Tuesday, 29 January 2008

England V Wales

So the England team has been announced.

England: Iain Balshaw (Gloucester), Paul Sackey (Wasps), Mike Tindall (Gloucester), Toby Flood (Newcastle), David Strettle (Harlequins), Jonny Wilkinson (Newcastle), Andy Gomarsall (Harlequins); Andrew Sheridan (Sale), Mark Regan (Bristol), Phil Vickery (Wasps), Simon Shaw (Wasps), Steve Borthwick (Bath), James Haskell (Wasps), Lewis Moody (Leicester), Luke Narraway (Gloucester).
Subs: Lee Mears (Bath), Matt Stevens (Bath), Ben Kay (Leicester), Tom Rees (Wasps), Richard Wigglesworth (Sale), Dan Cipriani (Wasps), Lesley Vainikolo (Gloucester).

A few surprises. I fully expected to Tait in the squad so I am surprised that Balshaw he hasn't been playing that well for Gloucester have been picked instead. The reason being they needed a experience full back. Well I agree you do need an experienced full back but Tait should be playing in the center. If you needed a proper full back why wasn't Josh Lewesy picked in the first place. Ashton seems to have a thing for Balshaw as it was him who spotted Balshaw when he was 16 years old. It almost that he is trying to prove he was right all those years ago by picking him again.

Tindall playing center is no surprise either, another of Ashton's old bath crew. However, I will have to admit that Tindall has been in great form in recent months. Great to see Sackey and Strettle team up on the wingers, both of them have proved they can also defend as well as attack. So were does it leave Cipriani to play? replacement fly half for Jonny, replacement centre for Flood and Flood replace Jonny, replacement full back for Balshaw. Knowing Balshaw he will get injured after 30 minutes and so I guess this is where we will see Cipriani play.

Not a bad side, but not our best either still missing Harry Ellis at scrum half plus need a solid full back. Be interesting to see come the final game against Ireland who is still in the squad!!!

So that leaves the Welsh side.

Wales: Lee Byrne (Ospreys); Shane Williams (Ospreys), Sonny Parker (Ospreys), Gavin Henson (Ospreys), Mark Jones (Scarlets); James Hook (Ospreys), Mike Phillips (Ospreys); Duncan Jones (Ospreys), Huw Bennett (Ospreys), Adam Jones (Ospreys), Ian Gough (Ospreys), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Jonathan Thomas (Ospreys), Martyn Williams (Blues), Ryan Jones (capt, Ospreys).
Replacements: Matthew Rees (Scarlets), Gethin Jenkins (Blues), Ian Evans (Ospreys), Alix Popham (Scarlets), Gareth Cooper (Gloucester), Stephen Jones (Scarlets), Tom Shanklin (Blues).

He has basically picked the whole Ospreys team where he can and filled in the blanks with the other teams where necessary. I assume this is to bring some level of compatibility to the side and knowledge of playing together. At the moment they have looked the best welsh team in the European competition. May be he is hopingt this well help the team gel quickly together and try and transfer team understanding to a national side. Strategically this is an interesting decision, I wonder how many of the Osprey moves and plays he is bring with them to game on Saturday.

Sun Tzu said "If you know others and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know others but know yourself, you win one and lose one; if you do not know others and do not know yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle."

I believe that by playing a majority of the Osprey's team he is making sure they know them selves. So how well do they know their enemy? Not sure anyone knows how England well play at the moment, not even Gatland. This could be England's biggest advantage in this competition or their biggest weakness as they have yet to gel into a team. I would suggest they have a reasonable idea after the World Cup and 2 weeks training together. At least they will know what to expect from the Welsh side if the play like the Osprey's play. Again they could play a totally different game, however then what is the point of picking the squad for all he same team?

I predict England to win more due to the home advantage and the lack of preparation from the Welsh squad together under the new management. This is more down to time than talent with regards to the new management.

From there another game against Italy should build the confidence and allow the team to form properly unless injuries prevent a similar squad being picked again. After Italy the big one, France in Paris. The French well be after revenge but they will also be in the midst of rebuilding their team!!!

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