“Who’s the first choice number 9?” they ask.
“What about the centre partnership?” they wail.
“Who starts at hooker?”
To which I say: CALM DOWN (dears).
I know I said we should consign 2003 to history (do as I say, not as I do) but, just for a minute, let’s take a quick gander at the England team that faced Australia at Twickenham on 10th November 2001, 2 years prior to the 2003 World Cup:
Trevor Woodman had yet to find his way into the team, Steve Thompson wasn’t yet on the radar, whilst Ben Kay was still a newbie. The jury was out on which of Matt Dawson or Kyran Bracken was the starting no 9, while Ben Cohen was fighting it out with Dan Luger and Austin Healy for the wing positions. Meanwhile Jason Robinson had only just secured a starting berth and Josh Lewsey didn’t force his way back into the team until the 2003 6 Nations. Yes, the captain, back row and midfield were pretty much established but places were generally still up for grabs.
Stuart Lancaster has so far been in charge for two 6 Nations and one November series during which time he has identified a core of players on which he will rely for 2015 and around which he will build his World Cup squad.
Whatever the results over the next three weeks he has earned the right to be allowed to get on with it.