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England’s Selection Process

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What are we to make of John Mitchell’s selections across the current Six Nations?

His Round Five squad is:

Zoe Aldcroft, Sarah Beckett, Hannah Botterman, May Campbell, Mackenzie Carson, Poppy Cleall, Kelsey Clifford, Amy Cokayne, Maddie Feaunati, Lizzie Hanlon, Sadia Kabeya, Maud Muir, Cath O’Donnell, Marlie Packer. Connie Powell, Morwenna Talling, Abbie Ward, Holly Aitchison, Sophie Bridger, Jess Breach, Katie Buchanan, Abby Dow, Sydney Gregson, Zoe Harrison, Tatyana Heard, Mo Hunt, Ellie Kildunne, Vicky Laflin, Lucy Packer, Emily Scarratt, Emma Sing, Mia Venner, Ella Wyrwas.

The only missing detail is the 23 he picks for the vital France match.

For the fifth time running the squad posted consists of 30+ players. Of them eight have yet to appear. Katie Buchanan has been added to the squad after recovering from injury. But is she likely to be offered a bench place after the outstanding performances of the outside backs? Wingers are very rarely included among the replacements.

I find it hard to understand why players keep being included in so large a squad, then omitted time after time. For those with few or no caps (Campbell, Bridger, Laflin, Sing, Venner and Wyrwas), the thrill of finding a place must have worn off after four rounds. For the more experienced (Cleall and O’Donnell) the disappointment and frustration must be worse.

If a player isn’t quite 100% fit, then she wouldn’t expect to be picked. If she’s going to be omitted from the 23 for a fifth time, she might wonder if she could have spent her time more profitably doing some flower-arranging.

In the past a large training squad has been whittled down for the 6N campaign. Why not now? Of course it’s just possible all eight will find favour in Bordeaux, but singularly unlikely.

For the present, we know that Lark Atkin-Davies and Rosie Galligan have received injuries that sadly prevent them from appearing. Possible replacements aren’t hard to find. Starting from the likeliest, we have Amy Cokayne and May Campbell at No 2, then Abbie Ward, Poppy Cleall, Cath O’Donnell, Sarah Beckett and Morwenna Talling at lock. Take your pick!

And now (Tuesday a.m.) Mitchell adds another two to the mix: Liz Crake (prop) and Maisy Allen (flank) make the throng even larger.

Deduction: nobody needs to feel left out. But the Laws still allow only 23 of them to take the field, and it’s the last game of the campaign.

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