- Club form should be first priority, says England head coach
- Lancaster believes Mathew Tait and Luke Wallace will “push hard” for Test involvement
After delivering on his promise to reward domestic achievement with international recognition, Stuart Lancaster has urged each member of his 32-man EPS Saxons squad to prove they should be challenging for Test honours by hitting the ground running for their clubs this season.
Following outstanding Aviva Premiership campaigns in 2012/3, 38-cap Leicester Tigers full back Mathew Tait is given another chance to establish his international credentials, while Harlequins’ energetic openside Luke Wallace has also been incorporated into Lancaster’s second-string.
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On the back of some electric displays during England Under 20s’ triumphant Junior World Championship, wing Jack Nowell of Exeter Chiefs is named in a senior training group for the first time, too.
The pacey, powerful 20 year-old from Truro joins young forwards Will Fraser, George Kruis and Ed Slater – all of whom have forced their way into the reckoning. And as the swift promotions of Christian Wade, Marland Yarde and Matt Kvesic have demonstrated, Lancaster is forthcoming in pushing capable performers though the ranks.
Indeed, the England head coach explained a delayed meeting to decide personnel had been governed by form rather than reputation.
“Obviously we’ve had a little bit of extra time with the Lions tour being on – that gave a chance for Graham Rowntree and Andy Farrell to be back in the equation,” said Lancaster. “It’s been very difficult to nail it down.”
“Mathew Tait must look at it and feel like something of a senior citizen at 27. Jack Nowell has only just broken through to Exeter’s first team but he then went onto win a [Junior] World Cup final. That’s a reflection of form – he’s played well.
“The sooner we get him in the squad and start working with him, the better. That’s not to preclude anyone else. You couldn’t leave Mathew Tait out after the form he was showing for Leicester at the back-end of last season.
“When I look at the quality we have in the back three, he is only going to add to that and put pressure on those above him. With a good start to the season for Leicester, I’m sure he’ll be right back in the mix.
“There are some good young forwards coming through as well – Will Fraser and Ed Slater, for example, who both missed out on the South America tour through injury. There is George Kruis at Saracens as well.
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“These are the kind of players we want pushing through, putting pressure on and getting experience of what it’s like to be in the England camp. Hopefully their form and fitness will push them close to the senior squad in six to twelve months’ time.”
Turning once more to Nick Walshe’s England Under 20s, who sealed a first-ever victory at the Junior World Championship over The Channel in June by beating their Welsh counterparts 23-15 in a toughly-contested final, Lancaster suggested some of Nowell’s teammates could yet earn call-ups.
“There’s definitely one or two who will be pushing hard in the first half of the season – guys that I had seen before and knew through the system,” he added.
“Selection is always done by how they perform for their clubs and the likes of Jack Clifford, Luke Cowan-Dickie and these guys will be pushing hard to get regular first-team football – that is their priority.”
England Saxons EPS (32)
Calum Clark (Northampton Saints)
Jordan Crane (Leicester Tigers)
Paul Doran Jones (Harlequins)
Will Fraser (Saracens)
James Haskell (London Wasps)
Tom Johnson (Exeter Chiefs)
Graham Kitchener (Leicester Tigers)
George Kruis (Saracens)
Kearnan Myall (London Wasps)
David Paice (London Irish)
George Robson (Harlequins)
Ed Slater (Leicester Tigers)
Henry Thomas (Sale Sharks)
Thomas Waldrom (Leicester Tigers)
Luke Wallace (Harlequins)
Rob Webber (Bath Rugby)
Nick Wood (Gloucester Rugby)
Anthony Allen (Leicester Tigers)
Luther Burrell (Northampton Saints)
Elliot Daly (London Wasps)
George Ford (Bath Rugby)
Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby)
Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby)
Ugo Monye (Harlequins)
Stephen Myler (Northampton Saints)
Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs)
Charlie Sharples (Gloucester Rugby)
Joe Simpson (London Wasps)
David Strettle (Saracens)
Mathew Tait (Leicester Tigers)
Joel Tomkins (Saracens)
Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens)