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The England ‘Wasted Talent’ XV

England has often been accused of wasting the huge pool of talent that is available to them. Here, Paul Wassell puts together a team made up of some of the players who never quite achieved what they arguably could and should have done, whether down to injury or poor management.

Back in 2012, World Cup winning coach Graham Henry labelled England the ‘world champions of wasting talent‘.

He said:

“England has top-draw attacking players but they are seldom used. No wonder England had trouble scoring tries against the better teams at the World Cup.”

Given England’s performance at the 2015 World Cup, it seems little has changed. But is it possible to put together a team from the professional era that consists entirely of players that never quite fulfilled their potential?

Have a look at the team selected below:


1 – David Flatman

‘Flats’ is now making a name for himself as a pundit for BT Sport. He was a successful player for Bath but only ever managed to represent England on eight occasions. Injury blighted his career and he never quite achieved as many England caps as he deserved.

COVENTRY, ENGLAND - MAY 09: David Flatman (L) the ITV rugby prestenter talks to co presenter Mark Durden-Smith during the Aviva Premiership match between Wasps and Leicester Tigers at The Ricoh Arena on May 9, 2015 in Coventry, England. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)


2 – David Paice

David has represent England eight times over the course of his career, but has never really been given the opportunities that were afforded to the likes of Dylan Hartley, Tom Youngs and Rob Webber, despite being a solid hooker. He continues to be a stalwart at London Irish.


3 – Darren Crompton

Darren Crompton went on tour with England to South Africa in 1998 but did not win a cap. It wasn’t until 2007 that after a brilliant season for Bristol he was selected for England in the squad to tour South Africa. He came off the bench and finally won a cap. Despite a lengthy career he never really achieved as much as he could have done at the top level.

26 May 1998: A portrait of Darren Crompton during the England Photocall held at Twickenham, London, England. Mandatory Credit: John Gichigi /Allsport


4 – Chris Jones

Chris Jones was seen as the ‘next big thing’ after the 2003 World Cup and Sir Clive Woodward promptly included him in his squad for the 2004 Six Nations and played against Italy, Scotland and Wales.

However, he fell out of favour with subsequent England head coach Andy Robinson and ended up with just 12 caps to his name.


5 – Nick Kennedy

Nick Kennedy was called up to the England squad for the 2008 Autumn Internationals after impressing for London Irish. He started against the Pacific Islanders but was soon axed by England manager Martin Johnson. Even though Kennedy only ever achieved a total of seven caps, he signed for Toulon and started in their victorious Heineken Cup final victory over Clermont Auvergne.

BATH, ENGLAND - JANUARY 01: Nick Kennedy of London Irish beats Dave Attwood to the lineout ball during the Aviva Premiership match between Bath and London Irish at the Recreation Ground on January 1, 2012 in Bath, England. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)


6 – Tom Rees

Tom Rees took the English Premiership by storm after being offered a full contract by Wasps having only been on an academy contract for two years. After captaining the England U-21 side he finally made his full international debut against Scotland in 2007 and went on to win 15 caps, including an impressive performance against New Zealand’s Richie McCaw.

However, injury blighted Rees’ short career and he had to retire in 2012.

7 – Steffon Armitage

Steffon Armitage made his international debut during the 2009 Six Nations against Italy and put in a solid enough performance, but has so far only amassed 5 caps. However, he has been the centre of much controversy after repeatedly falling foul of the RFU’s edict that only Premiership-based players can be eligible for selection, despite there being an ‘exceptional circumstances’ clause.

Even though Armitage has won three European titles with Toulon and a European Player of the Year award, he has not played for England since 2010.

BATH, ENGLAND - JANUARY 23: Steffon Armitage of RC Toulon scores a try during the European Rugby Champions Cup match between Bath Rugby and RC Toulon at Recreation Ground on January 23, 2016 in Bath, England. (Photo by Tom Dulat/Getty Images).


8 – James Forrester

James Forrester was part of a new generation of players after England’s World Cup in 2003. After impressing for England Sevens, an England XV against the Barbarians and consistently for Gloucester, he was named on the bench against Wales in the 2005 Six Nations. He won only two caps in his career before injury struck again and he was forced to retire in 2008.


9 – Martyn Wood

England had very strong depth at scrum half during the best years of Clive Woodward’s reign, with Matt Dawson, Kyran Bracken and Andy Gomarsall being the three scrum halves named in the World Cup squad.

However, Wood was called up as an injury replacement but never actually made the official squad. In his entire career he only ever played twice for England.

BATH, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 2:  Martyn Wood of Bath in action during the Zurich Premiership match between Bath and Gloucester at The Recreation ground on October 2, 2004 in Bath, England. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)


10 – Shane Geraghty

Shane Geraghty was a surprise selection on the bench by Brian Ashton against France in the 2007 Six Nations, but despite an impressive cameo he only ever collected six caps. This was partially down to injury but also because he never really nailed down one position, being moved between fly-half and inside centre.

After a mostly unsuccessful time at Northampton Saints, he is now back at his first club, London Irish.


11 – James Simpson-Daniel

James Simpson-Daniel was always a fan favourite and narrowly missed out on selection for the 2003 World Cup, despite being involved in the all-conquering England team of the 2002 Autumn Internationals.

Although heralded as a potential world-class wing, injury constantly blighted his career and numerous England head coaches looked to other options ahead of him. He ended his career with a pitiful 10 caps.

GLOUCESTER, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 16: James Simpson-Daniel of Gloucester is challenged during the LV= Cup match between Gloucester and Newcastle Falcons at Kingsholm Stadium on November 16, 2013 in Gloucester, England. (Photo by Tom Dulat/Getty Images)


12 – Anthony Allen

Allen was celebrated by fans and pundits alike after several successful seasons at Gloucester and was called up to the England squad in 2006. He played two tests against New Zealand and Argentina, but the latter loss against an up-and-coming Argentina team at Twickenham prematurely ended his Test career.

He was often a feature in England squads or Saxons squads afterwards, but his consistent club was never rewarded with a starting berth for England.

He retired only recently after winning the Premiership title with Leicester Tigers.


13 – Ollie Smith

Sir Clive Woodward was a big fan of the young English centre, who originally was ignored by Andy Robinson in favour of Newcastle’s Mat Tait and Jamie Noon. However, Smith came into the reckoning later in the 2005 Six Nations and was named as part of an enlarged British and Irish Lions squad in 2005.

However, Smith struggled to nail down a regular spot in England squads and he left Leicester Tigers in 2008 after a loss of form. He played for Montpellier for two seasons and then came back to England with Harlequins before retiring in 2012 after a knee injury.

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24: Ollie Smith of England passes the ball during the England Rugby Legends v Wales Rugby Legends charity match at Twickenham Stoop on September 24, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images for Harlequins)


14 – Tom Varndell

Tom Varndell was first selected against Manu Samoa in 2005 and scored a try on debut and played two more tests against Australia in 2006. He did not play for England again until 2008 when he started against New Zealand in a 44 – 12 loss in Christchurch. Since then he has not appeared for England again and is currently plying his trade at Championship club Bristol.


15 – Olly Morgan

Olly Morgan made his debut for England in the 2007 Six Nations against Scotland and started again against Ireland three weeks later. However, numerous injuries blighted his career and these were the only two occasions he ever played for the national team.


Paul Wassell, Pundit Arena

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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.