SO THE selections that we expected arrived during a senior side and Saxons announcement, with England naming a senior training squad to face Wales in the opening game of the Six Nations that initially includes Danny Cipriani and Nick Easter.

With Jonathan Joseph also selected, this is a nod to form. Some would suggest it is also a nod to the power of popular pressure – Sale DoR Steve Diamond’s recent assertion that: “If Danny doesn’t get picked and he goes then we’ll find somebody else,” could imply that Cipriani would leave England if Lancaster didn’t act – but it is worth noting that this is a squad only for the Wales game, and even then only a wider training squad.

However, it is a lifeline, even if Cipriani is one of four fly-halves. Lancaster admitted that Stephen Myler had the edge on Cipriani, but that the Sharks stand-off had always been in the loop, having toured New Zealand with England in the summer and training with the squad in the autumn.

As for Easter, Lancaster felt it was time to welcome the Harlequins veteran back. “Nick is slightly different,” Lancaster said. “There is a real need for specialist No 8s. Billy Vunipola was outstanding at the weekend but we need some specialist No 8s and Nick, to be fair, has been outstanding and deserves a chance to see if he can replicate that again at international level.”

Taking stock: Nick Easter will be in a camp with Lancaster for the first time

Taking stock: Nick Easter will be in a camp with Lancaster for the first time

With focus on the midfield, there is still no sign of Manu Tuilagi recovering. Andy Farrell highlighted the opportunity presented to others – with Kyle Eastmond, Joseph, Brad Barritt, Luther Burrell, and Billy Twelvetrees in the mix and with Sam Burgess set to start in the centre for the England Saxons against the Irish Wolfhounds on 30 January – but was also cautious on the Leicester Tigers powerhouse’s health. He said: “He (Tuilagi) would have liked to have played in a few more Test matches than he has. But we want a fully fit Manu and his priority is to get 100% fit. But, in the meantime, it gives other people a chance.”

Take your pick on which one of these is the more exciting story: Cipriani and three rivals; Easter’s return to the fold or the continued quandry in the centres. Because many will be happy to see Joseph reaping rewards for his Bath form. Oh yeah, and the second row is a wide open area. Graham Kitchener has forced his way into the second-row reckoning thanks to his recent performances for Leicester while the coaches were effusive with praise for Saracens‘ George Kruis. There is an opportunity to impress in the boiler house for several locks, while there are finally several options in the front row.

Elsewhere, there is a chance for assorted Saxons to impress, with their squad also announced. All eyes will be on Burgess, but with Marland Yarde dropped down a level while England only pick three out-and-out wingers in their training squad for Wales, he will have a point to prove.

Others have their chance to show what they have against the Wolfhounds, with Kieran Brookes and Rob Webber lining up for the Saxons and Christian Day called up off the back of Northampton’s impressive showings so far.

England Senior training squad 

Forwards

Dave Attwood (Bath Rugby)

Calum Clark (Northampton Saints)

Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers)

Alex Corbisiero (Northampton Saints)

Nick Easter (Harlequins)

Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints)

James Haskell (Wasps)

Graham Kitchener (Leicester Tigers)

George Kruis (Saracens)

Joe Marler (Harlequins)

Geoff Parling (Leicester Tigers)

Chris Robshaw (Harlequins, captain)

Billy Vunipola (Saracens)

Mako Vunipola (Saracens)

David Wilson (Bath Rugby)

Tom Wood (Northampton Saints)

Tom Youngs (Leicester Tigers)

Backs

Brad Barritt (Saracens)

Mike Brown (Harlequins)

Luther Burrell (Northampton Saints)

Danny Care (Harlequins)

Danny Cipriani (Sale Sharks)

Kyle Eastmond (Bath Rugby)

Owen Farrell (Saracens)

George Ford (Bath Rugby)

Alex Goode (Saracens)

Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby)

Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby)

Stephen Myler (Northampton Saints)

Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs)

Billy Twelvetrees (Gloucester Rugby)

Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby)

Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens)

Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers)

 

England Saxons squad

Forwards

Kieran Brookes (Newcastle Falcons)
Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers)
Christian Day (Northampton Saints)
Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs)
Dave Ewers (Exeter Chiefs)
Matt Garvey (Bath Rugby)
Ross Harrison (Sale Sharks)
Maro Itoje (Saracens)
Matt Kvesic (Gloucester Rugby)
Matt Mullan (Wasps)
Henry Thomas (Bath Rugby)
Thomas Waldrom (Exeter Chiefs)
Alex Waller (Northampton Saints)
Rob Webber (Bath Rugby)

Backs
Chris Ashton (Saracens)
Sam Burgess (Bath Rugby)
Elliot Daly (Wasps)
Ollie Devoto (Bath Rugby)
Lee Dickson (Northampton Saints, captain)
Chris Pennell (Worcester Warriors)
Joe Simpson (Wasps)
Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs)
Marland Yarde (Harlequins)
Christian Wade (Wasps)