Today saw the announcement of England manager Martin Johnson’s elite squad for the forthcoming RBS Six Nations. After a disappointing series of Autumn Tests, this selection was hugely anticipated by England fans and should provide us with some insight into the intended direction of Johnson’s England.
The inclusion of the uncapped Northampton full-back or scrum-half Ben Foden into the 2009 Six Nations elite squad was arguably the most notable selection made by England manager Martin Johnson today.
Gloucester full-back Olly Morgan was also rewarded by Johnson with selection to the elite squad and there were recalls for the experienced Mike Tindall and England’s forgotten man Mark Cueto.
The recall of Lewis Moody (Leicester Tigers) also brings some experience to the elite squad and captain Steve Borthwick retains his role. The form shown by Delon Armitage, Ugo Monye and Nick Easter in the Guinness Premiership and during the Autumn Internationals where they were cover for injured players has resulted in their inclusion in the elite player squad.
Olly Barkley, Michael Lipman, Jordan Crane, Peter Richards, Dan Hipkiss and James Simpson-Daniel have all had to make way and so drop down into the Saxons squad.
The injured London Wasp’s players Tom Palmer and Tom Rees remain in the elite player squad despite their long term injuries although replacements will be brought in as cover closer to the Six Nations tournament.
As suggested, the selection of Foden is possibly the highlight of Johnson’s selection as he brings some excitement and raw talent to the 32-man squad. However, Foden has been appointed in one of the scrum-half positions as Morgan takes up one of the full-back places. Both of these players have been in top form for their clubs and hopefully, given the chance, they may inject some sparkle back into England’s back line. The talent of Sale Sharks Cueto also gives something for England fans to be excited about.
The experience brought to the squad by Cueto, Tindall and Moody can also only be a good thing for England’s Six Nations prospects. However, the open-side flankers Michael Lipman and Steffon Armitage (London Irish) must be disappointed not to be called into the elite squad as they have been two of the Guiness Premiership’s form players this season. They may still replace the injured Tom Rees but many pundits had expected that at least one of these would have made the elite squad.
Other players who may be disappointed at not making the elite squad are Bath’s Nick Abendanon and Matt Banahan, and the Harlequins centre Jordan Turner-Hall who have also shone this season.
All players will be looking to impress with the upcoming British and Irish Lions Tour to South Africa.
Lovell Rugby therefore asks you for your opinions on Johnson’s England selection. How do you see the intended direction of England and do you agree with Johnson’s squad?
Revised England elite player squad (32):
Forwards: Tim Payne (Wasps), Andrew Sheridan (Sale), Matt Stevens (Bath), Phil Vickery (Wasps), George Chuter (Leicester), Dylan Hartley (Northampton), Lee Mears (Bath), Steve Borthwick (Saracens), Nick Kennedy (London Irish), Tom Palmer (Wasps), Simon Shaw (Wasps), Tom Croft (Leicester), James Haskell (Wasps), Lewis Moody (Leicester), Tom Rees (Wasps), Nick Easter (Harlequins), Luke Narraway (Gloucester).
Backs: Delon Armitage (London Irish), Olly Morgan (Gloucester), Mathew Tait (Sale), Mark Cueto (Sale), Paul Sackey (Wasps), Ugo Monye (Harlequins), Jamie Noon (Newcastle), Mike Tindall (Gloucester), Riki Flutey (Wasps), Shane Geraghty (London Irish), Danny Cipriani (Wasps), Toby Flood (Leicester), Danny Care (Harlequins), Harry Ellis (Leicester), Ben Foden (Northampton).
Revised England Saxons squad (32):
Forwards: Matt Mullan (Worcester), Nick Wood (Gloucester), Julian White (Leicester), David Wilson (Newcastle), David Paice (London Irish), Joe Ward (Wasps), Rob Webber (Wasps), Richard Blaze (Leicester), Louis Deacon (Leicester), Ben Kay (Leicester), George Skivington (Wasps), Steffon Armitage (London Irish), Jordan Crane (Leicester), Tom Guest (Harlequins), Michael Lipman (Bath), Chris Robshaw (Harlequins), Joe Worsley (Wasps).
Backs: Nick Abendanon (Bath), Mike Brown (Harlequins), Matt Banahan (Bath), Topsy Ojo (London Irish), James Simpson-Daniel (Gloucester), David Strettle (Harlequins), Olly Barkley (Gloucester), Dan Hipkiss (Leicester), Jordan Turner-Hall (Harlequins), Dominic Waldouck (Wasps), Ryan Lamb (Gloucester), Stephen Myler (Northampton), Paul Hodgson (London Irish), Peter Richards (London Irish), Richard Wigglesworth (Sale).