The RFU announced the new England Elite Performance Squad on Wednesday, revealing the names of those expected to take England forward into the Six Nations.
The squad has 15 players who were not in New Zealand, with the older heads of Mike Tindall and Nick Easter failing to make the cut.
Nine players are uncapped, with the likes of Own Farrell and Ben Morgan getting their chance as has been predicted in the media for some weeks now. Four others have one cap to their name, in the form of Mouritz Botha, Charlie Sharples, Chris Robshaw and Joe Simpson.
Other players getting a chance include young Harlequins prop Joe Marler, who is likely to celebrate with a typically outrageous hair style, the perennial nearly man Phil Dowson in the back row, alongside fellow Saint Calum Clark, raising the prospect of a all Northampton Back row with Tom Wood.
Louis Deacon is named in the squad despite being likely to miss the whole tournament. This means David Attwood can step up from the Saxons to take his place for now. Rob Webber will likely go head to head with Lee Mears for a place on the bench, with the Bath man being one of only three 30+ players, the others being Tom Palmer and Charlie Hodgson. Hodgson will have the chance to replicate his Saracens combination at 10-12-13 as Brad Barritt joins the squad along side Farrell.
Courtney Lawes, Toby Flood and Manu Tuilagi all feature despite being likely to miss the initial fixtures, with Jordan Turner-Hall a likely candidate to replace the Samoan born centre. Saracens full-back Alex Goode, Leicester’s Geoff Parling and Gloucester’s Henry Trinder, all uncapped, will all join Attwood in joining the squad as injury cover from the Saxons
In the back three, Delon Armitage pays the price for poor form and discipline, allowing David Strettle another crack at cementing a place on the wings. Mike Brown has been rewarded for excellent club form and now has the chance to challenge Ben Foden from the full-back position, whilst scrum half Lee Dickson gets his chance thanks to the long term injury of Richard Wigglesworth.
Stuart Lancaster confirmed he would not be naming a captain until the first week of training, which will take place at West Park in Yorkshire, Lancaster’s home club.
The squad is largely as WhatCulture’s Ball In Touch expected with Nick Wood and Luke Narraway being probably the most unlucky to miss out. Conversely though Phil Dowson has been waiting for his chance for years now and hopefully will be able to make the step up after performing and captaining the Saxons so admirably for so long.
The exclusion of the over thirties Nick Easter, Mike Tindall, Mark Cueto and Thomas Waldrom (flown in as cover at the World Cup) shows Lancaster is determined to build a team for the future and refuses to be held up by sentiment, something that Martin Johnson was guilty of and has thwarted Chris Robshaw and Tom Wood’s hunt for caps until now, by all accounts.
The rawness of the side will be targeted by England’s Six Nations opponents,France in particular relishing the battle with a front row with an average age of less than 25 – which in propping years is like nursery school.
But there is genuine competition for places now, with all players no doubt been told they will be given a chance to assert themselves and stake a claim. The first game is on the 4th February against Scotland, in Scotland. The hard work starts here.
England‘s 32-man Elite Player Squad for the Six Nations Championship:
Forwards: M Botha (Saracens), C Clark (Northampton Saints), A Corbisiero (London Irish), D Cole (Leicester Tigers), T Croft (Leicester Tigers), L Deacon (Leicester Tigers), P Dowson (Northampton Saints), D Hartley (Northampton Saints), C Lawes (Northampton Saints), J Marler (Harlequins), L Mears (Bath Rugby), B Morgan (Scarlets), T Palmer (Stade Francais), C Robshaw (Harlequins), M Stevens (Saracens), R Webber (London Wasps), D Wilson (Bath Rugby), T Wood (Northampton Saints).
Backs: C Ashton (NorthamptonSaints), B Barritt (Saracens), M Brown (Harlequins), L Dickson (NorthamptonSaints), O Farrell (Saracens), T Flood (Leicester Tigers), B Foden (NorthamptonSaints), C Hodgson (Saracens), J Simpson (LondonWasps), C Sharples (GloucesterRugby), D Strettle (Saracens), M Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers), J Turner-Hall (Harlequins), B Youngs (LeicesterTigers).
England Saxons 32-man squad for fixtures against the Ireland Wolfhounds and Scotland A:
Forwards: *D Attwood (Bath Rugby), C Brooker (Harlequins), P Doran Jones (Northampton Saints), M Garvey (London Irish), J Gaskell (Sale Sharks), J Gibson (London Irish), J Gray (Harlequins), T Johnson (Exeter Chiefs), J Launchbury (London Wasps), M Mullan (Worcester Warriors), L Narraway (Gloucester Rugby), D Paice (London Irish), *G Parling (Leicester Tigers), G Robson (Harlequins), A Saull (Saracens), H Thomas (Sale Sharks), T Waldrom (Leicester Tigers), N Wood (Gloucester Rugby).
Backs: N Abendanon (Bath Rugby), A Allen (Leicester Tigers), D Armitage (London Irish), M Banahan (Bath Rugby), F Burns (Gloucester Rugby), K Dickson (Harlequins), *A Goode (Saracens), J Joseph (London Irish), R Lamb (Northampton Saints), J May (Gloucester Rugby), U Monye (Harlequins), *H Trinder (Gloucester Rugby), B Twelvetrees (Leicester Tigers), M Young (Leicester Tigers).
*denotes players who are providing temporary injury cover in the elite squad.
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