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England Rugby
Lancaster dangles Lions carrot
Graham Jenkins
August 8, 2012
England head coach Stuart Lancaster is all smiles at training, St. David's School, Sandton, South Africa, June 18, 2012
England boss Stuart Lancaster has thrown the gauntlet down to his squad aheafd of next year's Lions tour to Australia © Getty Images
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England boss Stuart Lancaster has urged his players to earn selection for the British & Irish Lions' tour to Australia next year and welcomed the potential selection headache.

The Lions' eagerly-awaited trip Down Under will clash with England's scheduled tour to Argentina but Lancaster insists the experience will benefit the players and his side in the long run while their enforced absence will also enable him to explore other options within his squad.

"I have talked about the Lions tour with the players and my message was that we want to see as many of you as possible to get on the Lions tour," said Lancaster following a three-day camp at England's training base at Loughborough University. "It is a massive thing for a player and it helps their development, it helps them become better players if they are able to go and represent England within the Lions at the highest level."

Lancaster, who could also have to deal with the loss of assistant coach Graham Rowntree should he once again be drafted into the Lions management team, insists the potential selection of any England players would not be an endorsement of his coaching credentials but due reward for their own endeavour.

"I want the players to feel we are behind them and supporting them and when I talked about their journey I made specific reference to the Lions," explained Lancaster. "I don't want to say, 'Actually, we'd like to keep you back for Argentina', I want to try and get as many players as possible on that tour then I can take some developing lads to Argentina.

"The following year we are all off to New Zealand on tour and we need to make sure we have the experience for that challenge."

Lancaster also believces the Lions will be an important benchmark when it comes to the development of his own players. "We need seven world class players in our team and I define world class players as being in the top three in their position in the world. That's the reality, we can coach, we can put systems and structures in place but we need world class players.

"A good measure will be the Lions - it's the benchmark of four northern hemisphere sides and if you're not playing well enough to tour with the Lions then you can't be in the top three in the world. It will be a good barometer [of our progress] as I saw various selections for the Lions pre-South Africa and we didn't have very many in there.

"Teams are made up of the overall sum of their parts but equally we want some stardust in there too."

Lucozade Sport fuels England Rugby to go Faster. Stronger. For Longer. Lucozade Sport is the Official Sports Drink of the England Senior, Saxons, Sevens and Women's squads and also use their expertise to support amateur players throughout the country. For more information go to www.lucozade.com

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Graham Jenkins is the Senior Editor of ESPNscrum and you can also follow him on Twitter.
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