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Ex-England player's theory about why Ted Hill hasn't made tour squad

By Liam Heagney
Bath's Ted Hill looks on during the Gallagher Premiership final (Photo by Patrick Khachfe/Getty Images)

Former England out-half Andy Goode has delivered his verdict on why the in-form Ted Hill hasn’t been chosen to tour Japan and New Zealand despite his impressive ending to the Gallagher Premiership season. The impact of the 25-year-old back-rower was one of the prime reasons why Bath reached the league final and came so agonisingly close to beating Northampton last Saturday and becoming champions of England for the first time since 1996.

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Hill, who arrived at Bath in October 2022 following the collapse of Worcester, had been capped twice before by England. Eddie Jones gave him a November 2018 debut as a teenager versus Japan and he was involved a second time during the 2021 Summer Series at Twickenham.

He has since recently flourished under Johann van Graan at Bath but was still been unable to force his way into Steve Borthwick’s plans for the three-game tour that begins versus Japan on June 22 before heading to New Zealand for a two-Test July series.

Borthwick named a 36-strong squad on Monday and the back row forwards included were Chandler Cunningham-South (Harlequins, 4 caps), Ben Curry (Sale Sharks, 5 caps), Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, 50 caps), Alex Dombrandt (Harlequins, 17 caps), Ben Earl (Saracens, 30 caps), Ethan Roots (Exeter Chiefs, 4 caps) and Sam Underhill (Bath Rugby, 35 caps), with lock George Martin (Leicester Tigers, 12 caps) also capable of playing six.

The selection was discussed by Goode on the latest episode of The Rugby Pod with former Scotland lock Jim Hamilton and it was suggested that Hill perhaps paid the price for being too similar a player to the Curry twins and Earl.

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The show hosts also discussed what the outcome of the series in New Zealand might be, with Goode predicting a possible one-all draw and Hamilton sticking with the All Blacks if England attempt to continue to their play their March style of attacking rugby. Here is how their England squad selection conversation unfolded:

Goode: The balance of the squad and the excitement looking at probably where New Zealand are at the minute because no one really knows where they are going to be with the players that they have lost and new coaches coming in. Yes, they have done well Super Rugby with the Blues and the Chiefs and the Hurricanes, they have three teams in the semi-finals, but it’s a bit of an unknown and England had a bit of momentum at the end of the Six Nations after beating Ireland and nearly beating France over in France but we changed the way we played a bit.

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Looking at the squad, there is nice balance to it. The big question for me is around who is going to play 10, Marcus Smith or Fin Smith. You have probably got to back Marcus. I don’t know whether to go negative early around players who haven’t made it but there must have been some tough calls. Because you look at Ted Hill and how he has played towards the end of the year, he is unlucky. Curtis Langdon, is he injured with his shoulder? I thought he was really unlucky.

Hamilton: He looked injured.

Goode: He did. Gabriel Oghre has got the nod as that third choice hooker. Alfie Barbeary, he hasn’t got a shout again. You go back to the Premiership final, he gets taken off, did that have an impact or not? George Ford is out injured. Jack van Poortvliet isn’t there either. No Elliot Daly, Max Malins. There are players missing but looking at the squad I am really excited. You have got both Curry boys there – and maybe that’s the thing for Ted Hill, that he is too similar to the Curry boys. As we know, Steve Borthwick likes a tall six that can operate in the lineout as well, so maybe there is just too much similarity between the likes of Ben Earl, Curry boys etc etc. I like the squad. It’s going to be interesting to see. Tighthead is a big thing because Dan Cole is still going at 42 (sic), fair play.

Hamilton: That’s the issue amongst a lot of the teams. Scotland have the same thing. Who wants to prop these days?

Goode: Exactly. But yeah, Cunningham-South in the back row, I can’t wait to see him play. Ben Earl has been one of England’s best players over the last couple of years. Jamie George skippering it still. Maro (Itoje) is going. George Martin back fit again. Big impacts expected from him. And then Sam Underhill is in the mix as well. Maybe Ted Hill is a bit unlucky because of the quality of players that are similar to him. But in the backs, Joe Carpenter called up for the first time. He has been on fire for Sale as full-back. (Immanuel) Feyi-Waboso, can’t wait to see him play. (Tommy) Freeman has been brilliant. (George) Furbank has been really good as well, he got given his shot again during the Six Nations.

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He is walking into camp with a winners’ medal around his neck. Ollie Lawrence. The battle for nine is interesting because Harry Randall is back in the mix but (Alex) Mitchell against Ben Spencer, who is he going to back? He is going to back Mitchell to start off with. But yeah, how many times do you get to go to New Zealand in your career as an international and before a tour think, ‘F***in’ hell, we have got a good chance of going down there and winning’. Because that should be England’s mindset. Not necessarily off out and out form because we had a bit of a sticky Six Nations to start off with and them improved. But looking at the opportunity to go and beat the All Blacks in their own back yard. Ireland did  it in 2022. You take a little bit of that blueprint of how they did things.

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The unknown is how Razor (Scott Robertson) is going to change things up. Who is going to be his 10? England can go there full of optimism and hope and have every chance of winning this series. I know it’s only a two-match series but even coming away with a draw, winning one game each, would be a huge positive. I’m looking forward to seeing how it develops and hopefully England can kick on and continue in the attacking mindset vein they had towards the back end of the Six Nations.

Hamilton: That was the stuff we were talking about after, about going down to New Zealand. I threw out there as a question, have New Zealand lost their aura and RugbyPass packaged up a bit of content around us talking about England going down there. Like, are we crazy to think that they could go down there and beat the All Blacks? I don’t know. I am different because I got spanked by the All Blacks. I love the brand, love Scott Robertson. I feel like it’s an impossible challenge for England regardless of what kind of squad they have got.

But that’s not based on anything other than historic trauma and also my love of the All Blacks. Do you know what I mean? It is hard to unpack because the question marks on England are if they play the way they did against South Africa, then they could go down there and do something. But if they go down there and play the way that they fans want them to play or the pressure of playing an attacking style rugby, then they ain’t winning. You are not going to beat the All Blacks in that style of rugby. I don’t think think that England are set up, even with Marcus Smith at 10, to play that style of rugby against the All Blacks and win.

I might be wrong and I hope I am wrong from an English point of view – but that is what you have to ask. I wonder what Steve’s thinking. Is he thinking go down there and really try the new style of rugby that we want to play with Alex Mitchell, with Marcus Smith, with Ollie Lawrence? Like, who is going to be in the centre with him? Is it going to be Henry Slade who has been in form? You have now got Feyi-Waboso who will be a shoe-in to start. Who is your full-back going to be? What are your second rows going to look like?

You have got decent options… you have loads of options but the English way of playing, people are uncertain of. That is what is going to be so good, but I do wonder their mindset going down to New Zealand. You look at the tours, they are two unbelievable tours – South Africa against Ireland, England against New Zealand. Like, that’s mega. It’s meant to be the end of the season. It’s not. These are going to be wicked games!

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4 Comments
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finn 9 days ago

If Borthwick didn’t want too many players like the Curry twins then he wouldn’t have picked both Curries, Underhill, and Earl in the same squad.

Hill is most similar to Roots and Cunningham-South, and he probably wasn’t selected because he isn’t quite as good as they are.

S
Samuel 9 days ago

Would be a good theory if he was anything like the Curry twins tbf. He jumps at the lineout and covers lock too, I suspect the fact he was injured for the 6N and then couldn’t take part in any of the training camps due to Bath reaching the final has hindered his cause. If he carries on his form into next season he’ll be in the Autumn squads almost certainly I’d say.

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Shaylen 5 hours ago
Brumbies the best team in Australia but still nothing to show for it

The Brumbies have been the strongest side in Australia for a long time and that was down to their forwards and set piece which has always been good and has always been able to dominate their Australian counterparts. This year the lack of maul tries and also the lack of a stable scrum has been a real problem which was also something Nick alluded to in his article this week about the creaking brumbies tight five. Home advantage is key as you say and the Brumbies must find a way to score more bonus points. If the Brumbies are really serious about winning a title they need to do what Kiwi sides at the top do. They need to smash every Aus side with a bonus point at home while claiming losing bonus points in every game they lose and denying their rivals bonus points. In their 3 losses in NZ this year they were smashed. They only scored 60 tries which is middle of the road, their scrum came in at 73% which was one of the worst in the comp, tackle success at just 83% which was right at the bottom and in terms of metres, clean breaks, carries, offloads and rucks built they were in the middle plus they had the most yellows. They basically were just not dominant enough wile they can improve their discipline. They excelled at kicking and won plenty of lineout ball plus their rucks were secure at 97%. Not sure about turnovers but they weren’t bad there. They just need to be more clinical and give away less and they will give themselves the best chance to win the title.

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