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England 2003 v England 2015 – Part 5

RUCK takes a comparative look at the 2003 World Cup winning England team to see how the class of 2015 measure up heading into this tournament.

Man for man. Position for position. The first teams from the 2003 World Cup winning squad are pitted against their modern days counterparts, with RUCK presiding over proceedings as judge and jury. We continue to focus on the backs, with the scores currently standing at 1-1 in that department, but 7-3 in favour of the old guard on aggregate. Next up, we take a look at the men in the middle.

Inside Centre

Will Greenwood v Brad Barritt

Quite possibly one of the most under appreciated members of the 2003 Rugby World Cup winning squad, Will Greenwood was by far no less important. In fact, England may have come unstuck without him, as his five tries in the tournament made him joint top try scorer for his nation alongside flying full-back Josh Lewsey. Not ever the fastest centre around, the Harlequins man was an intelligent rugby player that relied on his ability to read the game and position himself in the right place at the right time, and was often the beneficiary of runs from the wings or fullback.

At 29-years-old, Brad Barritt has left it late to make his mark on the world stage, and it could well be now or never. The South African born centre was favoured ahead of Northampton’s Luther Burrell, and he must now repay that faith shown in him by Stuart Lancaster. Unlike Greenwood, Barritt does have a turn of pace and he backs his big build to allow him to plow through opponents when he has the ball, and scythe them down when they do.

Athletically, Barritt is the better player, but Greenwood had a better understanding of the game. It’s tight, but Barritt edges this one for his all round play, and ever improving partnership with this next man…

RUCK verdict: Brad Barritt 0-1

Outside centre

Mike Tindall v Jonathan Joseph

Guilty of both some indecent conduct off the pitch and a lack of mobility on it, Mike Tindall was a big bulky old fashioned centre. He scored some crucial tries for both England, Bath and Gloucester throughout his career, but produced modest returns and was never prolific. Dubbed “The Fridge” for his build, Tindall forged a relatively successful career and was a worthy recipient of his World Cup winner’s medal.

If Mike TIndall is chalk, then Jonathan Joseph is cheese. The polar opposite of the Yorkshireman, Jonathan Joseph is almost the perfect template of what a modern day outside centre should be. Tall yet strong, slender yet compact, the brilliant Bath man set this year’s SIx Nations alight with blistering displays that made him top try scorer with four. Blessed with electric pace and a sharp side step, Joseph set the Premiership alight this season and is a true bright spark for England through which anything could happen.

Whilst TIndall had a solid partnership with Greenwood, Joseph is the blueprint for the best centre in the world. Whether he fits the mold remains to be seen, as his decision making and the defensive side of his game still need work, but he is a clear winner here.

RUCK verdict: Jonathan Joseph 0-2

Finally, a result for our men of the moment. A clean sweep at centre brings the aggregate score to 7-5 in favour of the old boys. Agree? Disagree? Sound off in the comments section below!

Also, don’t forget to join us for Part 4, where we will conclude this series with the wings and full-back, and display the overall winning team. It is all to play for!