Which players in this young England team can be stars of 2015?

Goode, Cole, Wood and Launchbury can go the distance but, for all the academies, the jury is out on the rest

Twickenham

This is, Graham Rowntree observed last week, a young England side. Well we knew that and, if we did not, they have proved it conclusively on successive weekends, first against Australia and here against South Africa.

There is little between this England side and the Springbok and Wallaby sides who stand second and third in the global rankings now. The difference, as Rowntree, England's forwards coach, would probably admit, lies mainly in the brain, and that has been an England failing since time immemorial.

What we do not know is how long it will take England to repair this deficiency. Certainly not in time to face New Zealand for the final autumn international next Saturday.

It is worth reflecting that Rowntree's England started with 240 caps, almost exactly the same (244) as the XV that played the Springboks four years ago in the opening weeks of Martin Johnson's tenure as manager. The only player of absolute class in that XV of 2008 was Phil Vickery, and his best years were then behind him; moreover England lost that match 42-6.

But if Rowntree thinks his side is wet behind the ears, what about the first starting XV picked by Clive Woodward against South Africa in 1997. Comparison here has some relevance. Woodward's side contained no more than 141 caps (of which 57 belonged to Jason Leonard). True, they lost 29-11, far more than yesterday's one-point difference, but they did include players who would go on to be 2003 World Cup legends: in the back row Richard Hill, Lawrence Dallaglio and Neil Back, at half-back Matt Dawson and Mike Catt, and Will Greenwood at centre.

"England have the players, they just have to learn now," Woodward observed after the defeat eight days ago by Australia. The trick is to spot the players who will be the mainstays of England's assault on the home World Cup in 2015 and, on that, the jury is still out.

Would it be rash to name four? Alex Goode, Dan Cole, Tom Wood and Joe Launchbury look to be players who, allowing for injuries, will go the distance, and of that quartet, Goode, Launchbury and Wood have only 20 caps between them. Granted, England players tend to mature later but, in this era of professionalism and academy training, we are entitled to expect more.

In Launchbury we have a prototype for the future. How strange that two 21-year-old locks should already have become go-to players for their respective countries, Launchbury for England and Eben Etzebeth for South Africa. They opposed each other when England beat the Baby Boks in the Under-20 World Cup of 2011, and Launchbury was England's player of the tournament.

Neither has arrived here by the conventional route: Etzebeth, 6ft 7in and 18st 6lb, came from the unfashionable Cape Town school, Tygerberg High, played for University of Cape Town and was fast-tracked into the Stormers, his Super 15 franchise, then this year, the senior Springbok squad.

Launchbury, rejected by Harlequins for a senior contract, spent a productive season with Worthing before being pointed towards London Wasps who have no doubt whatsoever that he will be an England player for years to come. At 6ft 6in and 18st 1lb, he can go toe to toe with Etzebeth and will doubtless be doing so for a long time; for a player making his first start against the second best side in the world (albeit shorn by injury of 10 first choices), this was some performance.

How many others will still be running out in the white shirt in 2015? Yesterday suggested that not even England know precisely how to use Manu Tuilagi, since he hardly touched the ball in the first half and then became part of an England back division beating in vain against the green defensive wall. Danny Care and Ben Youngs have endured frustration against Australia and South Africa respectively and not once did either perceive the chance to make their trademark break in loose play.

Three forwards, Alex Corbisiero, Tom Youngs and Ben Morgan, are works in progress and it was significant that Morgan was still working hard at the end, the first time in eight appearances that he has played the full 80 minutes. He needed to, since the demotion of Thomas Waldrom, the Leicester No 8, was harsh given the consistency of his work against the Wallabies the previous weekend, but Morgan, clearly, should be the player of the future.

But not once yesterday did England suggest they knew how to dig their way out of a hole. Where did they want to play the game and how did they hope to get there? The battering ram was getting them nowhere, neither was the kicking good enough to establish field position. Almost the first thing that Owen Farrell produced when he replaced Toby Flood was a chip kick like those purveyed so effectively by Australia last weekend, but it is time for England to invent their own plays.

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
tv
News
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
people
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice finalists Mark Wright and Bianca Miller
tvBut who should win The Apprentice?
News
news
Extras
indybest
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
Sport
Brendan Rodgers looks on from the touchline
SPORT
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick