Planet Rugby

England facing selection dilemmas

13th November 2012 11:21

Share:

alex corbisiero england training

Fit again: Alex Corbisiero

Alex Corbisiero, Jonathan Joseph and Chris Ashton may all return for England's clash against Australia - creating selection dilemmas.

Despite the convincing 54-12 scoreline, England were solid if not overly spectacular last weekend at Twickenham, putting in a good performance with seven tries and a dominant set-piece both in the scrum and line-out as expected.

Fiji's spirited opening was enough to keep England on their toes but from then on after the opening quarter, the emphasis was on accuracy and being as clinical as possible.

In that respect, England fell short - Chris Robshaw and Dan Cole were both held up over the line and Joe Marler butchered a simple two-on-one scoring opportunity.

Those chances will have to be taken against Australia, South Africa and New Zealand if England are to be successful.

That is not to say that the Fiji result was without positives. Tom Youngs received ample criticism in the build-up regarding his throwing abilities and finished with a 100 per cent line-out record, hitting all of his 16 throws. Alex Goode also impressed at Twickenham operating as a second distributor alongside Toby Flood.

The hard work of Joe Marler, Youngs and Dan Cole at the scrum also led to England eventually controlling both possession and territory, not forgetting the penalty try before half-time. Given Fiji's lack of preparation, how much can be taken from that dominance is up for debate.

Now ahead of Australia, returning personnel have handed England a trio of selection dilemmas.

Marler has made few mistakes since he took the loosehead spot on the tour of South Africa, but Alex Corbisiero's return to fitness offers competition. Corbisiero has been excellent since he made his England debut back in 2011, performing well at the Rugby World Cup and in last season's Six Nations.

Troublesome ankle and knee injuries have kept him on the sidelines so far this season but after a successful comeback for London Irish against Sale on Sunday, his name is back in contention. However, having played only 62 minutes, his match sharpness has to be questioned.

If Corbisiero was selected ahead of Marler it would emphasise two points - how highly the England management rank Corbisiero's talent and ability regardless of his preparation, along with calling into question their faith in Marler at Test level.

The young Harlequin has made few mistakes since his debut and to see him cut for the game against the Wallabies would be a surprise.

Another area of contention is in the centre. Manu Tuilagi has a minor foot injury but importantly is expected to be fit for the game with Australia. England's most effective attacker, Tuilagi scored two tries against Fiji and found plenty of space, but the identity of his partner in midfield is far from certain.

Brad Barritt has often been criticised for a lack of creativity and distribution, somewhat unfairly, whilst excelling in defence. Against Fiji he was much improved going forward with the ball in hand, but up against Pat McCabe and Ben Tapuai is unlikely to be given as much space.

Jonathan Joseph has less experience than Barritt but his dynamism in midfield is a rare commodity, possessing the sharp footwork and acceleration that elsewhere England lack. Defensively he is sound, but not on Barritt's level.

Selecting the right partner for Tuilagi will indicate how England plan to take down the Wallabies - either keeping it tight through Barritt or looking to play expansively with Joseph.

Chris Ashton's return on the right wing means that one of Ugo Monye and Charlie Sharples will fill the slot on the opposite side, with both getting their chance to impress against Fiji.

Sharples finished with two tries to Monye's one, but Sharples appeared far more threatening when given opportunities and should win that positional battle.

Making the right calls are essential if England are to back up their pre-match billing as favourites following Australia's heavy 33-6 defeat in Paris.

At the same time, compared to the injury crisis faced by the Wallabies, Stuart Lancaster and his coaching team are fortunate to have those options available.

by Ben Coles

@bencoles_

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Top 14
Friday , August 29
Clermont Auvergne vs Montpellier20:45
Saturday , August 30
La Rochelle vs Toulouse14:45
Lyon vs Brive18:30
Oyonnax vs Stade Francais18:30
Castres vs Bay Of Plenty18:30
Grenoble vs Bordeaux-Begles18:30
Racing Metro Paris vs Toulon20:45
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Friday , August 29
Pumas vs SharksPumas vs Sharks Preview
Saturday , August 30
Griquas vs Cheetahs15:00
Blue Bulls vs Western Province17:05
Eastern Province Kings vs Lions19:10
More Currie Cup fixtures
ITM Cup
Friday , August 29
Wellington vs ManawatuWellington vs Manawatu Preview
Saturday , August 30
Counties Manukau vs Hawkes Bay14:35
Southland vs Otago17:35
North Harbour vs Waikato19:35
Sunday , August 31
Taranaki vs Bay Of Plenty14:35
Auckland vs Tasman16:35
Wednesday, September 3
Manawatu vs Bay Of Plenty19:35
More ITM Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
ITM Cup
Thursday , August 28
Canterbury 48 - 3 NorthlandCanterbury vs Northland Report
Wednesday, August 27
Waikato 17 - 46 TaranakiWaikato vs Taranaki Report
Sunday , August 24
Manawatu 7 - 35 AucklandManawatu vs Auckland Report
Bay Of Plenty 27 - 56 TasmanBay Of Plenty vs Tasman Report
More ITM Cup results
Rugby Championship
Saturday , August 23
New Zealand 51 - 20 AustraliaNew Zealand vs Australia Report
Argentina 31 - 33 South AfricaArgentina vs South Africa Report
More Rugby Championship results
Top 14
Brive 6 - 21 Clermont AuvergneBrive vs Clermont Auvergne Report
Bayonne 38 - 12 Oyonnax
Bordeaux-Begles 30 - 21 Racing Metro Paris
Stade Francais 23 - 20 Lyon
Toulon 60 - 19 La Rochelle
Montpellier 20 - 17 GrenobleMontpellier vs Grenoble Report
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Blue Bulls 30 - 25 Eastern Province KingsBlue Bulls vs Eastern Province Kings Report
Western Province 27 - 14 LionsWestern Province vs Lions Report
Sharks 19 - 16 CheetahsSharks vs Cheetahs Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Northland 35 - 5 WellingtonNorthland vs Wellington Report
Counties Manukau 29 - 25 OtagoCounties Manukau vs Otago Report
More ITM Cup results
Top 14
Friday , August 22
Toulouse 35 - 6 CastresToulouse vs Castres Report
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Pumas 33 - 15 GriquasPumas vs Griquas Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Waikato 27 - 58 CanterburyWaikato vs Canterbury Report
Hawkes Bay 29 - 26 TaranakiHawkes Bay vs Taranaki Report
Thursday , August 21
North Harbour 21 - 25 Southland
Sunday , August 17
Tasman 35 - 15 Hawkes BayTasman vs Hawkes Bay Report
Northland 23 - 28 Manawatu
More ITM Cup results
Rugby Championship
Saturday , August 16
Australia 12 - 12 New ZealandAustralia vs New Zealand Report
More Rugby Championship results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Bath00
2Exeter00
3Gloucester00
4Harlequins00
5Leicester Tigers00