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Several vulnerable as Stuart Lancaster gets set to name his Elite squad

International rugby is a tough old business, less than six weeks ago England were heroically beating New Zealand, tomorrow Stuart Lancaster will name his revised Elite Player Squad, some of those involved may be cast aside.

Lancaster is in theory allowed to make ten changes to the squads named in the summer, five in the Elite squad and five in the Saxons.

In actual fact his is allowed a couple more as Matt Stevens has retired from international rugby and can therefore be replaced, while the increase in Test matchday squads to 23 means an increase in the Elite squad from 32 to 33 players.

Some of the changes are reasonably obvious, after excellent Autumn campaigns Joe Launchbury and Tom Youngs will almost certainly be promoted to the Elite squad, while Mako Vunipola will likely be named in the props after his good autumn showing, having previously not been in either squad.

A number of players are looking vulnerable though, in the forwards, Mouritz Botha, Tom Palmer, Phil Dowson, Thomas Waldrom and Tom Johnson will be sweating, while Rob Webber will almost certainly drop out due to his long term injury and lack of game time. Tom Croft by contrast looks set to remain having made his Tigers return last week after a serious neck injury.

In the backs, Lee Dickson, Anthony Allen and Jordan Turner-Hall will be nervous about their chances of remaining in the Elite squad. Dickson is under real pressure from Wasps’ Joe Simpson, while Allen and Turner-Hall just simply aren’t being used, with Barritt, Tuilagi, Jospeh and Farrell all above them in the midfield pecking order.

Coming into the squad, as we said, are likely to be Tom Youngs, Joe Launchbury and Mako Vunipola, while David Wilson will be fairly confident of coming in as Dan Cole’s understudy in place of the retired Stevens.

James Haskell will likely replace one of the vulnerable back row after working his way back into the match squad over the Autumn. There is much clamour for Wasps’ number 8, Billy Vunipola, to come in but he will likely be named in the Saxons, while Matt Kvesic and Callum Clark may hope to step in as cover for Chris Robshaw, though it seems likely that they will remain in the Saxons.

Joe Simpson could come in for Dickson, while Freddie Burns will almost certainly be promoted from the Saxons following his Premiership form and his performance against the All Blacks.

The two big calls for Lancaster though are in the three quarters. With at least one of Allen and Tuner-Hall probably dropping out, a new centre seems likely, with Gloucester’s Billy Twelvetrees the overwhelming favourite to come in.

Out wide though he has an equally important decision, it seems likely that Lancaster will persist with three full backs, Brown, Foden and Goode, but with just two genuine wingers in the squad in Ashton and Sharples, will he find room for another in the shape of Christian Wade?

Our guess is that he probably will not, but it is a strong possibility.

England Elite Player Squad, summer 2012 (Saxons in brackets, autumn call ups in italics):

Props:

Corbisiero, Cole, Stevens, Marler

(Thomas, Catt, Doran Jones, Wilson)

Hookers:

Hartley, Webber

(Paice, Youngs, Gray)

Locks:

Lawes, Parling, Botha, Palmer

(Launchbury, Robson, Kitchener, Gaskell, Deacon)

Back Row:

Morgan, Robshaw, Dowson, Waldrom, Croft, Johnson, Wood

(Clark, Fearns, Haskell, Gibson, Kvesic)

Scrum Halves:

Care, Youngs, Dickson

(Simpson, Wigglesworth)

Fly Halves:

Flood, Farrell

(Burns, Ford)

Centres:

Allen, Barritt, Turner-Hall, Joseph, Tuilagi

(Twelvetrees, May)

Wings:

Ashton, Sharples

(Monye, Wade, Strettle, Benjamin, Biggs)

Full Backs:

Foden, Goode, Brown

(Miller, Abendanon)

* Mako Vunipola was called up from outside of either squad.

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