Lewis Moody: Forget the doomsayers, these are exciting days for young England side

Moody Views: This series has to be seen as a chance to experiment, 2015 is the target

It cannot have been an easy couple of weeks for Stuart Lancaster, watching player after player forced out of the autumn series. It is the toughest run of games England have faced at this time of year – after Fiji on Saturday it is back-to-back matches against the world's top three sides – and it leaves the coach with several conundrums to puzzle over before announcing his team to play the Pacific Islanders tomorrow.

There are selection issues all over the park, but the encouragement for Lancaster is that, despite all these injuries, this is no bad thing. In a number of positions there are a host of good players pushing for a starting place – take the centre, take Ugo Monye pushing for a return on the wing, take the No 9 shirt and No 10 – in others the choice is starker and there are concerns over the No 8 role and at full-back.

It's far from the perfect situation for Lancaster to begin the season with. But it is times like this when you get to test out the strength and depth of your resources and that matters in a sport where injuries always will and always have taken a heavy toll. As a coach, you can see which guys are going to come through and which will fall short.

The first choice for Lancaster is how to treat the Fiji match given what lies ahead. England expect to beat Fiji but they are a tough side and it will be a bruising encounter. They are not usually so adept at the set pieces but they are big individuals with a magnificent ability to play in broken field. Their style of play is a challenge – you have to make sure they don't get that broken field to play in where they can hurt you.

The autumn series has to be seen as a chance to experiment, although this year the need to secure a top four ranking ahead of the World Cup draw adds weight to the basic need to win the matches. It is a good order of games – each one likely to prove more difficult. Against Fiji I expect a win, against Australia a win is possible. South Africa have shown what they are about in the Championship with that brand of bruising rugby. But there is definitely an opportunity there for England – cast your minds back to the summer tour where we saw the improvements England made going into the final Test. There is a win there if everything goes right.

Which leaves New Zealand, without a doubt the best side in the world, and I just can't see us beating them at the moment. The squad is not experienced enough and with the number of injuries around, that looks a game too far. You have to be realistic. If England come out of it with two wins, then they are on an even keel and heading in the right direction. Anything more than that and they are doing very well. Anything less than that and it will be a challenge to pick it up again for the Six Nations, although do not lose sight of the fact that Lancaster's plan is a long-term one aimed at the 2015 World Cup.

Now for those Lancaster conundrums. At No 9 and No 10 he is spoilt for choice. Danny Care has had a cracking start to the season, some of his performances have been absolutely blinding, but at the back of his mind maybe Lancaster still has questions over his temperament. We have seen it in the past but Care's ability is without question. Ben Youngs has just started to come back into the form that saw him blast on to the international stage in 2010. He has good experience gathered over the last couple of seasons with England. Although Lee Dickson has not been included in the match-day squad, I know they love the way he trains and he remains a future contender.

At 10, it is great to see a call-up for Freddie Burns, whose form for Gloucester has been outstanding. Some of the tries he has both scored and created have been breathtaking. I watched him play against my old club Leicester last month when he scored 17 points and created more – his individual performance was incredible. Burns's time will come but I expect Lancaster to go with Toby Flood, who has started the season better than Owen Farrell. Again it is a tough call – Farrell has done all that has been asked of him under Stuart's regime. Flood has previously had to take a back seat but looks likely to get the nod for this campaign.

There are three potential problem areas. Ben Foden is a big miss at full-back, but at least he will return eventually. No 8 is the most worrying area, where we lack one player standing up to say, 'This is going to be my shirt.' Thomas Waldrom has got the nod ahead of Ben Morgan and James Haskell. They have all played some good rugby but there is no clear first choice.

The front row has been hit hard by injury, although that will ease if Joe Marler comes through in time. The big question here is, will Tom Youngs get a start at hooker? I hope so. He has been playing well and starting ahead of the old war horse George Chuter at Leicester. There have been doubts raised over his lineout throwing. But people forget that in a lineout there is more than one component; there is the lifter, the jumper, the thrower and the timing of all of those different parts. If any one of those goes wrong then the ball will not get to its destination and that is not always the fault of the hooker. Some of the criticism has not been accurate. Youngs is a quality young player in the making – I have no doubt about that.

The injuries and this tough fixture list may make it seem a bit doom and gloom over the next few weeks but I am excited about this England side, on the pitch and off it too with Andy Farrell back and Mike Catt too now permanently involved in the coaching set-up.

This is a great opportunity – so many young guys are going to be thrown into this series, into what is already a relatively young side, growing in experience every time they take the pitch. Lancaster's goal is – and always has been – 2015 when the World Cup comes to England. Seeding is undoubtedly an important factor over the next month but his main consideration is getting to 2015 in the best possible condition to win that tournament. He is playing a long game.

Moody's men: Three to watch in the autumn

Tom Youngs England

Having played with Tom Youngs, I know he has a straightforward attitude to the game. He just gets on with it, does his carries, does his work incredibly well. He is a little wrecking ball of a hooker and ball carrier when he gets the chance. He could be one surprise package.

Ross Rennie Scotland

He may not be a young player but this is a guy who can push for a Lions back-row spot if he continues to play like he did last year. He had an outstanding season barring that one glaring error against England when he failed to deliver in a two on one against Ben Foden.

Justin Tipuric Wales

An exciting talent who can play either six or seven and he could soon even be good enough to threaten Sam Warburton's place. He is confrontational, great over the ball, quick, good at pressurising the opposition and has a relentless work rate.

Lewis Moody is a TAG Heuer ambassador

News
news

Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'

News
people

Britain First criticised for using actress's memory to draw attention to their 'hate-filled home page'

Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling is releasing a new Harry Potter story about Dolores Umbridge
booksJK Rowling to publish new story set in wizard's world for Halloween
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites those Star Wars rumours
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
people

Thought you'd seen it all after the Jeremy Paxman interview?

Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch
tv

Greatest mystery about the hit BBC1 show is how it continues to be made at all, writes Grace Dent

News
i100
Life and Style
tech

Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into conflicts
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'
film

"History is violent," says the US Army tank commander Don "Wardaddy" Collier

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

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker