ADVERTISEMENT

Matt Banahan gives his thoughts on Billy Vunipola replacement

BY Jack Tunney  ·  Monday Aug 21, 2023

Matt Banahan has taken to Twitter to detail his choice on Billy Vunipola’s replacement should the Saracens man face a ban following his red card in England’s loss to Ireland on Saturday.

ADVERTISEMENT

When Steve Borthwick announced the England squad for the upcoming World Cup it was met with much skepticism, not least because of some perceived weak spots in the side. The major talking points were the lack of depth both in both the centres and at number 8.

England’s Henry Slade during a media session at the Honda England Rugby Performance Centre at Pennyhill Park, Bagshot. Picture date: Friday November 11, 2022. (Photo by Steven Paston/PA Images via Getty Images)

Borthwick had adopted a dynamic selection policy by indicating that certain players predominantly utilised in one position, could easily transfer to another should they be needed. Whilst this selection policy does provide a strong squad depth, it also puts England short of naturals in certain positions.

This could not be demonstrated more so than in the case of England’s number 8 conundrum they now find themselves. Billy Vunipola was England’s only natural number 8, and his involvement in the World Cup appears to be in jeopardy before the tournament has even begun.

Borthwick does have the option to choose from the likes of Ben Earl or Tom Curry to take up the mantle at the back of the scrum, should he decide not to call up another number 8. The downsides to this is that England would then lose out on their prowess on the flanks as well as either player not quite having the impact that a natural number 8 might have.

tom curry

PERTH, AUSTRALIA – JULY 02: Tom Curry of England makes a break during game one of the international test match series between the Australian Wallabies and England at Optus Stadium on July 02, 2022 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

ADVERTISEMENT

Whilst Vunipola has been a main stay in the England squad for many years now, it has to be argued that his constant involvement is less down to his own form, but more so the current lack of competition from other 8s.

At one stage it appeared that the 30-year-old had reached the end of the road in the England shirt, as plenty of young talent was coming through the ranks to knock his sizeable frame off his perch. Despite some recent challenges, it has not come into fruition.

Sam Simmonds was at one stage the fan favourite to take Vunipola’s shirt, after dazzling fans with his short bursts of power and incredible try scoring record for Exeter Chiefs, even winning the European Player of the Year back in 2020. His selection in this World Cup has not been in Borthwick’s control, however, as Simmonds ruled himself out midway through this year ahead of his move to Montpellier.

ADVERTISEMENT

Alex Dombrandt was, for a certain period, England’s first choice number 8, but after a series of mediocre performances that resembled nothing of the Dombrandt we see for Harlequins, he was subsequently cut from the final World Cup squad.

Whilst England do at their disposal have plenty of other options at 8, including former Wasps and Bordeaux Begles number 8, Tom Willis, the major name that’s being screamed at Borthwick is Zach Mercer.

The 26-year-old is joining Gloucester ahead of the upcoming Premiership season, and has been in stellar form for Montpellier since joining from Bath in 2021. As a younger player it is worth remembering that he performed at such a standard for Bath that he forced Wales legend Taulupe Faletau to settle for the more unfamiliar flank position.

This has clearly been remembered fondly by Bath and Gloucester legend Matt Banahan as he calls for his former teammate to be given recognition.

Despite the widespread inclination from fans to give Mercer the opportunity to add to his current 2-caps, he was omitted from the original training squad back in June, in favour of Tom Willis. Banahan’s call for Mercer to be called up has been backed by many others, see here:

Borthwick will find out whether changes to the squad are needed by Tuesday 22nd August – when Vunipola has his disciplinary hearing.

Comments




Related Articles

  • 8 WEEKS AGO

    Jonny Gray to exit Exeter Chiefs with immediate...

  • 8 WEEKS AGO

    Former Connacht hooker shares brilliant rugby...

  • 8 WEEKS AGO

    Official calls halt to play amidst double-call...



ADVERTISEMENT

Great Tries

  • 1 WEEK AGO

    Bordeaux prop scores the ultimate front row try in the Top 14

  • 2 WEEKS AGO

    Northampton Saints youngster George Hendy seals the Premiership title

  • 2 WEEKS AGO

    Springbok centre tears it up in the Top 14 for a crucial hattrick

  • 2 WEEKS AGO

    English winger leaves defenders in his dust for long range score in Top 14

  • 10 WEEKS AGO

    Five of the best tries from the Investec Champions Cup

View All

Big Hits & Dirty Play

  • 1 DAY AGO

    Pitch invader melted in thunderous tackle

  • 2 WEEKS AGO

    WATCH: Bath's Beno Obano shown red in the Premiership final

  • 2 WEEKS AGO

    World Player of the Year BANNED heading into Paris Olympics following horror challenge during Madrid SVNS

  • 2 WEEKS AGO

    Debate surrounding ludicrous rugby league tackle leaves union fans baffled

  • 2 WEEKS AGO

    Courtney Lawes: 'We don't need to have a 10/10 performance or do anything out of the ordinary'

View All

See It To Believe It

  • 1 DAY AGO

    Pitch invader melted in thunderous tackle

  • 1 WEEK AGO

    Leinster prospect pulls off outlandish footballing skills in URC quarterfinal

  • 8 WEEKS AGO

    Danny care binned for high tackle on Courtney Lawes

  • 8 WEEKS AGO

    Wild start at Twickenham as Quins pull off another wonder-try

  • 10 WEEKS AGO

    Tickets now on sale as World XV set to face France in thrilling encounter

View All

Funnies

  • 1 WEEK AGO

    Former French star's 'tackle of the season attempt' goes viral

  • 2 WEEKS AGO

    WATCH: Hilarious interaction between Simon Zebo and journalist

  • 6 WEEKS AGO

    Nick David unexpectedly shows up to semi final in full kit

  • 8 WEEKS AGO

    WATCH: The worst camera angle in rugby history

  • 9 WEEKS AGO

    Louis Rees-Zammit's real reason for NFL move exposed

View All

Amateur

  • 75 WEEKS AGO

    You Won’t See Many Better Than This Silky-Smooth Try From Llandovery RFC

  • 75 WEEKS AGO

    Incredible Scenes As Caldy RFC Hand Ealing First Championship Defeat Of The Season

  • 98 WEEKS AGO

    Dubious Score Decides Result Of Rugby's Biggest Schools Fixture

  • 98 WEEKS AGO

    Incredible Scenes At School Boys Rugby Match

  • 99 WEEKS AGO

    The Next Dominant Backrow?

View All

Player Features

  • 2 DAYS AGO

    England announce starting XV for Japan test

  • 3 DAYS AGO

    Beauden Barrett returns to play for club side after 14 years

  • 6 DAYS AGO

    Andy Goode includes Joe Marler in his England XV to beat New Zealand on summer tour

  • 1 WEEK AGO

    Beno Obano receives judgement following Gallagher Premiership final red card

  • 1 WEEK AGO

    URC Awards: Jamie Richie turnover king and a big win for Jack Crowley

View All