Parling set for first Test start
February 22, 2012
Geoff Parling plucks a lineout during training © Getty Images
England second-row Geoff Parling looks set for his first start in the national jersey against Wales on Saturday in one of three changes.
The Leicester lock is understood to have been promoted into the starting side to run the lineout in place of Tom Palmer, who was last night axed from the squad. Scrum-half Lee Dickson and number eight Ben Morgan are also preparing to make their full debuts at Twickenham after impressive performances off the bench against Scotland and Italy.
But England interim coach Stuart Lancaster is ready to resist the temptation to thrust Manu Tuilagi, Toby Flood and Courtney Lawes straight into the starting side. All three are set to be named on the bench when Lancaster confirms his line-up to tackle the Triple Crown-chasing Welsh tomorrow morning.
Parling toured with England to Australia in 2010 but he returned home with a neck problem and then suffered a succession of knee injuries which kept him out of England contention until this season. The bearded 28-year-old came off the bench in England's victories over Scotland and Italy, replacing Palmer on both occasions, and he is expected to pack down with Mouritz Botha on Saturday.
Palmer is perhaps a victim of England failing to enjoy the lineout solidity they would have liked over the opening two rounds of the championship.
"We were nine from 11 in Scotland and 14 from 17 in Italy, with sleet all over the ball against a very competent Italian pack," said forwards coach Graham Rowntree. "Not all of it was clean so I am looking to improve our delivery and certainly the tempo at which we go about our line-out."
Lawes would provide the second-row cover after overcoming a knee injury while Tuilagi and Flood are also set to be used as impact replacements.
All three are in England's matchday 22 for the first time this tournament but Lancaster is preparing to stick by his all-Saracens starting midfield of Owen Farrell and Brad Barritt outside Charlie Hodgson. Dickson and Morgan have been in line for a promotion since their game-changing impact against Italy in Rome last week, when both players injected a much-needed tempo into England's performance.
Ben Youngs has been struggling for form and is set to be named on the bench while Phil Dowson will cover all three back-row positions following Morgan's promotion. Harlequins full-back Mike Brown and centre Jordan Turner-Hall have also dropped out of England's 22-man squad and will be available for Aviva Premiership action this weekend.
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