Lancaster set to wield the axe
January 11, 2012
Stuart Lancaster is set to axe 13 players from the squad which journeyed to the 2011 World Cup © Getty Images
Stuart Lancaster is expected to axe nearly half of the squad which journeyed to the 2011 World Cup when he names his new-look party for the forthcoming 2012 Six Nations.
England's interim head coach has the power to replace over half of the players who failed so dismally at the World Cup and it is likely that Mike Tindall, Nick Easter and Mark Cueto will all be absent. On top of those omitted, Lancaster will be replacing retirees Jonny Wilkinson, Lewis Moody and Steve Thompson with the next generation of England players.
Owen Farrell, the Saracens centre whose work ethic has been compared with Jonny Wilkinson, will receive his first senior England call-up. The Harlequins trio of Mike Brown, Chris Robshaw and Jordan Turner-Hall are all set to be included while Northampton's Lee Dickson is in line for the third scrum-half berth.
Northampton flanker Calum Clark has been name-checked by Lancaster more than any other player while the Scarlets' number eight Ben Morgan is sure to be included having spurned advances from Wales.
And reports in the Daily Mail claim that the uncapped Morgan and Clark are likely to be joined by Joe Marler, Rob Webber, Phil Webber and Brad Barritt. If their predicted 32-man squad materialises, then it means the Northampton Saints will be without a host of players for the second Six Nations running. Eight Saints are expected to get the call while Leicester are likely to be without six players and Saracens five.
Lancaster's squad will be announced at 12.45pm on Wednesday and it will include some players who could start the Six Nations injured, such as Toby Flood and Manu Tuilagi. They can be replaced in the short term but both will be part of England's plans toward the back end of the tournament and on the summer tour to South Africa.
Farrell may not yet have completed a full season in the Aviva Premiership but he was pivotal in the club's victory over Leicester in last season's final. The flattering comparison with Wilkinson was made by the former England and Lions flanker Richard Hill, a man not known for hyperbole who has worked with Farrell at Saracens.
Hill won the World Cup alongside Wilkinson in 2003 and sees a very familiar drive and determination in Farrell. "You are dealing with a kid who is very, very determined. He has a great work ethic, constantly wanting to improve his analysis and understanding of the game," said Hill. "He has the ability to play 10 and 12. He will tailor his game and improve his game constantly.
"He is one of these characters who is almost obsessed, in the most positive way, to being a better player."
Asked whether he would compare Farrell with Wilkinson, Hill continued: "There are definitely the same characteristics. Both are self driven with a strong desire to be the best, they are not prepared to accept other peoples' perception of where they could get to."
Hill has been aware of Farrell's potential for a long time, as has the Harlequins director of rugby Conor O'Shea who once saw him dominating an England Under-18 training session at the age of just 14. With Flood struggling for fitness, Farrell could start at inside centre with his new Saracens team-mate Charlie Hodgson at fly-half.
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