Six Nations
England ring the changes
ESPNscrum Staff
January 11, 2012
England ring the changes for Six Nations battle

Interim head coach Stuart Lancaster has named a new-look England squad ahead of their defence of the Six Nations crown.

Nine uncapped players have been included in the 32-man group that reflects 13 changes from England's failed Rugby World Cup campaign. First time call-ups have been handed to Saracens centres Brad Barritt and Owen Farrell, Northampton Saints' Lee Dickson and Calum Clark, and Scarlets' Ben Morgan. Joining them in the mix are Northampton's Phil Dowson, Wasps hooker Rob Webber, Harlequins centre Jordan Turner-Hall and prop Joe Marler.

Mouritz Botha, Charlie Sharples, Chris Robshaw and Joe Simpson will all be looking to add to the single cap they won under Martin Johnson's regime. Toby Flood is the most experienced member of the squad with 46 caps, although he is set to miss the start of the Six Nations with a knee ligament injury.

Among the casualties are Gloucester centre Mike Tindall, Quins' No.8 Nick Easter and Sale wing Mark Cueto while fellow Rugby World Cup squad members - London Irish's Delon Armitage and Bath's Matt Banahan - have been dropped to the second string England Saxons squad.

Bath flanker Lewis Moody, Toulon fly-half Jonny Wilkinson and former Wasps hooker Steve Thompson are also omitted following their international retirements while long-term injuries have sidelined Sale prop Andrew Sheridan and Saracens scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth. Simon Shaw and James Haskell are ineligible for selection under Rugby Football Union rules after signing for overseas clubs. That restriction does not apply to Morgan or Tom Palmer because their respective contracts with the Scarlets and Stade Francais pre-date the RFU's directive.

Lancaster said: "We are very excited by the make-up of the two squads. Lots of players have been putting their hands up and there were some tough calls to make. However, in line with the selection philosophy about starting new era for English rugby, we have taken the chance to make changes and give players opportunities to be part of the journey towards 2015. We very much see this as a group of 64, with opportunities for the Saxons playing in the forthcoming A internationals to come into the senior squad at any time.

"We have lost some great players who have worn the England shirt with pride and distinction - Lewis, Steve and Jonny - and we should thank them for all they did. Others haven't been selected for this EPS cycle and I have met them and explained the reasons why as we look for the next player to step up in that position to take us forward.

"We are looking both at the present and just as importantly the future. We wanted to get the right balance in potential and experience and giving us the flexibility to play in different ways. We need to use the upcoming games to build the collective experience and we are confident we have got the right mix to take England forward into this Six Nations and beyond."

Bath lock Dave Attwood, Saracens fullback Alex Goode, Leicester second row Geoff Parling and Gloucester centre Henry Trinder will join the elite squad as temporary replacements for Flood, Courtney Lawes, Louis Deacon and Manu Tuilagi, who are all set to miss the start of the Six Nations.

Lancaster will wait until the end of England's training week in Leeds, which begins on January 23, before deciding who to appoint as his captain. One bookmaker today installed Dylan Hartley as favourite.

"Dylan Hartley, Chris Robshaw, Ben Youngs, Tom Wood, Toby Flood - they are the type of names I am thinking about who are going to become the future leaders of this England team; good characters, good people, talented players," Lancaster added."The ultimate aim is for the players to control the culture and drive the programme and we will be giving them every encouragement to do that."

Lancaster's main aim for England's training camp will be to instil that culture and eradicate any hangover that exists from the World Cup. Harlequins scrum-half Danny Care had been in line for a recall after missing the World Cup through injury, but he has been suspended for the duration of the Six Nations following his arrest on suspicion of drink driving.

Lancaster will name his captain at the end of England's pre-Six Nations training week, which begins on January 23 at West Park Leeds rugby club. England open the defence of their title against Scotland at Murrayfield on February 4.

The Saxons, to be led by RFU National Academy coaches Jon Callard and Simon Hardy, include 10 players who won the Churchill Cup last June as well as Henry Thomas (Sale Sharks), Joe Launchbury (London Wasps) and Jonathan Joseph (London Irish) from the Under-20s squad which reached the final of the IRB Junior World Championship in the same month. Temporary replacements for Attwood, Goode, Parling and Trinder and injury replacements for Thomas (knee) and Joseph (shoulder) will be announced in due course.

England Elite Player Squad:


Mouritz Botha (Saracens), Calum Clark (Northampton Saints), Alex Corbisiero (London Irish), Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers), Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers), Louis Deacon (Leicester Tigers), Phil Dowson (Northampton Saints), Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints), Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints), Joe Marler (Harlequins), Lee Mears (Bath Rugby), Ben Morgan (Scarlets), Tom Palmer (Stade Francais), Chris Robshaw (Harlequins), Matt Stevens (Saracens), Rob Webber (London Wasps), David Wilson (Bath Rugby), Tom Wood (Northampton Saints)

BACKS: (14)

Chris Ashton (Northampton Saints), Brad Barritt (Saracens), Mike Brown (Harlequins), Lee Dickson (Northampton Saints), Owen Farrell (Saracens), Toby Flood (Leicester Tigers), Ben Foden (Northampton Saints), Charlie Hodgson (Saracens), Joe Simpson (London Wasps), Charlie Sharples (Gloucester Rugby), David Strettle (Saracens), Manusamoa Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers), Jordan Turner-Hall (Harlequins), Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers)

England Saxons Elite Player Squad: (32)


David Attwood (Bath Rugby), Chris Brooker (Harlequins), Paul Doran Jones (Northampton Saints), Matt Garvey (London Irish), James Gaskell (Sale Sharks), Jamie Gibson (London Irish), Joe Gray (Harlequins), Tom Johnson (Exeter Chiefs), Joe Launchbury (London Wasps), Matt Mullan (Worcester Warriors), Luke Narraway (Gloucester Rugby), David Paice (London Irish), Geoff Parling (Leicester Tigers), George Robson (Harlequins), Andrew Saull (Saracens), Henry Thomas (Sale Sharks), Thomas Waldrom (Leicester Tigers), Nick Wood (Gloucester Rugby)

BACKS: (14)

Nick Abendanon (Bath Rugby), Anthony Allen (Leicester Tigers), Delon Armitage (London Irish), Matt Banahan (Bath Rugby), Freddie Burns (Gloucester Rugby), Karl Dickson (Harlequins), Alex Goode (Saracens), Jonathan Joseph (London Irish), Ryan Lamb (Northampton Saints), Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby), Ugo Monye (Harlequins), Henry Trinder (Gloucester Rugby), Billy Twelvetrees (Leicester Tigers), Micky Young (Leicester Tigers)

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