So with the 2015 World cup rapidly approaching, and much being made of the youth involved in the England first fifteen, I'm going to look into the distant future and Japan 2019. Who will line up for the final in the white jersey with the red rose? (ages are adding 4 to the current age, can't be bothered with Maths, so they may be a year out! Also not taking into account some emerging players that I haven't heard of yet!)
So here's my 32 man squad....
The starting 15
15 - Anthony Watson. With Mike Brown being 33 in 4 years time, the likelihood is he won't be involved for England at that point, Watson, however will be 25 and in his prime. I don't think, and have said several times, that Watson is ready for international rugby right now, however in 4 years time, he is going to be a star player for England. Fast, direct and tricky, could very well end up being 'the new Jason Robinson' and I think full back is his best position.
14 - Jonny May. Yep, I'm totally biased. Jonny has improved his game every season for Gloucester and is consistently a top try scorer. He'll be 29 when Japan comes around, and will be an attacking threat due to his speed of mind as well as his fast feet. Needs to tighten up defensively, but is already one of the Northern Hemisphere's best strike runners and will only improve.
13 - Manu Tuilagi. He will still only be 28, and if he stays injury free, will fight off the challenge of Henry Slade and Jonathan Joseph for the 13 jersey due to the sheer power of his runs. Coupled with the attacking threat of the back 3, his directness will be the plan B England often seem to lack. We all know what he's capable of, and in another 4 years, he will hit his peak.
12 - Sam Hill. He'll be 26 in 2019, the former England U20's standout will be a force to be reckoned with by then. I personally don't think either Sam Burgess or Kyle Eastmond have the all round game to stake the claim for England's troubled 12 spot, and by 2019, Billy Twelvetrees and Luther Burrell will be long forgotten for international honours. Elliot Daly is another big shout for the position, but the dreaded 'Utility' tag may see Daly claim a bench spot as opposed to a starting spot. We'll get to that later.....
11 - Jack Nowell. Another Exeter youngster who'll be in his mid 20's by the time Japan comes around, already, like Jonny May, has experience of big games for England, so will surely be another that gets better as he matures into his rugby career. Starting to add try scoring to his repertoire, looks like he's going to be a long term international player.
10 - George Ford. He'll still only be 26 so will add better decision making and maturity to his already impressive all around attributes. Alex Lozowski is coming through at Wasps, but Ford is looking like he has the capacity to become one of the 'Once in a generation' type of player that will dominate the England 10 shirt for years to come!
9 - Ben Youngs. Would still be 29 years old. Often fails to live up to his potential, but seemingly is starting to mature and was at his best at times in the recent 6 nations. Needs a little work with his kicking, and parts of his personality may need toning down, but I wouldn't bet against him still being there in 4 years!
8 - Billy Vunipola. Another who will still only be 26 years old! Already has 17 caps under his belt. Ben Morgan could potentially be in the mix, as he'll only be 30, But also Dave Ewers and Jack Clifford will look to be wearing the 8 shirt. I just think Billy, who'll will be on 50 odd caps at a relatively young age, playing high level club rugby and is a ball carrying machine, will JUST have the edge.
7 - Matt Kvesic. He'll be 27 in 2019. Has been the standout English 'traditional' 7 this season, which culminated in him being called up to England training squad for the 6 nations. He's developed into a top level Jackal this season, having learned the hard way last season about penalty counts. He's also developed his carrying game and is now one of the first names on the Cherry and White's teamsheet.
6 - Maro Itoje. He'll be 24 for the Japanese world cup. A super impressive season at Saracens for the former England U20's world cup winning captain. 6 foot 5 and around 18 stone, Itoje is equally capable of featuring as a lock or a back row. It's not a question of 'If' Maro plays for England, it's a matter of 'When'. This guy is the real deal. Hotly tipped as a future captain. The rugby press have a habit of over hyping decent players as superstars. Maro is a bona fide superstar in the making.
5 - Courtney Lawes. Would be one of the older statesmen for England at 30, but is already a talisman, an enforcer and Jeff Powell's least favourite player. (#Jeffsaknob) Age may slow Lawes down, but he'll still be top level and he'll still terrify fly halves every time he steps onto the pitch.
4 - Joe Launchbury. Would be 28 in 2019. The baby face shouldn't fool you. Launchbury is a monster in the loose, as well as a top level lineout operator and strong scrummager. The Yin to Lawes Yang, whilst Courtney terrorises and brutalises the opponent, Launchbury will out think and outplay them.
3 - Paul Hill. Who? I hear you cry.... Hill has just signed for Northampton from Yorkshire Carnegie and is one of the hottest front row prospects in England. Another graduate from the successful England U20's side, Hill will only be 24 in Japan, my prediction is that no rugby fan will be asking Who? by the time the tournament kicks off.
2 - Jamie George. The Saracens hooker will be 28 in 2019. Has learnt his trade at Saracens alongside the likes of John Smit and Schalk Brits and just keeps on improving, is arguably the first choice at Saracens these days and if the continued improvement carries on, will be the main man for England in 4 years.
1 - Joe Marler. Will still only be 30 and will bring a mastery of the dark arts to the front row. He's improved in both temperament and skill over the last few seasons and was immense in the 6 Nations this season. Props can be hitting their prime at 30, Joe has the potential to still be top of the tree in 2019!
16 - Luke Cowan-Dickie. Would be 25 in 2019. Mobile hooker, different style of play to George.
17 - Henry Thomas. Would be 27. Already involved with the full England set up.
18 - Nick Auterac. Would be 26. Very impressive for Bath this season, good prospect to force his way into full side!
19 - George Kruis. Would be 29. Like Thomas, already involved with England. Good showing in 6 nations.
20 - Sam Burgess. Would be 30. Could cover flank or centre from the bench. 2015 RWC too soon, but can't write him out for 2019.
21 - Dan Robson. Dan seem's to have been around forever, but will only be 27 in 4 years time. On the move to Wasps to fight it out with Joe Simpson for the starting 9 shirt
22 - Owen Farrell. Would be 27 Always seems destined to be back up to Ford, will still be around as a dependable fly half if called upon.
23 - Jonathan Joseph. Would be 27. To cover wing and centres. His fast feet against tiring defences would be scary!
In the squad.
Prop - Kyle Sinckler. Would be 26. Massively strong prop, with 4 years of refinement, will be a dominant force!
Hooker- Tom Youngs. Would be 32. Oldest man in the squad, wrecking ball style hooker. great 'old head' to support the hookers/
Lock - Matt Symons. Another you may not have heard of. On his way from Super Rugby side the Chiefs to London Irish. Would be 29. Big chance he'll be a top level player for England.
Back row - Jack Clifford. Would be 26. Another former England U20's player, can cover anywhere in the back row.
Back row - Dave Ewers. Would be 28. The call to include the Exeter player in the England set up is already gathering pace. Would be foolish to not include him!
Scrum half - Calum Braley. Would be 25. Another U20's alumni. Already shown great potential for Gloucester, next year will make a big name for himself!
Fly half - Alex Lozowski. Would be 25. Breaking into the Wasps first team squad this season and is coping very well. Will develop into a great 10!
Back - Elliot Daly. Would be 26. Another Wasp having an impressive season. Can cover centre and full back, and offers a great option for place kicking.
Back - Henry Slade. Would be 26. Can be a fly half or centre cover. Having a real 'coming of age' season. Superb with the boot too!
So, who am I missing that you'd include (there has to be someone, I always forget someone!!!) Can this side grow into world cup contenders? 4 years is a long time, but the majority of this team would be in their mid 20's and their professional prime.
If anyone fancies writing one of these for any other country, I'm happy to print them! send em to Rich@rugbyunited.info
Til next time