Come on down Luther Burrell, your time is now
November 4, 2013
James O'Connor played well in his London Irish debut © Getty Images
In a weekend where England beat Australia and plenty of tries on show in the Aviva Premiership, the Monday Maul looks back at some talking points.
England's centre conundrum
While there were some positives for England to take from their win over Australia - the form of Mike Brown, Chris Robshaw's impressive showing and Billy Vunipola - they are no closer to solving their dilemma in the midfield. There is no doubt that Billy Twelvetrees is a hugely talented individual. His call-up to the British & Irish Lions squad was deserved as were all the plaudits levelled at him last season. But he is a man out of form. He struggled against Australia and looked weak defensively.
Awards of the weekend
In turn, on Sunday, Luther Burrell was a constant menace while playing for the Saints, as he has been all season. When Stuart Lancaster chose Lee Dickson, he said it was due to form. If that's the credo he abides by when selecting his England team, then Burrell must start against Argentina next Saturday.
England are not short of options on the flank at present. Marland Yarde was out of place defensively on a couple of occasions for England but when given the ball in space, he attacked with gusto. On the opposite wing, Chris Ashton saw little action but looked lively. While they were poised like coiled springs on either side of the Twickenham turf, Christian Wade would have been going through his final warm-up routines before facing Gloucester for Wasps.
As things panned out, he was sensational. He scored two tries, the second another to add to his already plentiful portfolio of memorable efforts, and while he is unlikely to get a look in for England in the autumn internationals, barring injury, he is a great luxury for Lancaster to have in reserve.
Youngs or Hartley?
This will be a difficult choice for Lancaster. Tom Youngs' lineout was average against Australia and England looked to be lacking the presence of Geoff Parling. In his place, Courtney Lawes ran the set piece but that area looked more secure when Dylan Hartley came off the bench. If you were offered a bet on which of Hartley or Youngs will start the first game in the 2015 World Cup then a safer option would be the Northampton Saints man.
Hartley should be given a chance against the Pumas next weekend with Youngs afforded the same amount of game time from the bench that his Northampton counterpart did against the Wallabies. Only then will Lancaster have a good idea of who should get the nod against the All Blacks.
The Premiership enjoys a touch of the Antipodes
Love him or loathe him, James O'Connor looked right at home in the Premiership on Sunday despite having been in the country for a few days. He played well against Northampton for London Irish and looks to be forming a lethal partnership with Topsy Ojo and Sailosi Tagicakibau in their back three, and all this while Yarde is on international duty.
O'Connor was solid under the high ball, brought his team-mates into the game and made more metres than any other man in the field. Early signs are that he is an inspired piece of business from Brian Smith and if he manages to curb his off-field excesses then he will excel at Irish.
Quins seem to drift between brilliance and being overwhelmingly average. On Saturday against the Leicester Tigers it was the former, earlier this season it had been the latter. Their gamble to move Nick Evans to fullback paid off allowing both he and Ben Botica enough chances to dictate the tempo of the match. And they got that off-load game going again.
Danny Care's pride has no doubt been dented by being dropped by England but if he keeps on playing at the level supporters of England and Harlequins know he is capable of then he will be back in the Test frame before too long. In the immediate term, Harlequins need to bottle whatever they had going for them at Welford Road and try and carry that forward for the rest of the season.
Time for a proper front-row test
One thing Argentina can do well, regardless of era, is scrum. Their front-row is traditionally ferocious, mean and downright scary. They will be an altogether different prospect to the one England faced on Saturday. Lancaster's team, who were without their premier loose-head Alex Corbisiero, had it easy against the Wallabies in the scrum. They drew penalties and generally dished out punishment. While it was a fairly easy ride in that department, Argentina will bring fire and brimstone when they travel to Twickenham next weekend. England be warned.
Times are bleak at Kingsholm. Seven games down in the Premiership and just two wins. Something is not right there at the moment, bolstering their front-row needs to happen with haste. The two-week break from the Premiership probably comes at just the right time for Nigel Davies' men. Time to re-group, re-focus and find some form.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Tom Hamilton is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.
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