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Fly Half Position Up for Grabs
Wilkinson retirement opens the door for youngsters
Posted Dec 22, 2011 by Chris White
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With Jonny Wilkinson having retired from international rugby last week, he has left behind a spot in the England squad for a young fly half to come along and take their chance. But with so many promising fly halves in the Aviva Premiership, and abroad, at present, who should be given the opportunity when the Six Nations comes around?
Toby Flood of Leicester is in pole position for the starting birth, having been in and around the England squad for several years now, and being the second fly half on duty at the World cup this year. Flood, who is first choice for the Tigers, has made 46 appearances for England, and scored 223 points, spending the majority of his international career as Wilkinson’s understudy, or even playing alongside him at inside centre.
Another candidate is a man with international experience, Saracens’ Charlie Hodgson. He made an immediate impact in international rugby, scoring 44 points on his debut against Romania back in 2001, but at 31 he may be overlooked as England go with a younger line-up in preparation for the next World Cup in 2014. His record is better than that of Flood’s, scoring 259 points for his country in 36 appearances.
Owen Farrell has been in outstanding form for Saracens this season, scoring 152 points in 15 appearances in the 2011/12 season already. Tipped by many as the man who will step up to the England squad, he’s doing his claims for the number ten shirt no harm at all, single-handedly leading Sarries to several victories this season. His claims may be further enhanced by the appointment of Dad, Andy, to the interim England coaching staff.
An outsider for the position, considering his off-field behaviour, is Danny Cipriani. With undoubted international class, Cipriani is certainly worthy of a place in the England squad for his talents, but he may be held back by his off-field problems. Currently at the Melbourne Rebels in Australia, he may be overlooked for a place in the team by being so far away from the eye of the selectors, who would possibly prefer to watch him on a regular basis in the Premiership.