Six Nations 2022: Picking an England and Wales XV for their first games

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Last Updated on 20 Jan 2022 6:28 pm (UK Time)

Now that Wayne Pivac and Eddie Jones have picked their squads for the Six Nations 2022, let’s debate who will be in their XVs for the first games against Ireland and Scotland. My colleague Henry Alexander wrote an excellent article about Eddie Jones’ squad selection yesterday.

England’s XV for the Six Nations

Typically, Eddie Jones’ squad has given everyone plenty to talk about. The inclusion of young, uncapped talent in Alfie Barbeary, Orlando Bailey, and Luke Northmore at the expense of Test match veterans Billy Vunipola, George Ford, and Elliot Daly is a clear message from Jones that the majority of this squad will be in France for the World Cup next year.

Certainly, the recent inclusion of the two young, dynamic scrum halves – Raffi Quirke and Harry Randall – as well as the likes of “the exceptional” Freddie Steward, Alex Dombrandt, and Marcus Smith, has confirmed to Jones that England’s next generation could be as good as the 2019 vintage.

Enough of the waffle, lets pick a team.

1. Loosehead Prop

The looseheads picked were of no surprise: Ellis Genge is probably the most in-form English prop, captaining table-toppers Leicester, while Joe Marler appears to be aging like fine wine and Bevan Rodd is becoming a renowned scrummager.

Even without Mako Vunipola, Eddie Jones is spoilt for choice.

Ellis Genge will most likely start with Joe Marler on the bench, but if Rodd is in the 23, it will most likely be from the start as in the 2021 Autumn Internationals.

2. Hooker

Hooker is a contentious one. Jamies George is the most experienced, but Luke Cowan-Dickie is a 2021 Lions starter, while Jamie Blamire started ahead of Jamie George in England’s most recent game against South Africa.

Starter: Cowan-Dickie. Replacement: Jamie George

3. Tighthead Prop

Fast becoming one of Eddie Jones’ lieutenants, Kyle Sinckler – if fit – will start every game at #3 for England during the Six Nations 2022. That leaves Will Stuart and Joe Heyes to fight for the #18 shirt.

I would just pick for the bench Heyes due to his excellent form for Leicester especially after such domineering displays in Europe.

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4. & 5. Locks

Another position were Eddie Jones has a wealth of talent. Ollie Chessum is a candidate for Young Player of the Year in the Premiership and Charlie Ewels has plenty of international experience.

In Eddie Jones’ eyes, however, Maro Itoje and Jonny Hill are his men and will most likely start all five games. I expect Lawes to feature at #6, hence counting him out here.

ALSO READ:  Six Nations 2022 – Understanding England’s Bold Squad Selection

6. Blindside Flanker

Alfie Barbeary would be the romantic’s choice for the #6 shirt: only 21 years old, fantastic in the loose and a hard tackler, he resembles more of a Welsh flanker in the mould of Taine Basham or Ross Moriarty than the likes of Dombrandt.

Eddie Jones’ man, though, is Courtney Lawes, captaining England’s last match.

7. Openside Flanker

With an injury to incumbent Sam Underhill, Eddie Jones has given an opportunity to Northampton co-captain Lewis Ludlam. However, with the talent available at #8, one would expect Tom Curry to be moved to his more natural #7 position for this tournament.

8. Number 8

Perhaps the two form players of the last couple of Premiership seasons fight it out for this shirt – Alex Dombrandt and Sam Simmonds. Try machines and leaders for their clubs, both have been overlooked for England until now.

Eddie Jones’ penchant for larger men will probably mean Dombrandt will get the nod, with Simmonds the perfect ‘finisher’.

9. Scrum Half

This is Eddie Jones’ England, so Ben Youngs will start because he always does. That leaves the two tyros – Raffi Quirke and Harry Randall – to fight for the bench. Quirke’s match-winning performance from the bench against South Africa will probably nudge him in front.

10. Fly Half

Marcus Smith is the incumbent while Owen Farrell is captain. I think everyone expects Farrell to shift to #12 to accommodate Smith. 20-year-old Orlando Bailey is included ahead of George Ford who is the best fly-half in England right now… *shrugs*

11. Left Wing

Jonny May is Eddie Jones’ favourite on the left-wing and will play every game as he hunts down Rory Underwood’s try-scoring record. Ollie Hassell-Collins will be his backup.

12. Inside Centre

Without the injured Manu Tuilagi, Owen Farrell will probably play at #12, with Mark Atkinson providing experience as back-up.

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13. Outside Centre

Henry Slade has most often played 13 under Jones, but Harlequins duo Northmore and Marchant offer try-scoring in abundance.

14. Right Wing

Jack Nowell is a classy operator, while Max Malins is a joy to watch with ball in hand. Marchant also started on the right wing against South Africa, but that was partly due to injury issues. I think Jones will pick Nowell, but I personally like to see Malins.

15. Full Back

Freddie Steward will most likely start every game at #15 with Saints duo George Furbank and Tommy Freeman providing back-up. Six Nations 2022 feels like a potential break-out tournament for Steward.

ALSO READ:  Six Nations 2022 – Understanding England’s Bold Squad Selection

Wales’ XV for the Six Nations

Defending champions Wales come into Six Nations 2022 with a greatly depleted squad, thanks to 11 injured players including back row stalwarts Justin Tipuric, Josh Navidi, Taulupe Faletau, as well as captain Alun Wyn Jones.

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Wayne Pivac has not provided as many as surprises as Jones, but with those absentees, there are a couple of newbies. In the back row, Jac Morgan and James Ratti are included in the absence of the aforementioned injured flankers, while Dewi Lake is included with Ken Owens and Elliott Dee also injured.

Dan Biggar was selected to be captain ahead of Jonathan Davies or Ellis Jenkins with Adam Beard his deputy.

1. Loosehead Prop

Wyn Jones is a Lion and Wales’ best front rower for 2021, so will start. Rhys Carré and Gareth Thomas are less experienced and will fight for a replacement spot.

2. Hooker

Without leader Ken Owens and his back-up Elliott Dee, Wales have two very inexperienced hookers alongside Ryan Elias. Dewi Lake – uncapped – is another in a long line of Welsh #2s who are great in the loose but wayward at lineout time. Bradley Roberts is a solid option but Dewi Lake will make the bench.

3. Tighthead Prop

Tomas Francis and Dillon Lewis will be starter and replacement respectively with Leon Brown offering competition for the #3 shirt.

4. & 5. Locks

Newly appointed vice-captain Adam Beard will be a mainstay. Excellent in the loose and lineout, Beard is a perfect successor to Alun Wyn Jones. Otherwise, Pivac has Seb Davies, Ben Carter, and Will Rowlands to choose from. Rowlands is most powerful in contact while Ben Carter becoming renowned for being the best trainer in the squad. Seb Davies’ skills in the loose suits Pivac’s style perfectly so he’ll partner Beard.

6. Blindside Flanker

Ross Moriarty and Aaron Wainwright are interchangeable between #6 and #8 and Christ Tshiunza is an exceptional talent but a little green for a Six Nations. Ross Moriarty will get the gig as long as he can shake of persistent injury issues including the one that ruled him out of last years Six Nations.

7. Openside Flanker

Without Tipuric, Ellis Jenkins, Taine Basham and Jac Morgan compete for the coveted #7 shirt, but there really is only one winner. Jenkins is a Welsh flanker of the same quality as Martin Williams, Sam Warburton, and Justin Tipuric and maybe a future captain. Basham and Morgan are great talents too. Basham will make the bench.

ALSO READ:  Six Nations 2022 – Understanding England’s Bold Squad Selection
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8. Number 8

Wainwright and James Ratti are the options here while Faletau recovers from calf injury. Ratti is an excellent ball carrier – something Wales lack – but Wainwright has the edge.

9. Scrum Half

Tomos Williams is Pivac’s man at #9 with Kieran Hardy and Gareth Davies perfect options as replacement options, offering pace in the pass and with ball in hand.

10. Fly Half

Dan Biggar is captain and will start every game of Six Nations 2022 if fit. He is in the form of his life and deserved the #10 for the Lions last summer. Anscombe and Sheedy will fight for the replacement gig with not much between them. Priestland also offers experience as cover.

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11. Left Wing

Like England, Wales’ left wing is set in stone. Josh Adams can rival anyone in the world as a pure finisher, while also offering a solidity under the high ball, with the boot and even a developing role as a first phase carrier.

12. Inside Centre

Jonathan Davies is a wonderful test match player on form – something that has eluded him of late. Nick Tompkins is a good option but expects Davies to keep his spot and return to form.

13. Outside Centre

Uilisi Halaholo was excellent during the Autumn Internationals and will probably edge out the returning Owen Watkin. Wales are weakened in this area due to injuries to George North and Johnny Williams who would offer the power Pivac is missing in centre field.

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14. Right Wing

Alex Cuthbert beat his younger counterparts Owen Lane and Ioan Lloyd to the squad but will not start the tournament at #14. Louis Rees-Zammit is an exceptional player and still improving.

15. Full Back

Johnny McNicholl is a fine player but Liam Williams will start every game of the Six Nations. Joining Cardiff next season, Williams is reliable in defence and attack.

Who wins?

England ‘welcome’ (can England ever welcome Wales?) in the third round of this year’s tournament and home advantage will mean anything but an England win victory will be a surprise (sorry Welsh fans…). Let us know in the comments who you would pick for either team and who you think will win we they face off at Twickenham!

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