris Robshaw at blindside and I’m genuinely excited to see it in action.
8: Nathan Hughes
Fortunate not to be banned for this game with his ban finishing a week before. the explosive Wasps man is the only genuine eight in the squad and will complete the back row balance I am looking for. We have a grafter in Robshaw, a fetcher in Underhill and now a carrier in Hughes. Does tend to tire later in the games but with the young Exeter man Sam Simmonds on the bench we have an equally effective ball carrier to replace him.
9: Ben Youngs
The farm boy from Norfolk seems to have cemented his place as Englands number 1 scrum half these days, with dynamic sniping skills and a real eye for a gap he will definitely keep the Argie back row committed to the fringes of the break down. There is real competition here with Danny are at a very similar level but Eddie seems to like Care finishing games rather than starting.
10: George Ford
Jones’ captain this summer and a key player in Englands attack, yes he’s not the greatest tackler and his goalkicking isn’t perfect but that’s what we’ve got Owen Farrell for. Fords vision and timing of a pass is what sets him apart from his competition, young Quins stand off Marcus Smith is part of the squad and he could do a lot worse than study the Tigers fly half.
11: Jonny May
Extravagant, eccentric and looks like a baby giraffe been shot in the arse when he runs, but quick. Everyone knows, sometimes you just can’t beat gas, but these days May has really improved his all round game, capable in the air, good defensively and his finishing has really come on, you just need to look at the tries he’s scored for tigers so far this season. In direct competition with Denny Solamona for me but May’s electric pace just gives him the nod.
12: Owen Farrell
Who else? A world class player and leader and the best goalkicker in the world. Farrell adds more than just points accumulation though, having him at 12 with his distribution skills means England play a more expansive game, bringing our rapid back three into the action much more. The partnership of Ford and Farrell is now established and will be the key to England standing any chance of world cup glory in Japan.
13: Jonathan Joseph
Not exactly the form 13 at the moment but as they say ‘form is temporary, class is permanent’ and this guy has class. I think he works really well with the Ford/Farrell axis, their distribution affords him that little bit more time to cause damage. A smart defender rather than a big hitter I think he really compliments Farrell well in the centre roles. I’d have Slade on the bench to cover 10,12,13 but can count himself unlucky as he’s been in fine form for the Chiefs but I think three distributers may be overkill.
14: Anthony Watson
Another player I would have edging toward the world class title. A born finisher with electric pace, equally adept on the wing or at full back, you just need to get him in the team. The phrase ‘could beat him in a phone box’ was made for Watson and the closest thing to a modern day Jason Robinson this current England squad has.
15: Elliot Daly
Another super exciting talent here, quick, great footwork, fantastic hands, this lad can play pretty much anywhere across the back line and after a very successful lions tour I expect to see Daly raise his game to the next level. Having an absolute cannon of a boot doesn’t hurt either. Some of you may be surprised not to see Brown here, well as much of a brilliant servant he’s been to England I just think its time for new blood.
So these are my picks for the Old Mutual Wealth test against Argentina on November 11th, of course this is just my opinion, so let’s hear the team you would pick. Thanks for reading Gain Line Rugby and please leave a comment with your thoughts.