The Six Nations is fast approaching and England face uncertain times ahead. Interim coach Stuart Lancaster is unproven at international level and faces a few injury worries ahead of his opening clash with Scotland at Murrayfield. Fly-half Toby Flood will be missing and there are serious doubts over England’s new superstar Manu Tuilagi. The new coaching setup has promised a youthful approach to selection though and here are 6 names that could catch the eye during the tournament:
- Owen Farrell – The obvious name on everyone’s lips, especially considering dad Andy is part of the coaching team. However, Farrell’s form should merit selection alone, he has been quite superb in recent weeks, orchestrating the Saracens’ backline from the number 12 position and slotting his goals with considerable ease.England’s midfield often looks robotic and laboured and therefore the 20 year-old can help introduce an element of creativity to release the dangerous outside backs. He also packs a serious punch in defence.
- Joe Marler – Just 21, the Harlequins prop has impressed during his side’s superb start to the season, proving to be a key cog in their long unbeaten run. For a front rower, his ball skills are tremendous, though he doesn’t shy away from the dark arts of the scrum either. With Andrew Sheridan constantly injured and Matt Stevens disappointing during the World Cup, Marler could fight his way into regular contention, challenging other young stars Dan Cole and Alex Corbisiero for a starting spot. You’ll also do well to miss him on the pitch with his rather eccentric hairstyles.
- Chris Robshaw – Robshaw already has one cap to his name, appearing against Argentina back in 2009, but despite loud clamours for his regular selection since, he is yet to pull on the Red Rose again. It is testament to his performances as captain of Harlequins that he is not only tipped for selection, but also for the captaincy in some quarters. Such leadership skills combined with exceptional work at the breakdown make him a prime candidate to fill a back row slot at Murrayfield come February.
- Ben Morgan – It is a major boost to England’s future that the Scarlets’ Number 8 has decided to represent the country of his birth. After turning down a Saxons call-up last year, it appeared Morgan was considering appearing for Wales after qualifying under residency grounds. However, the 22 year-old’s decision puts him in prime contention for a place in the squad, especially considering James Haskell’s decision to take a year’s sabbatical in Japan. Expect England to cap him before he changes his mind.
- Joe Gray – Another Quin who should get recognition for their superb start to the season. Gray could win selection alongside clubmate Marler, providing England with a youthful-looking front row that should add more dynamism that the previous incumbents of their positions. Steve Thompson’s unfortunate retirement and Dylan Hartley’s lack of form this season should see the 23 year-old get his chance in England colours.
- Charlie Sharples – The Gloucester winger has an impressive try scoring record at club level and Stuart Lancaster will look to tap into that at international level. With pace to burn, England fans should relish the prospect of Sharples slotting into a back three with Ben Foden and Chris Ashton. The 22 year-old almost forced his way into World Cup contention by displaying superb form in the summer training camps and since Mark Cueto has already been told his international career is over, Sharples should be the man to step up to the plate.