England name exciting 55 man squad – but who will play in the back row?

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Coach Logic

Stuart Lancaster named a 55 strong England training group this weekend for a four-day camp at Loughborough University.

It is an exciting looking squad, featuring most of the current EPS as well as the majority of those extra players who toured with the England team in New Zealand back I June.

The back row particularly seems filled with exciting faces. Saracens’ Jackson Wray makes his first appearance in a senior England squad, while his clubmate Will Fraser is also back in the fold after his lay off.

The one that will really have people excited though is the return of Tom Croft, twice a Lions tourist and always in contention for an England squad – how will Lancaster fit him into his back row plans, will he fit him in? Croft is at home on the blindside but that has been occupied by one of Lancaster’s most trusted, and best performing, lieutenants, Tom Wood.

Wood could jump across to the openside, but that would require Lancaster dropping his most trusted player of all, captain Chris Robshaw. That seems unlikely. It is going to be a tough one for the England coaches going forward, but it will be a decision that they will be delighted to have available again.

Callum Clark also returns to the back row for this training squad. He is a well respected player, an occasional captain of Northampton Saints, and Lancaster is a long term admirer. However his discipline and the occasional injury have cost him in the past, this time he needs to get in the England squad and stay there.

Elsewhere in the pack things are pretty much as expected, Dan Cole and Sam Dickinson are both unavailable through injury but Luke Cowan-Dickie is fit again and joins Dylan Hartley, Rob Webber, and Tom Youngs in the hooking slots. Fourteen months ago he was lifting the JWC, now he is among the top four hookers in the country. His rise is going to be an exciting one.

His JWC winning teammate, and clubmate, Henry Slade is also in the squad. He is one of six fly halves, including Owen Farrell, Freddie Burns, Stephen Myler, the fit again George Ford, and of course the newly rejuvenated, and newly trusted, Danny Cipriani.

For the first time in a long time, England seem to have some genuine and exciting options at 10.

Elsewhere in the backline Christian Wade returns from injury to fight with a good and evenly matched bunch of ten players all vying for those back three places. Mike Brown has surely sown up full back until the World Cup barring a disaster of some sort, leaving nine to fit into two.

The same is true in the centres though, where England’s best pairing is yet to emerge. England desperately want a ball player at twelve but Billy Twelvetrees needs to start delivering more than just flashes of what they hope for from him.

Overall it looks an exciting squad and this year they meet up for their summer camp not for selection, solely for preparation, with Lancaster managing to strike a deal with the Premiership clubs that allows him to name his EPS and Saxons squads in October, rather than at the end of the summer – something he was keen to show his gratitude for:

“In collaboration with Premiership Rugby we have been given the flexibility to announce the England Senior and Saxons squads in October, much closer to our four international matches in November.”

“We appreciate their support of our proposal which enables time to assess the first part of the club season and therefore select players who are in form leading into an important series for us. It also allows an opportunity for players not involved in the training camp this week to put down a marker in terms of their performances ahead of the squad announcement.”

Who would you like to see start that first Test of the autumn against New Zealand? Let us know via the comment box below or via @FifteenRugbyXV

England training squad:

Loose-head props Alex Corbisiero (Northampton Saints) 
Joe Marler (Harlequins) 
Matt Mullan (Wasps) 
Mako Vunipola (Saracens)

Tight-head props Kieran Brookes (Newcastle Falcons) 
Henry Thomas (Bath Rugby) 
David Wilson (Bath Rugby)

Hookers Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs) 
Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints) 
Rob Webber (Bath Rugby) 
Tom Youngs (Leicester Tigers)

Locks Dave Attwood (Bath Rugby) 
Joe Launchbury (Wasps) 
Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints) 
Geoff Parling (Leicester Tigers) 
Ed Slater (Leicester Tigers)

Back rows Calum Clark (Northampton Saints) 
Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers) 
Will Fraser (Saracens) 
James Haskell (Wasps) 
Tom Johnson (Exeter Chiefs) 
Matt Kvesic (Gloucester Rugby) 
Ben Morgan (Gloucester Rugby) 
Chris Robshaw (Harlequins) 
Billy Vunipola (Saracens) 
Tom Wood (Northampton Saints) 
Jackson Wray (Saracens)

Scrum halves Danny Care (Harlequins) 
Lee Dickson (Northampton Saints) 
Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens) 
Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers)

Fly halves Freddie Burns (Leicester Tigers) 
Danny Cipriani (Sale Sharks) 
Owen Farrell (Saracens) 
George Ford (Bath Rugby) 
Stephen Myler (Northampton Saints) 
Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs)

Centres Anthony Allen (Leicester Tigers) 
Brad Barritt (Saracens) 
Luther Burrell (Northampton Saints) 
Kyle Eastmond (Bath Rugby) 
Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby) 
Henry Trinder (Gloucester Rugby) 
Manusamoa Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers) 
Billy Twelvetrees (Gloucester Rugby)

Back threes Chris Ashton (Saracens) 
Mike Brown (Harlequins) 
Ben Foden (Northampton Saints) 
Alex Goode (Saracens) 
Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby) 
Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs) 
Chris Pennell (Worcester Warriors) 
Marland Yarde (Harlequins) 
Christian Wade (Wasps) 
Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby)

The following players will not join the training squad this week due to injury: 
Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers) 
Sam Dickinson (Northampton Saints) 
Ollie Devoto (Bath Rugby)

SHARING IS CARING!
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