Monday, 13 August 2007


So, the waiting's over and Brian Ashton has picked his 30 for the World Cup and there are absolutely no surprises in his choices.

It's not as if (unlike four years ago) the vast majority of the squad picked itself this time around, but ultimately no one really played themselves into this squad and so we're left with the tried and tested, or rather the tried, tested and (more often than not in the last few years) failed.

For the record those excluded were: Nick Abendanon, Danny Cipriani, Toby Flood, Kevin Yates, James Haskell and Tom Palmer, plus Mike Tindall and Charlie Hodgson, both of whom were always extreme outside bets given their efforts to recover from serious injuries.

Of those excluded, Danny Cipriani must be wondering how he was meant to show his ability given he's had no game time during the last two weekends and no previous opportunity to show his talents to Brian Ashton. Kevin Yates will also be disappointed after putting in a commendable shift on the South African trip, while I think England will miss James Haskell's athleticism and mobility in the back row, where Dallaglio and Easter hardly provide the most mobile of alternatives.

I guess what I was looking for from Ashton in his squad selection was that he had something or someone up his sleeve, a "bolter" like Cipriani or Haskell who might just offer up something different from the predictable fare that England are likely to serve up. It's all very well being predictable when you're winning, but when there's still a yawning chasm left to close between England and the top few teams then something different is needed.

The only player to be included in the 30 who might not have been a month ago is Bath's Olly Barkley - at the expense of the more unpredictable but less solid Toby Flood. That Barkley has worked hard and is a fairly robust character is not in doubt, but safety and solidity don't exactly set the pulse racing.

It'll be instructive to see who Ashton selects for his 1st XV away to France in Marseilles at the weekend...personally I'd go for Cueto, Lewsey, Hipkiss, Catt, Robinson, Wilkinson, Perry, Sheridan, Regan, Vickery, Shaw, Borthwick, Worsley, Dallaglio, Rees.

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