England Head Coach Stuart Lancaster has announced one ‘official’ change to his Elite Player Squad for the RBS 6 Nations with a further eight players called up from the Saxons squad as injury cover.
In-form Bath fly-half George Ford has been drafted into the squad to replace Toby Flood, who is supposedly bound for a French club at the end of the season (reportedly Toulouse) and therefore won’t fit into Lancaster’s long-term 2015 plans. It’s an ironic turn of events given Ford spent several years playing understudy to Flood at Leicester and made the move to Bath over the summer to get more first team rugby time.
You could say the move has paid off. Ford, alongside experienced half-back partner Peter Stringer, has been pulling the strings at Bath and has finally reaped the rewards of greater exposure, eight months after leading Leicester to a Premiership title – as an injury replacement for Flood.
Ford does face stiff competition for the no.10 jersey with Farrell still the front-runner and Stephen Myler also being brought in to train with the squad. Commenting on his fly-half options, Lancaster said: “I am delighted for George who is rewarded for his form for Bath and we are excited about including him in the Senior Elite Player Squad.
“I have met Toby Flood several times and told him I really wanted him to stay at Leicester and play for England. He has made a lifestyle choice and we respect that but given the RFU’s policy of not selecting players based overseas save for exceptional circumstances it was important that we allow others such as George to progress.
“Stephen Myler has a chance to lay down a marker when he trains with us while we have decided that Freddie Burns should get more international game time with the Saxons against the O2 Ireland Wolfhounds at Kingsholm on January 25.”
Elsewhere across the squad a number of Saxons players have been promoted to cover injuries: Luther Burrell for Manu Tuilagi; Tom Johnson for Tom Croft; Jonny May for Marlande Yarde; Matt Mullan for Alex Corbisiero; Jack Nowell for Christian Wade; Ed Slater for Geoff Parling; Henry Thomas for David Wilson and Anthony Watson for Ben Foden. Rob Webber and Richard Wigglesworth are the final names added for training purposes and the squad will meet at Pennyhill Park on Monday, 20th January:
Full squad for the 6 Nations, then, is below – who would make your starting line-up?
David Attwood (Bath Rugby)
Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers)
Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints)
Matt Kvesic (Gloucester Rugby)
Tom Johnson (Exeter Chiefs)
Joe Launchbury (London Wasps)
Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints)
Joe Marler (Harlequins)
Ben Morgan (Gloucester Rugby)
Matt Mullan (London Wasps)
Chris Robshaw (Harlequins)
Ed Slater (Leicester Tigers)
Henry Thomas (Sale Sharks)
Billy Vunipola (Saracens)
Mako Vunipola (Saracens)
Rob Webber (Bath Rugby)
Tom Wood (Northampton Saints)
Tom Youngs (Leicester Tigers)
Chris Ashton (Saracens)
Brad Barritt (Saracens)
Mike Brown (Harlequins)
Luther Burrell (Northampton Saints)
Danny Care (Harlequins)
Lee Dickson (Northampton Saints)
Kyle Eastmond (Bath Rugby)
Owen Farrell (Saracens)
George Ford (Bath Rugby)
Alex Goode (Saracens)
Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby)
Stephen Myler (Northampton Saints)
Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs)
Billy Twelvetrees (Gloucester Rugby)
Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers)
Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby)
Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens)