George Skivington celebrates defeating Canada to win the Churchill Cup in 2010

In most years the Churchill Cup is little more than a development event, with little at stake, writes Paul Morgan. But in 2011 everything has changed with the competition becoming a trial for England’s squad to go to the World Cup.

Usually played in North America, the Churchill Cup arrives in England this year with matches at Sixways, Kingsholm, Esher and Franklin’s Gardens – and Martin Johnson will be naming his initial 50-man squad for the World Cup during the tournament.

So if players like Matt Stevens, Joe Simpson, Manu Tuilagi, George Skivington and Billy Twelvetrees are going to stake a claim for a place in the squad – which will go into camp in July and play Wales (twice) and Ireland in August – then here’s their chance.

England have a great record in the competition. Since its inception in 2003, they’ve won five of the eight events with New Zealand Maori (2004 and 2006) and Ireland A (2009) taking the others.

Neither the Maori nor Ireland have entered this time, leaving Stuart Lancaster’s team as clear favourites. The Saxons will have to beat USA and Tonga in their pool and most likely Canada in the final, as they look stronger than Russia or Italy A.

Rob Andrew, the RFU’s operations director, says: “It’s great to get them (USA and Canada) over in England for what will be the second time we’ve hosted the Churchill Cup.

“Hopefully in June, as there’s no other rugby going on, we can focus on that next level of players from all the countries and add the finishing touches before the World Cup.”

This article appeared in the June 2011 issue of Rugby World Magazine.

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