Stuart Lancaster names three England debutants for France test
Centres Sam Burgess and Henry Slade form a new-look midfield with Northampton flanker Calum Clark finally making his debut
Stuart Lancaster will hand out three new England caps this weekend as he runs the rule over fringe players ahead of the Rugby World Cup next month.
Despite showing more promise at flanker, Bath’s versatile powerhouse Sam Burgess will make his senior Red Rose debut against France at inside centre, just 10 months after converting from rugby league, with Exeter Chiefs rising star Henry Slade at outside centre in a new-look midfield.
The lads are itching to get out and play a match and these games give us a chance to look at a wide range of players and combinations before we narrow down our selection further.
Head coach Lancaster will also give Northampton Saints flanker Calum Clark – a player he coached at Leeds Carnegie – a first crack at Test rugby with places in the final 31-man squad still up for grabs.
Northampton Saints flanker Tom Wood will captain the experimental side for the run-out at Twickenham on Saturday evening as part of England’s Rugby World Cup warm-up matches
“We are really excited to play our first QBE International at Twickenham and to put into practice some what we have been working on for the last six weeks,” Lancaster told the England Rugby website.
“The lads are itching to get out and play a match and these games give us a chance to look at a wide range of players and combinations before we narrow down our selection further.
“Tom is one of several leaders in the squad and he captained the team well in Argentina when Chris Robshaw was rested, so this is an ideal opportunity to take the armband at Twickenham against what will be a quality French team.
“I’m delighted for the new caps and for Ben Morgan, who has worked so hard to get back to fitness following his injury.”
While the midfield is new, there is some familiarity to the backline with Saracens star Owen Farrell pulling the strings at outside-half alongside his club team-mate Richard Wigglesworth.
Saracens full-back Alex Goode has a chance to cement a place as back-up to Mike Brown with a rare start in the back three, with Bath’s Anthony Watson and Gloucester’s Jonny May providing pace on the wings.
Up front, Northampton tighthead prop Kieran Brookes gets a chance to stake a claim for inclusion in the final squad alongside Bath hooker Rob Webber and Saracens powerhouse loosehead Mako Vunipola.
Saracens rising star George Kruis starts in the engine room alongside Exeter Chiefs’ experienced lock Geoff Parling.
Gloucester number eight Ben Morgan also makes his long-awaited return to an England shirt after missing the RBS Six Nations earlier this year with a broken leg.
Lancaster has plenty of fire power at his disposal from the bench with Sale Sharks maverick Danny Cipriani and Harlequins scrum-half Danny Care among the players still hoping to sneak into the final 31.
Chiefs hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie could also win his first senior England cap if he makes it off the bench, while Wasps captain James Haskell, Northampton loosehead Alex Corbisiero and Bath’s Dave Attwood provide experienced cover for the forwards.
England: Alex Goode (Saracens); Anthony Watson (Bath), Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs), Sam Burgess (Bath), Jonny May (Gloucester); Owen Farrell (Saracens), Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens); Mako Vunipola (Saracens), Rob Webber (Bath), Kieran Brookes (Northampton), George Kruis (Saracens), Geoff Parling (Exeter Chiefs), Tom Wood (Northampton, captain), Calum Clark (Northampton), Ben Morgan (Gloucester).
Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs), Alex Corbisiero (Northampton), Dave Wilson (Bath), Dave Attwood (Bath), James Haskell (Wasps), Danny Care (Harlequins); Danny Cipriani (Sale Sharks), Billy Twelvetrees (Gloucester).