England 19-14 France
Henry Slade on the rise in Rugby World Cup race
Tom Hamilton
August 15, 2015
© David Rogers - RFU/The RFU Collection via Getty Images

This match was always going to be the aperitif to the main course of the Rugby World Cup but these warm-up matches have the potential to make or break a player's aspirations of making the cut come August 31.

Stand-in England captain Tom Wood warned earlier in the week "if you don't play well, you're going home". Here, we look at whose stock improved as a result of England's 19-14 win over France at Twickenham as well as those who failed to seize the opportunity.

THREE UP

Anthony Watson

Stuart Lancaster said earlier in the week the Bath winger was one man who felt he had a point to prove at Test level after the Six Nations. His ability at club level has never been in doubt, he has the poise and balance of a dangerous winger and he showcased his unique skillset on Saturday evening. The first try was a wonderful piece of individual skill as from a standing start he danced around Brice Dulin to go over in the corner and his second was a case of finisher's instinct by being in the perfect spot to receive Jonny May's pass.

Jonny May

With three wingers left in England's training squad, they can all feel reasonably confident of making the final cut but then comes the competition to break into the first team for the World Cup opener against Fiji. May was dropped for the final three matches of England's 2015 championship but he looked deadly under the lights at Twickenham. He cut a great line for Watson's try and snaffled up Alex Goode's delicious cross-kick for a score of his own.

Henry Slade

Though Slade was lucky not to be sin-binned for taking Morgan Parra out in the air, the Exeter Chiefs centre was fantastic. He teed up Watson for his first try and kick-started the move for the Bath man's second. He also kicked wonderfully out of hand and showed an instinctive flicked pass in the build up to May's score. He played the best out of the three starting debutants - the other two, Calum Clark and Sam Burgess, were both yellow-carded - and showed no signs of nerves in his first Test appearance. His England bow has been a long time coming but on this evidence, Slade might have forced his way into the reckoning for the World Cup.

THREE DOWN

Kieran Brookes

The replays did not look good when Brookes came off having picked up a wrist injury - the immediate swelling would be a cause for concern. Despite being one of the standout players for England in their summer training camp, he now faces that old cliched race against time to make the final cut. The 55 minutes he managed were mixed as he conceded a scrum penalty but he looked powerful in the loose.

Billy Twelvetrees

In World Cup times, when one man shines, sometimes another misses out. Lancaster favours the ball-carrier, ball-player combination in the midfield and Slade's showing, complete with his pinpoint passing and general game management sees him move ahead of the Gloucester No.12 in the race to make the final 31. Twelvetrees got 15 minutes against France but did not have a chance to stamp his mark on the game. He is a frustrating player; for all the world Twelvetrees fits the bill that Lancaster wants as one half of his centre partnership but the smart money is on a Brad Barritt-Jonathan Joseph combination come the World Cup.

Luke Cowan-Dickie

This was Cowan-Dickie's chance to take the third hooker spot for the World Cup with Jamie George's opportunity coming next week. Lancaster is a fan of the Exeter Chiefs No.2, saying earlier in the week he offered a point of difference. But he had to keep his set-piece work watertight. Unfortunately, three of his lineouts failed to find the mark and that might prove costly in the final reckoning. George has the chance to nail his colours to the mast next week.

© Tom Hamilton

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