The battle to back up Ben Youngs at scrum-half could go down to the wire but World Cup winning No.9 Matt Dawson believes Harlequin Danny Care’s lack of tactical nous will cost him the job.
Leicester Tigers star Youngs has been England’s starter since midway through November’s autumn internationals, and looks set to continue that role at the upcoming World Cup, but either Care or Richard Wigglesworth could still secure a place on the bench.
Dawson was part of the Red Rose side that triumphed in the 2003 World Cup where he produced the pass that set up Jonny Wilkinson for the match-winning drop goal in the final.
And the 42-year-old claims that all three scrum-halves offer something different but admits Wigglesworth’s strategic game would be preferable to Care’s explosiveness in the result of a Youngs injury.
“It’s a tricky one at scrum-half because if you want someone to come on and take quick tap penalties and spark it up and go for it, then of course you’re going to go with Danny Care on the bench,” said Dawson.
“However, if Ben Youngs goes down in the first five minutes, you’re probably going to want Richard Wigglesworth to run the game and manage the game tactically.
“Strategically Richard Wigglesworth has proven to be a little bit better in that area than Danny Care at England level.
“Ben Youngs is your all-round and a good mix of Wigglesworth and Care’s qualities so he can do all of that.
“It’s quite a tricky one but I wouldn’t be surprised if Stuart Lancaster probably sticks with Wigglesworth as his second choice and Care as third.
“And then possibly mixes it up depending on the opponent but always my worry is not about who comes on with ten minutes to go.
“My worry is what happens when they go down in the first ten minutes, with a key decision maker like that, you’ve got to have someone who is right on game plan.”
England’s World Cup campaign opens up against Fiji at Twickenham on September 18 before games against Wales, Australia and Uruguay.
Lancaster will cut his squad to the final 31-man group on Thursday before a last warm-up game against Ireland on September 5.
And while Dawson is convinced Lancaster has decided on his starting line-up, he says that the coach still has choices to make with regards to substitutes.
“If the World Cup final was tomorrow and England were in it I think Stuart Lancaster would know his XV that he’d want to play in it,” added Dawson.
“And the periphery and the depth of the squad is where the worry is, that’s where Stuart Lancaster needs to get it absolutely right.
“Not just straight replacements but having the ability to have utility players and get the bench right and getting the balance and timing of the bench depending on how the game is flowing.
“They’re the tricky bits that take the time to get right but I’m sure he probably knows the players he wants in his 31 by now.”
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Feature image of Matt Dawson, left, and Jason Leonard