The current crop of England stars put in an improved performance today against the USA. They have bigger tests ahead and a some tougher opponents to beat in order to reach the 2019 Rugby World Cup Final, can they do it?
So far in our Favourite XV’s series we have covered current World Champions New Zealand, double World Cup winners South Africa, the Six Nations Grand Slam holders Wales. Next up is England! A mixture of past and present greats have made our favourite fifteen this month.
So here they are, our England “Favourite XV”.
1. Jason Leonard.
“The fun bus”. Not only one of the best props in the world and one-time holder of the most caps he is also a huge character. Had a career that crossed between amateur and professional and remained at the top throughout. Holds the record for the most Rugby World Cup appearances jointly with Richie McCaw. After a stint as RFU President Leonard has recently been appointed as Chairman of the British and Irish Lions.
2. Jamie George.
Maybe a bit of a controversial pick considering past England hookers, but we feel Jamie has it all and will be (if not already) one of the best ever. Jamie is a strong scrummager and deadly accurate throwing into the line out, but it is in open play where he excels over other hookers. He has the hands of a back and an outrageous turn of speed for someone who is 113 kg meaning he can link perfectly between the forwards and the backs.
3. Fran Cotton.
Fran Cotton is an absolute giant of a man who would impose opposition scrums with his sheer size and strength. However, it was his technical skill and ability to play on both sides of the scrum that makes him a legend. He was part of the famous 1974 Lions teams who ran riot in South Africa winning 21 out of 22 games.
4. Martin Johnson
One of the most impressive captains that rugby has ever seen. Martin Johnson was a huge, powerful second row who had a rugby brain like no other. A one club man playing all his professional career at Leicester he was a true leader and pivotal in England’s Grand Slam and World Cup winning team. Not many players were as feared as England’s talismanic leader.
5. Ben Kay.
A surprisingly hard position to decide on with Shaw, Borthwick and others all in contention. Kay’s World Cup performances decided it for us. He played in every minute of every game (except vs Uruguay) of the 2003 and 2007 World Cups. Despite famously knocking the ball on over the line in the final in 2003 he dusted himself off and performed heroically helping England win in extra time.
6. Richard Hill.
Hard as nails and a workhorse in the backrow, Hill was crucial to England and Sir Clive Woodward didn’t drop him once. Despite numerous serious injuries, Hill always made a comeback and was picked at the highest level most notably for his third Lions tour in 2005 after an anterior cruciate ligament injury. By getting his head down and doing the hard stuff you often wouldn’t notice that Hill was there, but you definitely noticed it when he wasn’t.
7. Neil Back.
Not regularly picked for many years due to his “small size” Back was finally given his opportunity for England and the Lions after a tough self-imposed training regime. He never looked back. Three Lions tours and part of one of England’s greatest back rows all culminated in that famous final win in 2003. A perfect example of how size doesn’t matter in rugby.
8. Lawrence Dallaglio.
Such competition here for the number 8 position. We went with Lawrence as he was a dynamic, skilful number 8 who not only had a powerful running game but also great hands. He is one of a very small group who have won the Rugby World Cup at 7’s and 15’s! Now a pundit and analyst on TV he will be on your screens through the World Cup.
9. Matt Dawson.
The model of a perfect scrum half. Dawson was a great general ordering the pack around and could also gain territory with a clever kicking game. He was a live wire around the scrum, sniping and attacking if he spotted any gaps. His dummy in the 1998 Lions tour sent the whole Springbok pack the wrong way and led to a classic try.
10. Jonny Wilkinson.
“Sir” Jonny Wilkinson. Takes the 10 jersey for us. He was probably the first household name in English rugby recognised by those outside the sport. Mostly known for his kicking he was also a destructive tackler who hit way beyond his weight. This probably contributed to his long absences with injuries in the second half of his career. Oh, and he also slotted the winning kick in the 2003 final, as if we have to say!
11. Jason Robinson.
“Billy Whizz” was unstoppable when he was in full flight. His footwork dazzled defenders and even his teammates were never sure which way he was going to run! Robinson played Internationally in both League and Union, but it was for England Rugby Union where he excelled. 30 tries in 56 caps for England including a try in the RWC Final 2003 is why he is our super winger!
12. Will Greenwood.
Our favourite inside centre who chose to wear 13 for superstitious reasons. Greenwood was an excellent playmaker but also a prolific try scoring centre with a strike rate of 31 tries in 55 England tests. Greenwood was unusually picked for a Lions tour before he had played for England. However, it wasn’t long before he pulled on the white jersey. England have struggled to fill the 12 position since his retirement.
13. Manu Tuilagi.
It is often said of Manu by any rugby coach “If he’s available you pick him”. Manu is one of a kind who can change a game in a moment like the great Jonah Lomu. His power and running ability can break open defences even if there are five or more players in front of him. Unfortunately, his recent career has been blighted by serious injuries but… he is now available, so we picked him!
14. Rory Underwood.
England’s greatest ever try scorer with 49 tries just can’t be left out. One of the deadliest finishers in the game, Underwood was a weapon for England and opposition teams struggled to stop him when he had the try line in sight. Excelled for the Lions as well and had one of England’s biggest fans at every game, his mum!
15. Josh Lewsey.
Another Rugby World Cup Final winner and Lion’s test player, Lewsey was England’s “rock” at the back. He was a very physical and strong fullback and he had a great talent for reading the game in front of him. His hard-tackling worried many opposition teams but he also contributed 22 tries during his international career.
Finishers: Will Carling, Mike Catt, Rob Andrew, Simon Shaw, Lewis Moody, Billy Vunipola, Jeremy Guscott.