Austin Healey: "England have little or no interest in playing any rugby against the Welsh"
Former England international Austin Healey has hit out at Stuart Lancaster's selection ahead of his team's Pool A game against Wales.
JOE sat down with the former British and Irish Lion in the wake of the decision that Owen Farrell and Sam Burgess would come in to replace George Ford and Jonathan Joseph.
Healey, speaking as part of Ladbrokes Rugby’s ‘Who’s Got The Balls’ campaign, admits that he is not happy with Lancaster's choice of backline for Saturday's game, saying it lacks creativity.
"By dropping George Ford, England have left out the best attacking option showing they have little or no interest in playing any rugby against the Welsh,' he said. 'They are going to crash the ball and try to stop Wales defensively."
But rather than the defensive gameplan being a safe one, Healey says it is a risk to start a backline who have never played together before:
"Bringing in a whole new unit at this stage looks a big risk to me but that’s Lancaster’s job and he’ll live or die by those decisions."
While he does not agree with the decision, Healey does admit there is some logic behind it, saying:
"I think England should have gone with one of Burgess or Barritt at inside centre, not both, but I understand why. This is a stats-based decision. The coaching staff have looked back through all of Wales' recent games looking at first phase gainline success. When positive Wales win, when less so they lose.
"What Lancaster is banking on is that Warren Gatland hasn't got a plan B. So stop Jamie Roberts with the big hitting Owen Farrell, Burgess and Barritt and England go on to win a tight game... We’ve seen in the Six Nations that when that happens Wales don’t really have a plan B."
If this is Lancaster's plan, then it makes sense that Ford was left out according to Healey:
"Ford got carried in some tackles for two metres and that is the difference between him and Farrell defensively. And this is where the decision was made... Lancaster obviously wants to stop Roberts dead with Burgess and Owen Farrell."
But Ford might also be missing out because of Jonathan Joseph's injury, which Healey says has forced England to change their approach: "I said last week that any injury to Joseph would be a massive blow and now he’s gone the problems are clear to see."
Still, Healey does not believe Owen Farrell is the man for the job: "I think it’s good to have him on the bench but if I was in charge I wouldn’t be picking him to start... This selection really levels the odds up on this match and I would like to have seen a much more attacking side."
By Sunday morning, we'll know if Lancaster was right or not.
Watch Austin Healey and Jimmy Bullard challenge the values of football and rugby in 'Who's Got The Balls?' at LadbrokesRugby.com #