English rugby’s tight five coming on strong

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    Loosehead prop is possibly an area of concern for the English rugby side in the absence of Alex Corbsiero.

    Joe Marler is yet to really hit his straps at Test level, but then admittedly he is still only 22 and a veteran of five Test caps, so perhaps any criticism is premature.

    As a means of comparison, Corbisiero played well in his first Six Nations in the tight, but he struggled in the loose. The next season he showed a real improvement physically, so one hopes that Marler might tread a similar path following further international exposure this year.

    He certainly held his own in South Africa against the Springboks and playing is the best way of learning. Marler is a less powerful scrummager than Corbisiero, but at Heineken Cup level he is an impressive all-round prop, although his discipline is still poor.

    It’s also worth considering that at Harlequins he plays with a huge tighthead, James Johnstone, and an equally huge bona fide tighthead lock, Olly Kohn, whereas with England he plays with a smaller tight five, and thus greater physical responsibility rests on his shoulders.

    Marler tends to carry less for England than he does for Harlequins, but then England play a different brand of rugby. Similarly, Andrew Sheridan was utilised in a different manner with England than at club level.

    A lot has been made of Marler’s scrummaging, but in reality his tight work for Harlequins has generally been good, and he is much improved in this area. There were criticisms aimed at Marler during the Autumn Tests, but in his defence he entered that series with three caps, a small rookie hooker and two 5 locks (Palmer and Parling) behind him in the scrum.

    I’m intrigued to see how well he goes with Dylan Hartley, either starting or off the bench, and Joe Launchbury alongside him. His opposition for the loosehead jersey is Mako Vunipola.

    Vunipola still has the look of a man carrying puppy fat, but statistically he has a greater work rate than Marler at Aviva Premiership level and concedes fewer penalties. This comparison is even more telling because the two are similar players.

    They both like to carry the ball, and have a good tackle count. Graham Rowntree is a big fan of Vunipola, and anything less than a top performance from Marler against Scotland could see him demoted to the bench.

    At hooker Dylan Hartley finally has genuine Test standard competition in the form of diminutive former centre Tom Youngs. Prior to the Autumn Tests I was critical of Youngs and doubted his ability to play international football. I was wrong, he was one of England’s star men, and is now being talked of as a Lions contender.

    As a smaller man (1.75m) he is a different type of ball carrier to Hartley. While Hartley carries upright and either reverses into his man right forearm first to try and form a maul or off-load, Youngs carries far, far lower to the ground, as if he were burrowing.

    With his height being beneficial here, it allows for quick ball as he inevitably goes to ground after successive leg drives, and the ball is presented rapidly. However, if he is not supported by a fellow forward there is an opportunity for the opposition to pilfer the ball as his recycling is normally so quick.

    At club level, Youngs is prone to the occasional wonky throw, but then so is Hartley. His lineout stats during the Autumn Tests were very good apart from the South Africa game. The England lineout struggled then, but it’s worth noting that Tom Woods, a key man in the air, was starting his first game and that a lot of ball was called to him, especially at the front. Woods’ inclusion changed the dynamic of the lineout.

    Due to his stature and time playing in the backs there has been numerous media comparisons with Schalk Brits, however, in reality they are totally different players. Brits sweeps from deep and brings other players into the game, whereas Youngs is very much a tight forward who sticks to the ruck area and carries just off.

    In the circumstances I think his physical dynamism is often overplayed by the media, but nonetheless he is a now a key man in the England squad. He carries strongly and tackles low and hard. It’s also a benefit to England that he has a club relationship with Geoff Parling and Dan Cole to attack the opposition loosehead.

    I’ve also long been a critic of Hartley, thinking him sluggish, lacking vision and prone to repeating the same mistakes: carrying too upright, without support and making it overtly obvious he is going to carry the ball, but I’ve totally reversed my opinion of him.

    Hartley is now an integral part of the England team. I also think he’s really developed into an intelligent footballer. His carries are now much better timed, and prior to his injury he showed a real ability to bring others into the game around him, with off-loads, flicked balls and even reverse passes. He hits good angles on the charge, a skill few hookers have.

    Another example was his tackling style during the Summer Tests against the Springboks. Hartley, sometimes illegally, literally threw himself at the legs of oncoming Bok forwards. The majority of the time this worked, and the ball carriers hit the ground immediately, but on one occasion it backfired badly against Bismarck du Plessis, who simply spun off Hartley’s shoulder and scored.

    This showed a man willing to alter his approach to the game depending on the opposition. It also showed bravery as on multiple occasions he made sure he was the man going to make the big hit (along with Tom Johnson). It’s easy to throw barbs at Hartley, but he puts himself about and doesn’t step backwards for anybody.

    Hartley also has a cynical side to his game, and is becoming increasingly influential at slowing down opposition ball and taking on the role that Lawrence Dallaglio once lovingly filled.

    Dan Cole has rapidly grown into one of the top tighthead props in world rugby alongside Adam Jones and Nicolas Mas. He’s not the thickest-set prop going, and is comparatively lean, but he is a tough, tough man, an excellent scrummager, and has great awareness at the ruck contest.

    Cole is probably the best pilfering prop in world rugby, but what people tend to forget is that Cole is able to make so many crucial turnovers is because he reads the game so well, and chooses which rucks he should attempt to steal ball, or which rucks to simply try and slow.

    As a scrummaging forward Cole is comparatively uncomplicated, but he has put a hurt on a number of leading props in Test rugby. It was a big statement that Adam Jones made when referring to how dominant Cole was at such a young age.

    David Wilson backs Cole up off the bench and in my opinion is a very underrated prop. Wilson has also covered loosehead off the bench before, and I can think of a number of games where he has come on and steadied an unstable scrum.

    Wilson was always considered a star player at youth level, and one who would rise straight to the top, but his ascent was somewhat staggered, and he didn’t really kick on as predicted. Significantly, in Martin Johnson’s first game in charge against Wales Wilson started, but see how Cole has progressed and overtaken him since then.

    Wilson is a big, big man, and he also carries strongly, but his hands aren’t the greatest, and he is a poor decision maker. For all the good scrums Wilson has put in I can also recall incidents where without looking he picked the ball up off the back of a ruck and charged headfirst and alone into the defence, ending in a turnover.

    However, aside from him it has been proven beyond doubt that Paul Doran-Jones, who can also cover loosehead, is simply too lightweight for Test rugby.

    England’s most pleasing regeneration has come in the second row, specifically the 4 jersey.

    Courtney Lawes has long been talked about as the coming man due to his defensive abilities, ball handling skills and his athleticism. However England has long struggled with gaining quick ball and, despite wearing the 4 jersey, Lawes is not the sort of lock who hits ruck after ruck.

    Thus England have often been too underpowered in the tight exchanges over the past two seasons, hence the 2011 elevation of Louis Deacon, the archetypal yeoman.

    Lawes has just started to regain form and fitness, and showed some good touches in the Autumn Tests, however his starting jersey is now in the hands of Joe Launchbury. Launchbury probably doesn’t fit the stereotype of a natural tighthead lock, but he is a far better rugby player than Lawes in the sense he is so good at his core duties and basic rugby skills.

    Combine that with a natural athleticism, good timing and aggression and you have somebody who could become a totem for the England squad over the next decade.

    I’m mildly convinced that Stuart Barnes stole my Dean Richards comparison from a few months back, but it is particularly apt. Launchbury really doesn’t make mistakes, but neither does he appear to passively direct the direction of a game like Richards did either.

    He vigorously injects himself into play all over the pitch. Witness the restart he plucked from mid-air on his debut in the Autumn. For somebody who appears so physically unimposing he is a real athlete.

    I recall Graham Henry once explaining why he was looking at Bryn Evans a few years back, stating that Evans was just very competent at his core duties (I think injuries played a part too), and how vital that was at the highest level.

    The point remains: the higher up the game you go, the simpler it becomes. Those who exceed do the basics well under duress consistently.

    Launchbury falls into this category. He is incredibly solid on defensive restarts, and very aggressive on offensive restarts. He is becoming increasingly strong in the lineout (without really challenging the opposition yet) under the tutelage of Marco Wentzel, but he really comes into his own in broken play.

    Launchbury is a superb support runner, a good carrier with deft hands and an understanding of space, and he has a very high defensive work rate. In fact his work rate is simply phenomenal all over the pitch, and he is good tempered with it. No more of the lethargic attempts to roll away from tackles like Deacon used to, or flopping all over the ball.

    The main difference between the two is that Launchbury plays the game with his head up, whereas Deacon used to play it with his head down.

    Due to injury, Mouritz Botha has been promoted to the Elite Player Squad. Apart from being an honest trier there’s not really a great deal to say about Botha. He’s not the biggest four lock, and his skills are poor. It didn’t surprise me to see him fudge the final restart against South Africa in the Autumn.

    With Launchbury looking to have cemented himself into the four jersey, Geoff Parling is most definitely the owner of the five jersey. Parling played every minute of the recent Autumn Tests, and is now one of the key men despite having only 12 caps.

    Like his natural predecessor Ben Kay, Parling was a latecomer to Test rugby, playing for the unfashionable Newcastle Falcons prior to his move to the Midlands, but like Kay he is a lineout intellectual who calls the same for England.

    A comparatively callow physique suggests that Parling should be restricted solely to lineout duties, but he does actually carry the ball surprisingly well. He runs good angles, is all knees and elbows, and often gets over the gain line, and his cover tackling is excellent too. He is an unheralded player, but is the front runner to start in the five jersey for the Lions. He and Launchbury are exceptionally busy as a pair.

    Unfortunately, apart from the ageing Tom Palmer, there aren’t any immediate candidates to add depth to the 5 position. Were Parling to become injured there would be a huge gulf in the England side.

    In essence, what you have is not a particularly large tight five, but a tight five where all players are capable handlers and carriers, are strong defensively, are technically good at their basic roles, and have tremendous work ethics.

    Lancaster has referred to fitness being key, as Woodward always did, and this tight five has a good combination of mobility and toughness. As players like Corbisiero, Marler, Vunipola, Hartley, Tom Youngs, Cole, Launchbury and Lawes develop and grow together this tight five could really become something special.

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    The Crowd Says (92)

    • February 2nd 2013 @ 8:16am
      WW said | February 2nd 2013 @ 8:16am | ! Report

      Great to se an in depth critique of the english tight five. I’d be interested to hear what you make of their back row in particular Morgan who i rate highly. He’s the rampaging lion that the English (and the lions) need to overcome their prey this year.

      a bit of advice… Ben S… its one thing to express opinions on players…. factually this piece can not really be argued with….but your piece needs a bit of flavour as well… a licence of expression if you will…. its what makes us human and its what makes the mundane and boring compelling to the reader….. not the robotic pieces and comments you tend to make.

      Kind Regards and keep em coming though.

      • February 2nd 2013 @ 8:40am
        Ben.S said | February 2nd 2013 @ 8:40am | ! Report

        Yeah, again, cheers for the insults. I’m not a professional writer, hence the absence of amateur anecdotes and weak attempts at humour. Not really much of a pastiche fan myself.

        • February 2nd 2013 @ 10:45am
          WW said | February 2nd 2013 @ 10:45am | ! Report

          constructive criticism Ben S

          • February 2nd 2013 @ 10:58am
            Colvin said | February 2nd 2013 @ 10:58am | ! Report


            I’m interested in your critque. It seems to me Ben did a pretty thorough job. But you suggest it needs some flavour to make it more interesting.

            Can you give a few examples of what you think Ben could have added. It may help all us amateurs.

        • February 4th 2013 @ 7:04pm
          Sky Blue Ram said | February 4th 2013 @ 7:04pm | ! Report


          You did a great job.

          Those that can, do etc etc

        • February 5th 2013 @ 2:36pm
          Terry Kidd said | February 5th 2013 @ 2:36pm | ! Report

          Hahahaha …. a riposte par excellance …. that gave me a laugh …. but I do think WW’s critique was well intentioned

    • February 2nd 2013 @ 8:27am
      Salada said | February 2nd 2013 @ 8:27am | ! Report

      Ben, thems the most words you’ve ever posted in one go. Always thought of you as a shy counterpuncher. Terrific rundown, mate, and there are few on this forum who’ll challenge your on-the-spot expertise as we’re all on our boards out here looking for the perfect wave. The front five certainly is the best of the England show, then things get somewhat less than marvelous when you get to the back row. Your cappy may not make the Lions, and Big Ben needs to cement a few recent performances. Behind the scrum you need another first rate halfback, Care and Youngs can’t hack it of late but finding Farrell to replace Toby was hugely fortuitous. If 12trees does well on the weekend, could he partner Tuilagi? Foden, Brown, Goode – your mob’s looking strong. Now all they have to do is beat Ireland and France.

      Let’s have your rundown of the Scots game. Assume you’ll be at Twickers in your John Bull outfit. Have a pint at the Duke of Cambridge and put it on Spiro’s tab.

      • February 2nd 2013 @ 8:55am
        Ben.S said | February 2nd 2013 @ 8:55am | ! Report

        Going to have to respectfully disagree there with some points: the blindside spot is held down by Croft, a proven world class performer, and Wood, who has shown he has the potential to be world class. Robshaw, IMO, is very underrated at what he does. It’s all too easy for the media to portray him as this gallant and silent English leader who lacks real ability, but game after game his stats are impeccable, and he actually has had some very good performances at the breakdown. In many ways he’s the English Dusautoir, but with improved jackal skills. I’d certainly rate him higher than Warburton ATM. However, beyond Robshaw there is nobody really pushing any buttons at 7. Agree re: Morgan. He’s an excellent carrier and has soft hands, but can he play 5 physical Tests in a row?

        I’m a huge fan of Care and Youngs. I think they were excellent in South Africa in the summer and good in the Autumn. The main issue for them is that they like to play off a 10 (Evans and Flood), and Farrell is never going to be that man. Equally, Barritt has never been on the same wavelength of Youngs who likes to crab across the pitch looking for inside balls to forwards or half-gaps. The balance still isn’t there.

        I’m unsure of Farrell. It’s all well and good having composure and a good boot, but his width of passing, timing of passing and vision is lacking. Nearly every good attacking game we have seen from England since 2003 has come with Flood at 10. We can’t just expect to monster sides at the breakdown in every game and play from there because rugby is still a game based on raw emotion and one side will always be more aggressive or physical than the other. To that extent I’m glad 12Trees is in there. We need more at 12, and I hope he could be that man. Barritt is a humble, decent bloke, and he gives his all, but unless he puts together some better performances then effectively he is simply keeping the jersey warm.

        Not sure on the Scotland game. Their front five is pretty big, and if the weather is bad then I could see the England pack being dragged into a dogfight and really struggling (especially in the scrum). That said, our kicking game should be better than the Scots, and Ruaridh Jackson might struggle physically if his channel is targeted, which I assume it will be. I also think the Scotland back row is a bit one-dimensional, and Kelly Brown is nobodies idea of a 7.

        In the backs I would think England have the edge: Scott is solid, but nothing more, and Lamont, despite being a powerful carrier, has terrible hands, so how much ball will the wings see and how much will Barritt be challenged at 13? Visser is a real threat, and Hogg is a livewire, but then so is Goode, and with him and 12Trees there there are 3 playmakers on the pitch for England. I also think we have a far more dynamic bench than the Scots. It could be very close, but then equally I wouldn’t be surprised to see England win by 10-15.

        Equally, Scotland have a new coach, and the pressure is off them, so who knows? They have a dangerous back 3 (although for all the talk of Maitland he is an unknown quantity at this level), a physical midfield pairing and a monster pack. In wet conditions this could be 2000 (was it 2000?) all over again. Can’t wait.

        No ale for me either – new puppy in the house, and still on my New Year’s resolution… Damn you, New Year!

        • February 2nd 2013 @ 11:58am
          ScotandProud said | February 2nd 2013 @ 11:58am | ! Report

          I agree with all those points.
          Ive mentioned the Scots shortcomings in another thread. The only real question mark is Marler: he may become the genuine article in time I think the question is how will he fair against Euan Murray today?

          • February 2nd 2013 @ 12:11pm
            Ben.S said | February 2nd 2013 @ 12:11pm | ! Report

            And Euan Murray has James Hamilton behind him too. It’s a serious tight five. However, as always it will come down to the referee. Marler could get skinned and end up with penalties flowing in his favour. All things being equal Murray should have the clear edge over him.

            I’m more interested to see how Ryan Grant fares. I’d put him up there with Healy and Corbisiero as the top 3 looseheads vying for the final Lions squad. I’ve also noticed that Johnson has made him a vice captain despite having so few caps.

        • February 2nd 2013 @ 4:46pm
          Hightackle said | February 2nd 2013 @ 4:46pm | ! Report

          I disagree about both Barritt and Farrell and imo its the old story of wanting attacking rugby without considering other parts of rugby.
          Barritt is an outstanding defender who gives his all. He may not break the line every game but how many times does he prevent his own line being broken?
          Farrell has won games for Eng and his club with the boot. That is a massive attribute in itself. His kicking from hand is good and he is better than most 10s in defence. His passing game will come. He is only 21, when he is 25 it will be fair to judge his passing game considering Nonu didnt get his right until about 26 or 27.
          I really dont agree with all this stuff about “needing” another Shaw or “needing” another ball player.
          For me if it works, thats what you need. I see no point in wanting to constantly fiddle with the team in hopes of a perfect unit becuz that doesnt exist.
          Having Farrell at 10 and Barritt at 12 causes teams to change gameplans and the way they play. If you give away penalties Farrell will punish you and running at the centre is frustrating and fruitless.

          • February 2nd 2013 @ 11:45pm
            Ben.S said | February 2nd 2013 @ 11:45pm | ! Report

            It’s not a case of wanting attacking rugby without the rest etc at all. I’m fully aware of the need to go straight before going wide, but anybody who has watched England and Saracens over the past two years would find it hard to disagree that both Farrell and Barritt are incompetent as attacking players. Barritt isn’t even a punishing defender either. He’s strong, and a good cover tackler, but he’s no SBW. Also, his carrying is very underwhelming. Hape was a far superior option both defensively and in his ability to off-load. Realistically Barritt isn’t even near being one of the better 12s in the Heineken Cup.

            I don’t think comparing Farrell to Nonu is a fair comparison, because Nonu is a 12 and he was able to compensate for his poor skills with his physicality. Further, NZ had Carter to direct them. Farrell is the fulcrum of the team, and his weaknesses prevent the backs from flourishing. Nonu was an exception. Very few other 12s are promoted to Test rugby with an inability to pass and pass well. It’s shocking that Farrell has got to this level with such poor basic passing skills.

            Neither player causes teams to change their game plans.

            • February 3rd 2013 @ 3:56am
              Hightackle said | February 3rd 2013 @ 3:56am | ! Report

              What a fantastic defensive 12 and a pin point kicker dont change the way teams play against them?
              Yes they do. Do you really think opposition coaches just dismiss the oppositions strengths? Dude they pay attention and its clear you are forgetting what players offer besides defence.
              Farrells passing is nowhere near as bad as you make out and Barritt is nowhere near as bad as you make out.
              I think thats why they are in the team Ben. Ya think?

              • February 3rd 2013 @ 6:47am
                Ben.S said | February 3rd 2013 @ 6:47am | ! Report

                Farrell isn’t a pinpoint kicker, hence he was dropped during the SA Tests. His kicking has improved vastly over the past few months.

                If you think sides change the way they play against Farrell and Barritt then I see no room for serious discussion, and if you’re going to use one excellent pass from Farrell to suggest he somehow has an attacking game then I suggest you’re disingenuously ignoring the fact that Twelvetrees has in one game shown the serious and consistent attacking limitations of Barritt.

            • February 3rd 2013 @ 4:07am
              Hightackle said | February 3rd 2013 @ 4:07am | ! Report

              Farrell was nominated for IRB player of the year and was very good against NZ and as I watch he is also very good against Scot and that includes his passing.

              • February 3rd 2013 @ 4:14am
                Hightackle said | February 3rd 2013 @ 4:14am | ! Report

                And Farrell just put Parling in with a 20 metre skip pass.

              • February 3rd 2013 @ 4:41am
                Hightackle said | February 3rd 2013 @ 4:41am | ! Report

                Farrell motm too. I rest my case.

              • February 3rd 2013 @ 4:52am
                Jerry said | February 3rd 2013 @ 4:52am | ! Report

                “Farrell was nominated for IRB player of the year”

                Which was an absolute joke.

            • February 3rd 2013 @ 4:59am
              Hightackle said | February 3rd 2013 @ 4:59am | ! Report

              The award has always been a bit iffy Jerry but non the less he was a nominee.
              For me he is clearly the best option for Eng. I thought Billy did enough to give Lancaster a few headaches.
              I wouldnt mind seeing Manu and Billy team up at some stage.

              • February 3rd 2013 @ 5:05am
                Jerry said | February 3rd 2013 @ 5:05am | ! Report

                It has, but the nominee list last year was even more random than usual.

    • February 2nd 2013 @ 9:03am
      nickoldschool said | February 2nd 2013 @ 9:03am | ! Report

      Great in depth review, thanks for that Ben.

      I have always been a fan of short-stocky hookers and Youngs fits the bill. He is the type of player who can have a 20m burst on the blind side and i think he will bring a lot of dynamism to England. On the other hand, I dont understand why Courtney Lawes isnt in the starting XV. I havent seen him at club level this year and dunno if he is 100% fit (i guess he is to make the squad) but for me he is the kind of 2nd row you guys need in the next few years. He was really impressive until 2011 and i believe he lost his spot due to injury? Dunno much about his replacement and happy to be proven wrong.

      • February 2nd 2013 @ 9:16am
        Ben.S said | February 2nd 2013 @ 9:16am | ! Report

        Cheers. After the Springbok Test in 2010 Martin Johnson decided that the tight five needed to be … tighter. Hence the selection of Louis Deacon and the dropping of Lawes to the bench – although Lawes did resurface in the 5 jersey during the 2011 World Cup. Problematically Lawes is neither a 4 lock or a 5 lock. He does a little bit of both without being especially dominant come re-start time or in the lineout. I would also assume, given his slight frame, that he isn’t the heaviest scrummager. He’s definitely a very good athlete, but it’s hard to see how he’s developed his game since he burst on to the scene in that famous win over Australia in the summer (and Autumn) of 2010. However, like you say his progression has been interrupted by constant injuries. This is a big season for him given the performance of Launchbury in the Autumn. Lawes hasn’t been helped by the form of his club either, although he has looked strong following his injury comeback. Try and pay special attention to Launchbury if you have the means or time this 6N. I think he’s a very special player.

        • February 2nd 2013 @ 9:31am
          nickoldschool said | February 2nd 2013 @ 9:31am | ! Report

          yep, all games are live on ESPN in oz.

          As a french, i have always had admiration (and hatred) towards England’s 2nd rowers (Ackford, Dooley, Johnson etc) and they are the reason why we started hating England (in a sporting way) more than the other anglo teams in the late 80s early nineties. When i saw Lawes a few years ago i felt ‘oh, not again” as he had this mongrel about him than only saffas 2nd rows seem to have (besides English ones).

          Anyway, looking forward to tonight’s game. I know most southerners do not enjoy the 6N but even far from home i still do. Love the RC for the quality of the games but the 6N is more of an emotional affair imo.

          • February 2nd 2013 @ 11:11am
            Ben.S said | February 2nd 2013 @ 11:11am | ! Report

            I recall reading about Benazzi being scared of Dooley, this giant policeman, when he was just starting out his Test career. Conversely, I’ve always been a big fan of French locks since I’ve been a young man. I thought Pelous was an awesome player, and just caught the end of Benazzi’s career from 1999 onwards. I was a huge fan of Nallet too. IMO one of the most underrated players.

            Lawes has just had some really unfortunately timed injuries, but such is life. Recalling his performance against Bourgoin a few seasons back he is exactly the sort of person who would remind of the forward battles of the early 90s and onwards between France and England. I love le crunch. With the front five that PSA has selected it could be a brutal game this year.

            • February 2nd 2013 @ 11:27am
              nickoldschool said | February 2nd 2013 @ 11:27am | ! Report

              Was a teen during the Ackford-Dooley years and the French media portrayed them as the ultimate enforcers! And the fact one was a cop added to the myth.

              For years we always had these hybrid locks in France who could play 2nd row, 6 or 8, Benazzi being the best example, also cecillion if I remember well, or even Chabal. Really rate Nallet too. but the bloke I remember the most was Merle, the guy we called ‘ the man and a half’. He was our first 2nd row monster. Then we had Brouzet who was also a big lad but just not like Merle who was a giant from the Massif Central and also a tough bloke who didn’t mind a punch up.

              Agree that this year’s game should be special, especially if both teams are 2-0 which I expect.

              • February 2nd 2013 @ 11:37am
                Ben.S said | February 2nd 2013 @ 11:37am | ! Report

                Brouzet was huge, as was Merle. I’d forgotten all about him.

                Yeah, Cecillon was shifted to lock on occasion, as was Chabal, and Pelous played at 6 and 8 too. Of the current squad Chouly can cover lock. Then in the back row there’s been players like Magne, Chabal, Harinordoquy and Bonnaire who have all played 6, 7 and 8. Funnily enough, one of my favourite backrows of all time was the Stade backrow of Moni-Pool Jones-Juillet.

                Actually, Nick, Paul Ackford was police too. I believe he was a detective, whereas Dooley just patrolled the streets.

              • Roar Guru

                February 2nd 2013 @ 1:21pm
                jeznez said | February 2nd 2013 @ 1:21pm | ! Report

                No Roumat in that list? I know he played in the back row a bit but I thought he was an excellent French lock

              • February 2nd 2013 @ 10:19pm
                Ben.S said | February 2nd 2013 @ 10:19pm | ! Report

                Not interested in skinny 5 locks, Jez…

        • February 5th 2013 @ 2:51pm
          Terry Kidd said | February 5th 2013 @ 2:51pm | ! Report

          Ben I remember you approx 4-5 years ago lauding the coming of Lawes. He appears to have slipped markedly in your estimation. Why?

          • February 6th 2013 @ 10:18am
            Ben.S said | February 6th 2013 @ 10:18am | ! Report

            Injuries basically. Also, would have likely been around 2010, Terry as that was when he was making his club breakthrough. Also, following the SA Test in 2010 Johnson decided that England needed a tighter 4 lock. He filled the 5 jersey on occasion, but he has always struggled with injuries, and then in the WC he was suspended for his hit on Ledesma. Thereafter he has been injury prone again, only partly participating in last years 6N and missing the tour to SA in the summer.

    • February 2nd 2013 @ 9:45am
      Salada said | February 2nd 2013 @ 9:45am | ! Report

      Ben – Croft has no bigger fan than me, so you have one third of a great back row, two thirds if Wood shines. Robbo’s problem is that this is the Year of the Back Rows. I can’t see him beating out anybody for the Lions job. Kelly Brown probably won’t make the trip so there’s two captains who may not be going. Three if BOD, instead of being made Lions skipper, doesn’t make the cutoff. Agree about Barritt, but then until Tuilagi came along England hasn’t had a midfield threat since – speak memory – although I know you were a fan of the two Kiwis you employed. Few other people were. Farrell will win games with his penalty kicking. Flood can do that too but most of the England fans I talk to put him up against Carter/Michalak/Sexton and find him comparatively ineffective. As for halfbacks for a lot of us southerners Smith/Weepu/Genia play way different to Youngs/Care whose style isn’t our bag.

      Re the Scots game, I know you don’t want to jinx it which is why you’re being cautious. But you’ll win by 12 points easy.

      • February 2nd 2013 @ 3:57pm
        Hightackle said | February 2nd 2013 @ 3:57pm | ! Report

        Englands backrow was a strength in the end of year tests and got the better of SA, NZ and Aust imo.

      • February 2nd 2013 @ 4:07pm
        Hightackle said | February 2nd 2013 @ 4:07pm | ! Report

        Also Smith is not really similar to Genia or Weepu and I think he is actually more similar to Care and Youngs. Weepu and Genia are composed controllers of the ball whereas Smith is a nippy feeder of the ball.

        Smith is not my bag and Im a Kiwi. His defence is rubbish and he responds poorly to pressure and in unfavorable circumstances.

    • February 2nd 2013 @ 9:58am
      Salada said | February 2nd 2013 @ 9:58am | ! Report

      NICKOLDSCHOOL – I’m one southie who really likes the 6N but then I spent a lot of years living in England and a couple if France.
      With you on the English lock bit – apart from POC there hasn’t been a fearsome enforcer in European rugby since Shaw. Re Lawes – haven’t seen too many forwards who can step right and nail Giteau as he did in that game.

      • February 2nd 2013 @ 10:50am
        nickoldschool said | February 2nd 2013 @ 10:50am | ! Report

        Out of curiosity, who would you (and other SH boys) barrack for in the 6N? Is it based on family heritage, just the quality of rugby played, your experience of these 2 countries when you were there or none of the above?

        Good on you for enjoying both rugby!

        • Roar Guru

          February 2nd 2013 @ 1:25pm
          jeznez said | February 2nd 2013 @ 1:25pm | ! Report

          I’ve got Scottish heritage so always have a soft spot for them. Unfortunately with them so far the pecking order of late they are hard to barrack for. Most of us Aussies have a chip on our shoulder about good ol’ mother England so we tend to cheer for anyone but them.

          • February 2nd 2013 @ 4:27pm
            nickoldschool said | February 2nd 2013 @ 4:27pm | ! Report

            Yeo I got that straight away, no love for the mother nation!, that’s why am fitting well when it comes to rugby!

        • February 2nd 2013 @ 6:08pm
          GWS said | February 2nd 2013 @ 6:08pm | ! Report

          Whoever is playing the poms

        • February 2nd 2013 @ 7:32pm
          Hightackle said | February 2nd 2013 @ 7:32pm | ! Report

          I will be supporting Ireland becuz I really like the Irish players and the attitude of their team. Best, Healy, Ryan, O’Brien and Ferris in the forward pack and Kearney, O’Driscoll, Bowe, Gilroy, Sexton and a few others in the backs…whats not to like?
          I think England will just win the 6 nats but I would like to see Ire win it. I think they will go very close too.

    • February 2nd 2013 @ 11:59am
      Salada said | February 2nd 2013 @ 11:59am | ! Report

      NICK – I found it hard to cheer for England because the rugby was so stodgy. Rob Andrew was fly half and the ball seldom got past him. David Dodge played outside him and if Andrew did do something unexpected, like pass him the pill, Dodge kicked it. This was the era in which Rory Underwood, very fast and with a great swerve, went tryless for umpteen internationals. Roger Baird, the Scots winger, went something like 21 tests without crossing. A little later David Trick came along, probably the fastest winger rugby union ever produced (allowing for differences in track surfaces and timing techniques, Australia’s Johnny Bliss, a leaguie, was the fastest ever in either code) but the English selectors saw no value in a man who could beat everyone to the corner and dropped him after two games. But they kept Andrew at fly of course, and all of Twickers would boo him. So I switched alliances to France partly because of Benazzi and Champ and Sella and the great Serge Blanco. Still root for France, but I`d like England to do well because I`m a fan of Lancaster. And I hope Wales comes out of its dreadful slump.

      BEN – I replied to your post but it may be held up by the editors for some reason. Tautology perhaps.

      • February 2nd 2013 @ 12:12pm
        nickoldschool said | February 2nd 2013 @ 12:12pm | ! Report

        yep good explanation.

        I actually like Lancaster too and am glad he retained the job. Talking about wings’s draughts, Rokocoko has not scored one single try in 18 months at Bayonne. It seems its now more of a laughing matter between players than a taboo subject. He was quite philosophical about it really. Plus he is now playing in the centres and apparently doing very well. Champ was such an old school type of player. the way he faced the haka during the 1987 rwc final at eden park, brilliant.

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