Matt Dawson Column England Need Game Changers Like Henry Slade And Danny Cipriani Up Six Nations Sleeve

Matt Dawson column: England need game-changers like Henry Slade and Danny Cipriani up Six Nations sleeve

Matt Dawson column: England need game-changers like Henry Slade and Danny Cipriani up Six Nations sleeve

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Danny Cipriani, Nick Easter, David Strettle and Henry Slade would all be in England’s squad for the Six Nations were I selecting it.

There would be no room for Brad Barritt, Christian Wade, Alex Goode, Lee Dickson, Billy ­Twelvetrees, Marland Yarde, Sam Burgess and Steffon Armitage.

The championship kicks off in three weeks with England playing Wales at the Millennium Stadium. Head coach Stuart Lancaster names his squad on Wednesday.

England beat Australia last time out and the bulk of the starting XV picks itself.

But that doesn’t mean Lancaster should ignore the claims of players in form in the club game.

The argument for Sale”s Cipriani is not that he should displace George Ford or Owen Farrell as first-choice fly-half, it is that England need a game-changing playmaker up their sleeve for when Plan A fails.

Cipriani has always possessed the skills to unlock a defence, to which he has bolted on a solid defensive game.

He’s also less of a maverick these days.

I’d want him in my squad and I see Lancaster picking him ahead of Stephen Myler.

GettyDesperate, Dan: England need Danny Cipriani for when Plan A fails

I reckon he will go with Easter, the Harlequins’ No.8, too. Easter is 36 and was last capped four years ago. He is a link to the 2011 World Cup squad which did not cover itself in glory.

But of greater interest to me is that he is English rugby’s form No.8. With Ben Morgan injured, Easter would push Billy Vunipola hard for the shirt and whichever one got it would be better for the ­competition.

The arguments against him are based on age and ‘old school’ ways. The consistency of his performances surely trumps those. He is as hungry as players half his age.

So too, I’d say, is Strettle, who is as good a finisher as there is in England, yet is repeatedly ­overlooked. Even though it means no place for Wade, I’d plump for him.

And so to the midfield.

With Manu Tuilagi nearing fitness and Luther Burrell on top form again, England have better options than they did in November.

But there is another centre, untried and untested, who I want to see given a chance – and I’m not talking about Burgess.

Slade is only 21 but whenever I watch Exeter play he catches my eye. What a talent.

It might be England have the best players in harness but now, eight months from the World Cup, is the time to make sure.

Matt Dawson”s England:

BACKS (17)

Back three: M Brown, B Foden, J May, J Nowell, S Rokoduguni, D Strettle, A Watson.

Centre: L Burrell, K Eastmond, M Tuilagi, H Slade.

Fly-half: G Ford, O Farrell, D Cipriani.

Scrum-half: B Youngs, R Wigglesworth, D Care.

FORWARDS (18)

Prop: J Marler, A Corbisiero, D Cole, K Brookes, D Wilson.

Hooker: D Hartley, T Youngs, R Webber.

Second row: C Lawes, D Attwood, G Kruis, G Parling.

Back row: C Robshaw (capt), T Wood, J Haskell, C Clark, B Vunipola, N Easter.

Matt Dawson is a rugby expert for BT Sport. Watch European Champions Cup and Aviva Premiership games live on BT Sport.

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