By Bea Asprey
ON THURSDAY Stuart Lancaster recruited six new names to his Elite Player Squad (EPS), including five who won their first caps on England’s summer tour to Argentina. Matt Kvesic, Billy Vunipola, Kyle Eastmond, Christian Wade and Marland Yarde joined the senior squad for the first time, while lock Dave Attwood returned, having won his first cap in 2010. So lets find out more about the newcomers…
Dave Attwood @Dmjattwood
The second-row is a West Country lad through and through. Born in Bristol, he first represented his home town’s club before moving up to Gloucester, and then back south to Bath, where he’s been refurbishing the home he owns with girlfriend, Bridget, during his spare time. Having won his first cap, off the bench against New Zealand at Twickenham in 2010, he was famously banned for nine weeks for stamping on Petrisor Toderasc during an Amlin Challenge Cup game, and subsequently missed out on a place in Martin Johnson’s 2011 World Cup squad. But when Lancaster handed him his first Test start against Argentina, he seized his opportunity, creating havoc in the lineout during the visitors’ Test series victory. Attwood replaces Calum Clark in the EPS, who has dropped down to the Saxons squad.
Kyle Eastmond @kyle_eastmond7
Attwood’s Bath team-mate replaces Jonathan Joseph, who has also joined the west country club from London Irish this season. Following in the footsteps of England coach Andy Farrell, as well as Chris Ashton and Jason Robinson, Eastmond’s rugby career first took off at league club St Helens, where he scored tries for fun. He also represented England for the 13-man game, but made the decision to switch codes and move over to the Rec in 2011, where he first shared a house with Olly Barkley. The 24-year-old, who can play centre, wing or full-back, and was offered a contract by St Helens at just 11 years old, was also weighing up a transition to the NRL in Australia, but his faith in rugby union has paid off, as he can now put the words ‘dual-code international’ on his CV.
Matt Kvesic @mattkvesic
Born in Germany, it was Worcester who initially snapped up this young flanker, and he became the youngest Warrior in the pro era when he took on the Scarlets in the LV= Cup in 2009. A former England U18s and U20s captain, his career has gone from strength to strength, and despite his age of just 21 years, he is already being spoken about as the ‘next Neil Back’ thanks to his classic openside style of play. He moves to the Cherry and Whites this season to join the No 8 he teamed up with in Argentina – Ben Morgan – where he won his first full England cap. Having displaced James Haskell in the EPS, could he also remove captain Chris Robshaw from his throne this autumn?
The Sydney-born No 8 is known for his shyness off the pitch, (and has yet to sign up to Twitter), but not so on it as his powerful displays for Wasps and England have proved. Just 20-years-old, he made headlines when he swapped Wasps for his brother Mako’s club, Saracens, a move that bitterly disappointed the west London outfit he has left behind. Another try-scorer from the 3-32 England victory over Argentina in Salta, the first Test of the tour, Vunipola scored a hat-trick in six minutes in the uncapped warm-up game against Consur XV, showing how ably he can get his near 20-stone frame over the try line. His father, Fe’ao, played hooker for Tonga, winning 32 caps, but Billy qualifies for England through residency, having been educated at Harrow, and replaces Tom Waldrom in the EPS.
Christian Wade @ChristianWade3
This 22-year-old winger hardly needs an introduction thanks to the number of headlines he made last season. The Aviva Premiership joint top try scorer alongside Wasps team-mate Tom Varndell, he also made history by becoming the first player to win the Rugby Players’ Association Players’ Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year in the same season. Tearing through the Leinster defence like a hot knife through butter during the Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-final was just one of the reasons Wade was picked to tour Argentina with England, only for Warren Gatland to step in and call upon his services for the Lions in Australia. You wouldn’t blame Lancaster if he had been slightly miffed at the time, but the speedster will now have his sights firmly set on securing a place in England’s starting team in November having beaten David Strettle in the race to the EPS.
Marland Yarde @YardeM
London Irish’s wing on song, Yarde was educated at Whitgift School in Croydon, of Danny Cipriani fame, and helped the school to win the 2010 Daily Mail Cup. Having also featured in London Irish’s JP Morgan 7s-winning team last season, and the England U20s, the 21-year-old became a key feature of England’s winning tour this summer, scoring two tries on his Test debut. Born in St Lucia, Yarde is another award winner, and won the London Irish Supporters’ Club’s Player and Young Player of the Season last term. Yarde admitted to feeling nervous before his first Test appearance, but ended up taking to international rugby like a duck to water. The other wings in the EPS include Wade, Chris Ashton and Mike Brown, but he has made no secret of his desire to cement his place in England’s starting lineup. The sixth player to make way for this newby is Exeter’s Tom Johnson.
England Senior EPS
Forwards: Dave Attwood, Dan Cole, Alex Corbisiero, Tom Croft, Dylan Hartley, Matt Kvesic, Joe Launchbury, Courtney Lawes, Joe Marler, Ben Morgan, Geoff Parling, Chris Robshaw, Billy Vunipola, Mako Vunipola, David Wilson, Tom Wood, Tom Youngs.
Backs: Chris Ashton, Brad Barritt, Mike Brown, Freddie Burns, Danny Care, Lee Dickson, Owen Farrell, Toby Flood, Ben Foden, Alex Goode, Kyle Eastmond, Manusamoa Tuilagi, Billy Twelvetrees, Christian Wade, Marland Yarde, Ben Youngs.
England Saxons EPS
Forwards: Calum Clark, Jordan Crane, Paul Doran Jones, Will Fraser, James Haskell, Tom Johnson, Graham Kitchener, George Kruis, Kearnan Myall, David Paice, George Robson, Ed Slater, Henry Thomas, Thomas Waldrom, Luke Wallace, Rob Webber, Nick Wood.
Backs: Anthony Allen, Luther Burrell, Elliot Daly, George Ford, Jonathan Joseph, Jonny May, Ugo Monye, Stephen Myler, Jack Nowell, Charlie Sharples, Joe Simpson, David Strettle, Mathew Tait, Joel Tomkins, Richard Wigglesworth.