When Luther Burrell resumes his midfield partnership with Jonathan Joseph for England at the Stade de France in Paris on Saturday, it will be the 12th midfield combination that Stuart Lancaster has used in his 3½ years in charge and is likely to be the most critical of the Northampton centre’s career.
Rugby league convert Sam Burgess impressed on his debut in London, but has been omitted from the squad to cross the Channel.
Slugging it out for the two remaining spots are Burrell, Twelvetrees, Sam Burgess and Henry Slade. Wing Jonny May is the only player to retain his place in the side.
Burgess proved destructive in defence in England’s 19-14 win and could have played himself into the squad.
If the short-term goal is to make next week’s cut, Burrell insists that England’s thrilling Six Nations finale against France in March can provide the “blueprint” for their World Cup campaign. Danny Cipriani will also hope for another chance to show what he can do having been named among the replacements.
“We do still have the Ireland game but unfortunately for Alex the decision about this weekend has ben taken out of my hands and that could have a bearing long term”, said Lancaster.
The game is England’s second of three warm-up matches for the World Cup, which the hosts start against Fiji at Twickenham on September 18.
“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”.
“France will be even stronger at home and this will be a big test but these guys have been working hard for the opportunity and are desperate to go out and perform”, Lancaster continued.
Looking ahead to the second warm-up match against Les Bleus, he added: “It is a big test for Luther to see if he can deal with the pressure and if we are going to be successful at the World Cup, players like him need to deliver on the big stage”.