Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Lancaster Keeps Options Open by Recalling Cipriani and Easter

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Lancaster Keeps Options Open by Recalling Cipriani and Easter

Article excerpt

Byline: Chris Jones Rugby Correspondent

STUART LANCASTER has been forced to turn back the clock as he attempts to identify the men England need to overcome Wales in the Six Nations opener in a fortnight.

Injuries mean the head coach has been unable to pick locks Joe Launchbury and Courtney Lawes, full-back Ben Foden, No8 Ben Morgan and most importantly, centre Manu Tuilagi. Lawes (ankle) and Tuilagi (groin) could feature at some point in the championship.

Despite the looming World Cup which starts in England in September, this selection is aimed at getting past Wales in Cardiff on February 6 and then Lancaster will look again at his squad. As a result, 36-year-old Nick Easter is recalled for the first time since 2011 at No8 while Danny Cipriani has also been handed another chance at fly-half although Lancaster is keeping his options open. The 34-strong squad could be increased following this weekend's final round of European pool matches, highlighting Lancaster's selection headaches.

Easter, whose last game for England was the World Cup quarter-final defeat by France, will pressure Billy Vunipola for the starting No8 role. Vunipola is in tremendous form for Saracens after being dropped for the final two autumn Tests.

Cipriani was part of the England squad for the 3-0 series loss to New Zealand last summer but appeared to have dropped down the pecking order as Stephen Myler impressed for Northampton. Cipriani, like Myler, is behind Bath's George Ford and Sarries Owen Farrell in the race to be the No10.

With Tuilagi missing at least the opening two Six Nations games, the England midfield to take on Wales looks certain to be Saracens' Brad Barritt and Northampton's Luther Burrell despite the try-scoring excellence of the Bath pair of Kyle Eastmond and Jonathan Joseph who make the squad.

Quins' Marland Yarde, Wasps' Christian Wade and Saracens' Chris Ashton miss out on wing selection and have to try and impress in the Saxons squad alongside Sam Burgess, the former rugby league star who has made an immediate impact in the union in just five games for Bath. …

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