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Who will start for England?

With eleven players released back to their clubs, and two ruled out injured, Stuart Lancaster’s 23 man squad to face Australia on Saturday is clear.

So when he announces his starting XV at 10.45am tomorrow, who should be in it?

Released back to their clubs are Freddie Burns, Luther Burrell, Danny Care, Kyle Eastmond, Alex Goode, Tom Johnson, Matt Kvesic, Henry Thomas, Henry Trinder, Rob Webber, and Christian Wade. The injured duo are Alex Corbisiero and Geoff Parling, whose concussion allows the in form Dave Attwood a chance of a start after he had previously been released last week.

Some positions look pretty clear cut, whether you agree with them or not, for instance the two centre positions look almost certain to belong to Billy Twelvetrees and Joel Tomkins unless the England coaching team decide to experiment with one of their two fly halves.

Equally the two wing spots seem certain to fall to Marland Yarde and the grateful and in form Chris Ashton. There is still the possibility of the experiment with either Mike Brown or Ben Foden on the wing continuing but there seems to be a sense that they are being considered as out and out full backs again now.

That should come a relief to the pair and that brings us to the first of our hotly contested positions. Foden has arguably been the standout performer at full back this season but there is a sense that Mike Brown has earned his shot after playing out of position for so long. Given that Brown remained with the squad over the weekend while Foden went back to Northampton also suggests that the Harlequins man will start with Foden on the bench.

The nature of the modern bench means that both half back positions are also officially undecided as yet but it would be a major surprise if England’s Lions duo of Ben Youngs and Owen Farrell do not start. Toby Flood and particularly Lee Dickson have been in good form but it would be a major surprise to see them start.

Again the modern bench makes the predicting the starting eight a little less obvious as there is over half a pack waiting on the bench to come on.

What we can be certain of is that Chris Robshaw will captain the side and it will almost certainly be from openside. He is practically certain to have Tom Wood packing down across from him at six unless Lancaster decides to try to squeeze all of his second row options in by playing Courtney Lawes on the blindside.

Number eight is a straight shootout between Billy Vunipola and Ben Morgan. Vunipola is the man in form and there has been a lot of media talk about him as well as his name leading much of the coverage from the RFU themselves.

However we have a sense that the England management might just prefer to bring him on from the bench to try and use his big frame to create an impact, much as they have with his brother in the past, so Ben Morgan may get the nod for the starting shirt.

In the second row the loss of Parling is a blow but all three of Dave Attwood, Courtney Lawes, and Joe Launchbury have been in great form this season, with Lawes the pick of the bunch.

Of all the selections this is probably the hardest to second guess. Form says that Lawes must start, whilst Launchbury’s performances for his country over the last twelve months surely mean that he cannot lose his place. However they are both ‘roamers’ while Attwood is nearer to Geoff Parling in his style of play, which could mean that pairing him with one of the other two would be better balanced.

It is probably most likely that Attwood will start on the bench though with Lawes and Launchbury starting but it really is an incredibly tight contest in the second row.

One position that ought not to be a tight contest is tighhead prop. Dan Cole has made his position his own over the last few years and though is aura has possibly dipped just a little he remains by far the best option, with his abilities at the ruck an added bonus. David Wilson deserves a spot on the bench though, he was superb in the summer and has been equally good for Bath this season.

On the opposite side of the scrum the loss of Alex Corbisiero is a blow. Had he been available he would have started with Mako Vunipola on the bench. Joe Marler could come straight over the top of Vunipola and into the starting line up but the more likely option is that Vunipola will start with Marler on the bench. While Vunipola’s scrummaging is still not top class he has adapted well to the new interpretations and against the Aussie pack he should have no worries.

Hooker, like second row, is an absolute dog fight. Choosing between Tom Youngs and Dylan Hartley is a near impossible task at the moment, such is the form that this pair are in.

The likelihood is that Hartley will start though, the management are huge believers in his leadership and when the call is so tight that will count for a lot. As will the fact that Youngs offers such an impact from the bench. It is possible that Lancaster might just want to give Hartley a final rap on the knuckles for his outburst in May but it seems highly unlikely. Lancaster is the type to deal with things immediately and then move on.

Who do you think is going to be selected in Stuart Lancaster’s England starting XV tomorrow morning?

Predicted England XV v Australia

15. Mike Brown 14. Chris Ashton 13. Joel Tomkins 12. Billy Twelvetrees 11. Marland Yarde 10. Owen Farrell 9. Ben Youngs; 1. Mako Vunipola 2. Dylan Hartley 3. Dan Cole 4. Joe Launchbury 5. Courtney Lawes 6. Tom Wood 7. Chris Robshaw (c) 8. Ben Morgan.

Replacements: 16. Tom Youngs 17. Joe Marler 18. David Wilson 19. Dave Attwood 20. Billy Vunipola 21. Lee Dickson 22. Toby Flood 23. Ben Foden.

The starting XV will be announced at 10.45am tomorrow & we will be tweeting live @FifteenRugbyXV

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