Everything you wanted to know about England's Rugby World Cup team (but were too afraid to ask)

England begin their World Cup campaign against Fiji, but what really makes the starting XV tick? Which member of the squad runs the fastest 100m time? Who is known as Arrow? And who likes to belt out Celine Dion? WILL KELLEHER guides you through the team, from 15 to 1...

15: Mike Brown

Age: 30 Caps: 39

Position: Full back

What he brings to the team: Dependable, with a passionate streak. Nigh-on irreplaceable in the England side, he dominates when leaping to diffuse the bombs that opposition fly-halves kick up for him and is a defensive wall and elusive in attack. Fashion-designer fiancée Eliza Woodcock’s dad is ex-Nottingham Forest, Arsenal and England footballer Tony. Brown was knocked out against Italy in the Six Nations and missed the rest of the season, but is back to his best now.

Most likely to say: ‘Let me at ’em!’

Least likely to say: ‘Calm down.’

Did you know? Brown has delayed his wedding until next year so he can focus on the World Cup.

Mike Brown
Anthony Watson

Mike Brown (left) returns to the side after a concussion against Italy in the Six Nations, while Anthony Watson is a great entertainer


Age: 21 Caps: 11

Position: Wing

What he brings to the team: With fancy footwork, he’s capable of side-stepping a defender in a phone box. He’s been given the job of silencing the Fijian giant Nemani Nadolo, an opportunity he will relish. Watson is eager to be the new Billy Whizz, following in the footsteps of Jason Robinson and he can play anywhere in the back three. Lives with team-mate Jonathan Joseph, who he went on holiday with to Los Angeles.

Most likely to say: ‘Catch me if you can.’

Least likely to say: ‘Nadolo frightens me.’

Did you know? He always puts on his left sock first.



Age: 24 Caps: 13

Position: Outside centre

What he brings to the team: The star of the England side. Joseph can score from almost anywhere on the field and scares defences. He is one of the best open-field runners in the business. Fast, with dazzling footwork, from his days as a dancer. Voted Player of the Year in the Aviva Premiership last season and scored the most tries in the Six Nations. This is his time to shine.

Most likely to say: ‘Cheers for voting me man of the match.’

Least likely to say: ‘I’ll take the direct route.’

Did you know? He was a grade A dance student at Park House School.

Jonathan Joseph
Brad Barritt

Jonathan Joseph (left) has the ability to be a star of this World Cup while Brad Barritt does much of the dirty work


Age: 29 Caps: 23

Position: Inside centre

What he brings to the team: Despite growing up in South Africa he is a proud Englishman and a relentless, defensive brute. Barritt is a communicator, organiser and hits anything that moves. The Saracens centre does much of the unseen work that allows the star names to flourish out wide. His power and pace partnership with Joseph in midfield is the key to England’s success.

Most likely to say: ‘Ya me bru.’

Least likely to say: ‘Anyone got a plaster? I’ve got a nasty papercut.’

Did you know? Went aged nine to South Africa’s semi-final in 1995.



Age: 25 Caps: 16

Position: Wing

What he brings to the team: May is the quickest man in the side — running 100metres in 10.71 secs. Britain's Olympic 100m relay gold medalist Marlon Devonish taught him the ‘jelly jaw’ technique which involves relaxing the muscles so that your running style is fluid and your bottom lip bounces. Has ironed out defensive issues from Six Nations and now poses a formidable attacking threat.

Most likely to say: ‘I hate social media.’

Least likely to say: ‘Can we fly up to Manchester for the Uruguay game?’

Did you know? May is petrified of flying. He was delighted when the flight to Edinburgh for a Six Nations match with Scotland was cancelled.

Jonny May
George Ford

Jonny May (left) will hope to put his pace to good use in the tournament while George Ford can open up any defence with his craft


Age: 22 Caps: 13

Position: Fly-half

What he brings to the team: The playmaker, the pin-up boy and the linchpin of the back line. He has a deft touch with the boot and silky skills with ball in hand. Despite his diminutive size he steps up gladly and powerfully in defence. Has the No 10 shirt ahead of Owen Farrell, who he has played with and against since he was 12. Dad Mike was part of the England set-up at the 2011 World Cup but now coaches Bath.

Most likely to say: ‘Practice makes perfect. I’m ready.’

Least likely to say: ‘I can’t be bothered today, boys.’

Did you know? At 16 years and 237 days old, he became the youngest player in Premiership history.



Age: 26 Caps: 49

Position: Scrum-half

What he brings to the team: Sets the pace of attack. Has a fizzing pass and is able to sneak through gaps in the defence with his agility. He may not be the sharpest tool in the box — Leicester team-mates Tom Croft and George Chuter have published a book of his less intelligent musings, Stuff Ben Said. On the field, though, his reactions are sharp and precise.

Most likely to say: ‘I’m bored with chicken. Fancy going to Nandos?’

Least likely to say: ‘I believe quantitative easing is the only way the Greeks can get out of this fiscal mess.’

Did you know? Owned Australia, New Zealand and France shirts as a child.

Ben Youngs
Ben Morgan

Ben Youngs (left) can launch England's swift counter-attacks while Ben Morgan is fully fit and restored to England's back row


Age: 26 Caps: 29

Position: No 8

What he brings to the team: Battering ram of a No 8 with slick hands and a mean hand-off. World Cup looked in doubt when he broke an ankle in January. Started late and was discovered as a 20st 8lbs builder. Could have declared for Wales but is undeniably English.

Most likely to say: ‘Give me the ball.’ 

Least likely to say: ‘Hen Wlad fy Nhadau.’

Did you know? Used to train wearing a snorkel and weight vests to shed the pounds.


7 CHRIS ROBSHAW (captain)

Age: 29 Caps: 39

Position: Openside flanker

What he brings to the team: The heartbeat of the England side. He gets through an astonishing amount of work during 80 minutes and has captained his country since his second cap. His fiancee Camilla Kerslake is a professional classical singer and biggest social-media cheerleader of the national side. Robshaw often relaxes at home vacuuming in his onesie and is adept at pouring the perfect brew at his coffee shop, Black White Red in Winchester. On the pitch, however, he is England’s colossus. Depending on England’s success, Robshaw could be knighted or excommunicated!

Most likely to say: ‘Handle the occasion.’ 

Least likely to say: ‘I give up.’

Did you know? The England captain is a big mountain biking fan. He often rides his bike around Richmond Park and drags his dogs with him.

Captain Chris Robshaw is a workhorse for whom his team-mates will run through brick walls. He also has the nation behind him 

Captain Chris Robshaw is a workhorse for whom his team-mates will run through brick walls. He also has the nation behind him 


Age: 28 Caps: 38

Position: Blindside flanker

What he brings to the team: Wood is one of the unsung heroes of the England forward machine. If his rival for the No 6 shirt James Haskell is flashy, brash and loud, Wood is almost the polar opposite. Never-say-die attitude epitomises England under Stuart Lancaster. Heads England’s ‘heritage committee’ maintaining the traditions of representing your country.

Most likely to say: ‘English and proud.’ 

Least likely to say: ‘Take me off, Stu.’

Did you know? Wood’s Northampton team-mates call him Arrow due to his archery skills.

Tom Wood gets on with the task in hand and is another of England's unsung heroes as they prepare for their assault on the World Cup

Tom Wood gets on with the task in hand and is another of England's unsung heroes as they prepare for their assault on the World Cup


Age: 26 Caps: 40

Position: Lock

What he brings to the team: England’s enforcer. He’s 6ft 7in and tracks opponents like a heat-seeking missile looking to smash them into submission. Another survivor of the ill-fated 2011 World Cup who adds fireworks to the pack. He is covered with tattoos and was inked for the first time when he was 18. One reads ‘I owe it all to you Mum and Dad’. Despite the hard exterior he can be a softy — Stuart Lancaster had to tell him not to walk around with his hood up at their Pennyhill Park training base and he has admitted being a fan of the song Teenage Dirtbag by Wheatus.

Most likely to say: ‘Get on with it!’

Least likely to say: ‘I’ll leave that hit to Geoff.’

Did you know? Despite being England’s tallest player, Lawes is scared of heights.

Courtney Lawes is covered in tattoos and relishes his role as England's enforcer - some of his tackles have become popular on YouTube


Age: 31 Caps: 25

Position: Lock

What he brings to the team: He is in charge of the line-out calls — partly the reason he was given the nod over Joe Launchbury. Gritty, clever and fearless — fantastic attributes for a second-rower. The man from Stockton-on-Tees was given a sports scholarship to Newcastle University and will join the Exeter Chiefs after the World Cup. Parling’s beard has its own Twitter account (@BeardedParling) and he won the Beard Liberation Front’s ‘My Hairy Valentine: Sexiest Beard 2013’ award with actor John Hurt and TV choirmaster Gareth Malone.

Most likely to say: ‘Chuck us some of that beard balm mate.’

Least likely to say: ‘I’ll have a beer thanks.’

Did you know? Parling likes to sing Celine Dion songs ... but not in front of his team-mates in training sessions.

Geoff Parling
Dan Cole

Geoff Parling (left) gets the nod ahead of Joe Launchbury due to his play on set pieces while Dan Cole is another experienced head


Age: 28 Caps: 52

Position: Tight-head prop

What he brings to the team: Most experienced player in the starting XV and a fantastic technician in the scrum. Tireless worker at the breakdown, the tight-head is a man you want in the trenches. One of the few survivors from the 2011 tournament, Cole has a dry wit, a deadpan manner and prefers reading to video games. He can sing too — he marked his 50th cap by belting out Singing in the Rain at a Twickenham hospitality event in March. Despite not being the oldest player, he is regarded as the father of the squad.

Most likely to say: ‘Blokes.’

Least likely to say: ‘I’m just Instagramming my quorn sausages. Any ideas for a strong hashtag?’

Did you know? His sporting hero was Formula One driver Nigel Mansell.



Age: 28 Caps: 24

Position: Hooker

What he brings to the team: With a physique like a bowling ball Youngs is a powerful hooker. He takes to the field with brother Ben — you will see them shoulder to shoulder belting out God Save The Queen at Twickenham. He played for England Schools at centre before converting to the front row. The bundling ball-carrier will be found in the heart of the action. He married partner Charlotte this summer and is never more at home than on his Norfolk farm, where he first played rugby with Ben and his 28 cousins.

Most likely to say: ‘The consistent grass height at Twickenham is simply stunning.’

Least likely to say: ‘Ben, do you fancy seeing La Bohème tonight?’

Did you know? His dad Nick won six caps for England at scrum-half.

Tom Youngs
Joe Marler

Tom Youngs (left) started as a centre, prop or flanker before making the change to hooker, while Joe Marler is one of the team's characters


Age: 25 Caps: 33

Position: Loose-head prop

What he brings to the team: On the field Marler is a formidable prop. Powerful in the scrum and makes useful carries when needed to relieve pressure. With his colourful haircuts and quick wit, the Harlequins man is the joker of the squad, who once had two pet ducks called Betty and Bell. Could have missed the World Cup after aggravating a shoulder injury after tripping over his baby son Jasper’s toy snake and falling down the stairs into a pile of nappies. He also claims to do a cracking Nelson Mandela impression.

Most likely to say: ‘Work hard, play hard.’

Least likely to say: ‘Just a simple short back and sides today please.’

Did you know? Used to work laying turf from a wheelbarrow.

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