“We do still have the Ireland game on 5 September but the call has to be made before then”, Lancaster said.
Luther Burrell and Jonathan Joseph will start Saturday’s warm-up match against France in Paris with Billy Twelvetrees set to make a second-half appearance from the bench. “There is now an opportunity for those not involved or who didn’t get much opportunity from the bench to put a marker down and build on that performance”, Lancaster said after announcing his squad.
‘I thought Henry did great.
Brad Barritt, who is struggling with a calf problem, and Joseph are the only certainties to make the World Cup, leaving Burrell, Twelvetrees, Burgess and Slade to fight it out for the two remaining centre places.
“I think it’s fair to say that I now see picking both Sam and Henry in the final squad as a smaller step than I did this time last week”, Lancaster commented.
Even if Cipriani gets another chance to impress against France in Paris on Saturday, the praise Goode received after the 19-14 win over France at Twickenham was telling. The final decision would “go down to the wire” unless Burrell performs like a cross between Brian O’Driscoll and Ma’a Nonu, scores a brilliant hat-trick and kills the whole protracted debate stone dead.
“For people like Slade, it’s also about the next two weeks, the two months and the next two years as well”.
But he also mentioned that in his face-to-face review meeting with Slade he had spent at least part of it talking of the opportunities that would be open to him once this World Cup is done and dusted: hardly the newcomer’s subject of choice, if truth be told.
“Luther is desperate to get a game”. All of England’s pencilled in starters are being pushed by those behind them and at this point every player knows that to keep their jersey they have to excel in it and that hasn’t always been the case. While reiterating the option to deploy Owen Farrell at 12, Lancaster spoke of the need for “physicality in your back line” and added: ‘If it is a wet, rainy Saturday night in October and we’re playing against some big side, sometimes it’s just about physicality and getting over the gain line’.
Meanwhile, former Melksham youth player Mike Brown is handed his first start since suffering a head injury in February.
Directing operations at half-back are Ben Youngs and George Ford, while Jack Nowell is given the stage to show what he can do after wing rivals May and Anthony Watson dazzled Twickenham last weekend.