Lancaster ready to 'freshen up' England
March 3, 2013
Stuart Lancaster will not make wholesale changes © Getty Images
England head coach Stuart Lancaster is ready to "freshen up" his side for the Six Nations clash with Italy next weekend but has ruled out making wholesale changes.
Toby Flood, Danny Care, Billy Twelvetrees, James Haskell and Mako Vunipola are all in contention to start against the Azzuri at Twickenham next Sunday as England continue their quest for the Grand Slam. Flood is on standby to replace Owen Farrell, who is rated as 50-50 for the match, while Care, Twelvetrees, Haskell and Vunipola are all pushing for starting places after impressing off the bench in recent games.
Lancaster, though, will resist the temptation to make too many changes in recognition of the threat posed by the Italians as well as ensuring the first-choice players are in the grove for their potential Grand Slam decider against Wales the following week.
"I wouldn't want to make wholesale changes going into Italy because I think combinations working and learning together on the field is the important part of it as well," Lancaster told the Telegraph. "One or two people are suggesting let's make seven, eight, nine or ten changes and bring in a whole load of people who are playing well in the Premiership. I think that would be hugely disrespectful to Italy and definitely the route we will not go down.
"I think there is a difference between that and freshening the side up with players of equal quality who have sat on the bench and waited patiently."
There have been calls in some quarters for rising stars such as Wasps' Christian Wade and Billy Vunipola to be blooded in the international arena. But Lancaster is set to resist those options and is confident he is getting the balance right between building a team and fielding his best XV.
"I have always had to balance the needs of winning in the here and now and developing a team for the future and I don't think my mindset is any different now going into these last two games," he added.
"I think it is important to win in the here and now. It does build confidence and builds space for the team to grow. But equally I have never been dominated by it so I have always had one eye on the big picture and think about where we are going.
"But now we are going to the Italy game, it is not a case of experimentation in order to grow a team and bring young players in for 2015. It is actually about giving the right group of players that we think we have got now more experience over the next two games."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
With the retirement of Adam Jones, Welsh rugby says goodbye to a great player and one of its biggest personalities too, writes Tom Hamilton
Cards, kicks, slips and scores: It's The Week in Pictures, the finest snaps from the last seven days of rugby
Huw Richards Rewinds to 1975 when three Welsh legends were handed their debuts and assesses their legacy
Seven places in the Champions Cup quarter-finals are up for grabs; we break down the permutations for each group in the final round of matches