The Centre of Attention
Who should England pick in the Centers at this World cup? Everybody has an opinion. Here’s mine.
At the time of writing, this is hottest topic in English rugby. By the time of publication, no doubt the issue will settled. By the time some lonely internet rugger stumbles across the following musing, it’ll be time for Rugby World Cup 2019. Nevertheless, I will not be deterred.
Jonathan Joseph? Yes of course. Brad Barritt? Go on then,
This leaves two, from Sam Burgess, Luther Burrell and Henry Slade.
I’m predictable. Anyone who knows me, before I open my mouth, will be able to tell you Slade and Burgess are the winner’s choice. Now, let me tell you why. You don’t win world cups with good players. You win world cups with world class players.
England need to make positive picks, Brad Barritt is the safe choice, let’s get excited by the rest.
Luther Burrell was a breath of fresh air when he bulldozed onto the scene for England, his bullish premiership from translated seamlessly into the red rose. I championed him, so did everyone else. I championed him because he was better than the alternative. He has many strengths; strength being right at the top of the list. BUT where is his ‘Spike’? Are Conrad Smith and Ma’a Nonu really going to sit down in the video room and say ‘hey Sonny, watch out for this…’?
By players with Spikes, I mean players with attributes that are the in the top percent in the world. Not the Burrells of this game, who ‘will do a job’ but those who Spike in one or two areas. You want players who can frighten the life out of the opposition, offensively or defensively. It’s then the coach’s responsibility to get the right balance.
Look at England’s world cup winning side, in 2003. Jason Robinson, undoubtedly the most exciting feet in the game. Could he put others into gaps? No. Could he compete under the high ball? Could Tyrion Lannister? – look at Australia’s try in the final. Yet, was he a world beater? Without a doubt, he was. Perhaps a more pertinent example would be Mike Catt. On the one hand, a defensive liability, prone to moments of crazy, on the other he was a perfect playmaker to sit outside Johnny and had some of the best attacking vision in the world.
Sam Burgess is has a world class Spike. I agree with Mike Ford and say he is /will be a better 6 in Union. That said, I’ve never seen an international center command the 12 channel in defence as he did against France. The control he had accelerating out the line to smash France’s biggest ball carriers was as rare as it was beautiful. I could go on for hours about what is leadership, bottle and stone cold grunt would give to the squad, but I’ll save my ‘ode to Sam Burgess’ for another day.
Slade too shows moments that would catapult him into any team in the world. He has positioning to work on and he doesn’t have Brian O’Driscoll breakdown work, but what he does have is a terrific choice selection, and spot on execution, his big Spike. This is the player you want to play outside of if you’re in a gap, you’re getting the ball. I like Henry Slade, back him, he will be could be a world beater, he might just be one already. Pick him.
Yet, whoever Lancaster chooses, I fear he will get his section shoved down his throat. ‘He should have picked Steffon Armitage’, ‘he should have picked Danny Cipriani’ ‘He should have picked Rob Hayes.’ All valid points.
I just thank God it won’t be Twelvetrees.