Continuing with our X-Factor XV series, we’ve come to the next side on our list, England. Plenty of tough calls here, but we think we got it about right on this one!
1. Mako Vunipola:
Vunipola’s immense power and athleticism makes him a unique prospect at loosehead for England. He has always held his own in the scrum, but it is his dominant ball carrying that has established Vunipola in both the England and Saracens sides. Ordered by Eddie Jones to play “more like a Tongan” Vunipola should be adapting his game to play more freely, and that is a prospect that has us very excited.
2. Jamie George:
Tough call here with Luke Cowan-Dickie making a very strong case, however it seems to us that George has just established himself as a slightly better player than the Exeter youth. George may not look it, but he is actually a very exciting ball carrier, and he thrives in space. You only have to look back to his intercept try in the Aviva Premiership final last season to see just how dangerous George can be.
3. Paul Hill:
Tough call this, but we’ve gone with the young Northampton tighthead, who, at just 21 years old has already been capped for England. At times favored over England star Kieran Brookes for Northampton, Hill has rapidly climbed the totem pole this season, and there seems to be a clear sentiment that he will be an England star for years to come.
4. Maro Itoje:
No surprises here, as Itoje has become England’s golden boy. His remarkable athleticism makes him a very dangerous player in space, and he carries the ball with authority time and time again. Despite his aggressive style, Itoje retains very soft hands, making him a very unpredictable player for England in attack.
5. Joe Launchbury:
When fit, there are few locks who can make more of an impact on a match than Launchbury. The Wasps lock has deft ball skills and excellent vision, but he is not afraid to put his head down and power through defenders. With his range of skills, he has become a fan favorite for England over the years. He will be challenged to usurp the form of George Kruis, but Launchbury is more than capable of doing just that.
6. Dave Ewers:
We were torn between selecting Ewers and Josh Beaumont, but in the end, the Chiefs star won out. Ewers has pace and power in spades, and when he looks to carry the ball, you can be certain that he will cross the gainline. What’s rather more impressive is his ability to see gaps and put others through them. Either through offloads or simple pop passes, Ewers is a master at creating space for his teammates.
7. Jack Clifford:
I know, we’re playing him out of position but dammit if Harlequins can do it so can we. Clifford is a rare athlete, his pace and agility making him hard to stop in attack. His massive hits often demoralize his opposition, but Clifford often makes his biggest impact with ball in hand. Few flankers in England are more dangerous than Clifford, which is why he has to be in this team.
8. Billy Vunipola:
The Saracens leviathan has been in outstanding form this season, and no one denies that when he is in form, he is unstoppable. His gigantic frame has been slimmed down some, but that hasn’t seemed to reduce his ability to smash would be tacklers. The newer, fitter, Billy Vunipola has proven to be nearly unstoppable, and you can rest assured that the Wallabies will be watching him very closely.
9. Danny Care:
Ben Youngs has pace, but he can’t match the explosive style of Care. From taking drop goals from the base of the ruck, to his darting runs that have crushed the hearts of Irish and French fans, Care is a true playmaker at 9. He may not often play the full 80 minutes for England, but he is exactly the sort of player we are looking for on this list.
10. George Ford:
We should start by saying that in the real English side, we feel Owen Farrell should start at 10. Having said that, Ford is a much more exciting and dangerous player, and while his tactical kicking or defence may not match that of Farrell, those are not what we are looking for in this side. Have no doubt, Ford will fight, tooth and nail to keep his England spot, and the best way for him to do that is to attack at will, something he does very well indeed.
11. Chris Ashton:
Jack Nowell is a better all around player, but Ashton has more X-Factor. Europe’s best finisher seems to score tries at will, and while his defence is remarkably questionable, his pace is hard to stop. Sure, he has the most annoying dive of all time, but please guys, just give the man a chance!
12. Manu Tuilagi:
After his latest injury, we questioned whether Tuilagi would ever be the same again. Well, we seem to have gotten an emphatic answer. Tuilagi has dominated Stade Francais and Gloucester over the last two weeks, reminding all of us why he was so feared on the international stage. If he can stay healthy, England have a true star for years to come in Tuilagi.
13. Jonathan Joseph:
We at RBP were really torn about whether to go for Joseph or Elliot Daly, so in the end we stuck to the politician method…forget about what the people think and change nothing. Joseph is more of a finisher whereas Daly tends to be more of a creator, however the Bath man has proven to be a real threat in the 13 shirt for England over the last year. His pace and agility make him hard to stop, and when he finds a gap there are few better suited to exploit it.
14. Christian Wade:
We’re going to go out on a limb and say that Wade is the fastest 15’s player in the world at the moment. His speed ruins pursuit angles and forces defences to get their timing absolutely right. Wasps have shown on multiple occasions that if you simply throw the ball to Wade, he then scores a try. I know that’s complicated, but after consultation with an international team of scientists, we were informed that Wade was worthy of recognition on this list.
15. Anthony Watson:
We’re sure Mike Brown will waste no time to scream loudly in our ears about this, but this is an X-Factor XV, and we simply could not leave Watson out. Dominant under the high ball, frighteningly quick, and with a step that make Jason Robinson proud, Watson is the complete package when it comes to X-Factor. When England need a big play, they look to Watson, and more often than not, he is prepared to deliver.