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postheadericon Oval talk: firing wasps good for england

Oval Talk: Firing Wasps good for England

For what it’s worth, OT had the Tigers down to win at Adams Park, such has been the champions’ form since the return of their England internationals and the return to fitness of playmaker Toby Flood. That they did not show how Tony Hanks has turned things around at Wasps after their struggles in the league last season when they lost seven of their first 10 games. Fifth place, just a point off the top four with a game in hand, is not a bad place for Hanks’s side to be midway through the season, and probably one they would have settled for at the start of the campaign.

But more importantly for OT are the portents Wasps’ form could have for England in the 2009-10 Six Nations and, a little further down the line, the 2011 World Cup. A strong Wasps team is important for England: not just because they have some of the most talented players in the Premiership, but also because of their approach to the game. In an ideal world where all players were fit, it is conceivable that Wasps could provide up to eight players to England’s matchday squad for their opening Six Nations clash with Wales on February 6. Clearly, that will not be the case. Phil Vickery, Tom Rees and Jason Hobson will still be recovering from injury, while England’s selectors have not yet seen the light when it comes to hooker Rob Webber and scrum-half Joe Simpson, or managed the international careers of Danny Cipriani and Tom Varndell with any degree of skill.

But there is every chance that Simon Shaw, Joe Worsley, Paul Sackey (pictured) and Tim Payne will be involved in one form or another against Wales, and the number of Wasps representatives could increase by the end of the championship if they continue their form and the recuperation of their injured players goes well. At their best, Wasps bring an attacking approach to the Premiership that few teams have been able to match over the past few seasons (with the obvious exception of 2008-09) and a return to those heights can only be a good thing for England. The 10-12 axis of Jonny Wilkinson and Shane Geraghty was one of the most disappointing aspects of England’s autumn campaign.

It promised so much, but patently failed to deliver. Can anyone remember one moment when the two combined to great effect? Okay, so it was a new combination and they were up against the likes of world beaters Dan Carter, Matt Giteau and Ma’a Nonu, but there was a strong sense the England management had tried to crowbar two fly-halves into their backline. So what better time for Flood to be showing his full array of skills for Leicester? OT has never been convinced of Flood’s international credentials, but he’s made a big difference at Welford Road since his return from injury and – this could be crucial – is comfortable taking a flat ball.

The problem is that Flood also plays fly-half for his club, which leaves England with three decent stand-offs and a lack of a proven international inside centre – until, that is, Riki Flutey is available again. Inside centre has been a problem position for England since the retirement of Will Greenwood and, to a lesser degree, Mike Catt and much now relies on Flutey’s ability to add much-needed direction to their backline. OT would go so far as to say that England’s chances of a decent Six Nations now rest firmly on the shoulders of the Brive centre. Euro sport.

For Six nations Hospitality please visit: England V Ireland Hospitality , England V Wales Hospitality , Ireland V Italy Hospitality

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