Seriously lads. It's Stephen Jones. You don't need to devote this much energy every time he pens an article mentioning New Zealand.
It's really not worth it.
I'll never understand how you lads go out of your way to read and get wound up by a journo on the other side of the world writing behind a paywall. I really couldn't be bothered personally wasting the energy on Spiro, Rattue, Francis etc.
Beloved England team? He's Welsh FFS, don't blame us for him.
In forwards Vunipola (M and B ) missing and would be in top 8. Launchbury, Curry (T) and Robshaw all out and they are borderline starters. That takes a lot of bulk/go forward out.
In backs Tuiglai would have been in 23, and Watson a starter.
A fair number of other lesser lights. Jonathan Joseph would be close to starter and second and third best LHs and no. 2 (and possibly no. 3) no. 8s crocked.
Tuilagi's fairly theoretical these days, given how long he's been off the scene. Wouldn't say he's a guaranteed to have been in the 23. In fact I've not seen anything to suggest he's actually still injured this week. Joseph and Watson are the main losses in the back line.
Talk of 16 players out is a little disingenuous given the players missing tend to be clustered in a few positions as you say. Definitely bare bones stuff at loosehead (Vunipola, Genge, Obano, Mullan and Marler if he counts out) and 8 (B Vunipola, Simmonds and Hughes). Still got first choice (or close to) options at lock, TH and hooker. A bit make shift on the flank.
Backs in general have a few out, but it's still not a million miles away from first choice. Players like Ashton and Slade (despite his poor game against SA) aren't the worst options to come in. Not a fan of Te'o at 12, but Eddie seems to like him.
Injuries certainly shouldn't be any kind of excuse if it goes badly wrong tomorrow
Personally hampered by not watching as many RC and Super Rugby games as I'd like to, so hard to comment on Smith, TJP , Genia etc throughout the full season.
Murray has been the best NH 9 for me though. Very solid all round game and seems to be the hub of most things that Ireland have done well this year. Youngs has definitely finished the year well though and looks sharper than he has for a long time.
TBF wing is one area that we can take a few injuries without too much of a drop off. Big opportunity for Cokanasiga, who'll surely come in.
Daly also needs a performance at FB. Hasn't really looked at home there yet. Far less depth there and Brown would look a good shout to come back in for the 6N unless he really nails it down. I'd actually rather see him at 13 than Slade, but Eddie's shown very little inclination on that front.
2 points worth noting
Yep, short career that could end at any time. Families to support. Easy to throw around the merc line, but I think a lot of people if they were honest would switch jobs if they were offered double or triple their salary, with a nice three year contract and the opportunity to see a bit of the world
The Hill thing is an odd one
People tend to fall over themselves calling him the most underrated player ever. And that's true to an extent, he didn't have the star profile of Back or Dallaglio. But if everyone is constantly singing his praises (and it was happening whilst he was still playing), I wouldn't really call him unsung or underrated.
Great player though. Best six ever? Not so sure
@Margin_Walker cheers. Solid looking player
I have to say highlight reels are starting to have a different meaning. Some of the "highlights" of him running the ball up with the effectiveness of Ben Franks could possibly be removed.
Fixed that for you.
I don't think the All Blacks are missing out too much here. Not much about him screams future superstar at the moment and he's not troubled the England age grade selectors so far. You never know though.
Some highlights. Seen him play a few times at hooker for Wellington College (not that one) and backrow for London Irish. Plays like the highlights. Big hits and some abrasive carrying in the tight, but generally unflashy. Not sure about his drop goal game.
Just on Bryn Evans. He's a pretty leftfield selection compared to most others even with the glue player angle. He's done pretty well at Sale and has been a solid, reliable performer. That said, he's never come within a million miles of any Prem team of the year list and wouldn't really come to mind picking an outstanding performer in that position.
As a LI fan, he was actually pretty disappointing in his stint with us before Sale.
Waldrom on the other hand was superb for Leicester and Exeter.
Highlights from that LI v Leicester game. Naholo had a pretty decent first game. Several other Kiwis (or NZ raised anyway) also featuring for LI in Hepetema, Matu'u, TJ Ioane, Rona and Blair Cowan. Taufua made his debut for Leicester. Failed a HIA just before HT and was only really notable for getting warned by the ref on a few occasions, including a reversed pen for the 2nd, for screaming at him.
In other news, Owen Franks to Northampton confirmed today
The good old 'hang around in Europe on business after the EOYT' eh?
(He was the only one of the ABs in Rome I spotted flying to London)
Yep. And Northampton were obviously playing the long game signing Ben last summer, who struggles to hold his own these days.