Picking an England-Wales composite XV ahead of Twickenham showdown
Newcastle Falcons fullback Mike Brown has let it be known that no Welshman would get into the current England team. It’s a take that will have left many a Welsh fan reeling but it opened a discussion on who would feature in a combined England-Wales side.
Below RugbyPass tentatively puts forward some suggestions.
1. Wyn Jones
One of the best scrummagers in the game, Wyn Jones packs a lot of punch. He reached the international arena late in his career and has looked at home ever since, earning a Lions call up for his efforts. There is an argument to be made that Ellis Genge is a more physical presence in the front row but Jones’ all-round game is more balanced.
2. Jamie George
Jamie George has not been a nailed-on starter of late for England but showed his class against Italy, commanding driving mauls whilst also scoring tries out wide like a winger. Luke Cowan-Dickie deserves his plaudits, and so does Welsh hooker Ryan Elias, who put in an admirable player of the match performance against Scotland, however, the Saracen is the most versatile of the three.
3. Kyle Sinckler
Kyle Sinckler has been a perennial England starter for some time now, balancing ferocity in the collision with nimble handling. Tomas Francis comes close to usurping Sinckler, given his set-piece strength, but the Englishman holds firm because of his physicality and superior mobility.
4. Maro Itoje
Maro Itoje is one of the best second rows in the world. Defensively dominant, a leader by example and disruptive in the line-out, Itoje is an international stalwart of the highest calibre. The hulking Will Rowlands brings his own weapons to the ring but he’s outmatched here.
5. Adam Beard
In the absence of Alun Wyn Jones, Adam Beard has stepped up and become a talisman for the Welsh pack. A commanding force in the line-out, Beard disrupted the Scotland set-piece to no end earlier in the month and is a physical ball carrier to boot. Rowlands is a capable sidekick to Beard but is very much the deputy in the pairing.
6. Sam Simmonds
Sam Simmonds is not a flanker by choice but the speed and physicality which the number eight brings to the game makes his place at the side of the scrum feasible. With an impressive try-scoring record and blistering pace, Simmonds is a backrow forward that offers more than just consistent collisions. The explosive Taine Basham is worth a mention for Wales, but the Exeter man edges this one.
7. Tom Curry
Tom Curry has an engine that never runs dry. England’s young captain appears all over the pitch both as a tackler and a powerful ball carrier, never dropping his intensity levels. With Josh Navidi and Justin Tipuric both out through injury, Curry is a shoo-in in this combined team.
8. Alex Dombrandt
It has taken a while, but it seems like Alex Dombrandt is finally becoming an England starter. The surprisingly fast No.8 has silky hands and a penchant for scoring which rivals England teammate Simmonds. The Harlequins loose forward squeezes out the teak-tough Ross Moriarty.
9. Tomos Williams
In many ways Tomos Williams is the perfect nine. He kicks well, can steer attacking play decisively and defend effectively. In Round Two, Williams made almost double the number of tackles of any other starting nine. Picking Williams over Ben Youngs, the joint highest capped Englishman ever, was a tough call, but Williams’ controlled performance against Scotland gave him the edge.
10. Marcus Smith
This was a hard one. Marcus Smith’s international career has only just started but he already looks to be one England’s key playmakers. Deadly in attack against Scotland and Italy, Smith has become the first English flyhalf to beat six players in a Six Nations match since 2002. Dan Biggar is an imperious game manager but just lacks the unique edge that Smith offers.
11. Max Malins
A very capable player in the backfield, Max Malins is a safe pair of hands with deceptive pace. He glides across the turf, lulling defenders into a false sense of security. British & Irish Lions wing Josh Adams, had a nightmare in Dublin after being forced to play out of position at 13 and missed round two through injury.
12. Nick Tompkins
Nick Tompkins is like a Swiss army knife. The Saracens centre can do almost anything, offering a strong step and defensive reliability. He is one of the chief marshals in the Welsh defence, raking up a tackle count which supersedes almost everyone. Jonathan Davies may return to the Welsh starting line-up this weekend but his fitness levels are still dubious.
13. Henry Slade
Eddie Jones has tampered a lot with his centre pairing but one man has been a constant through all the iterations – Henry Slade. The Exeter star’s attacking nous and long-range kicking ability has helped him become a key figure in the backline. Joe Marchant is yet to establish himself as a consistent selection for Jones, while Manu Tuilagi’s injury profile and lack of game time rule him out.
14. Louis Rees-Zammit
Welsh speedster Louis Rees-Zammit was a revelation in last year’s Six Nations, scoring tries with ease. In the first two rounds this term, Rees-Zammit has been less prolific but still offers a bit of x-factor which others only dream of.
15. Liam Williams
There was a moment in round two when Williams caught a ball deep in his 22, calmly drifted right and waited until the onrushing defender was within touching distance before releasing a pass behind his back to Dan Biggar, who cleared. Not many fullbacks are as calm in the face of adversity as Williams. England’s Freddie Steward is excellent but still has a way to go before reaching the pedigree of Williams.
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