Injuries disrupting Lancaster's plans
Published 08/11/2012 | 05:00
Stuart Lancaster has been predicting for weeks that the England team selected to face Fiji on Saturday would be different from the one that takes on the All Blacks next month.
What he did not expect was to find himself reselecting his side before a ball had been kicked.
Injuries and suspension mean a number of first-choice players -- wing Chris Ashton, centre Jonathan Joseph, prop Alex Corbisiero and hooker Dylan Hartley -- are out, hence the fast-tracking of three uncapped tight forwards in Mako Vunipola, Tom Youngs and Joe Launchbury, together with an early recall for the Gloucester wing Charlie Sharples. Youngs and Sharples are likely to start, with the others on the bench.
When Lancaster names his side today, he will have little choice but to reunite Manu Tuilagi of Leicester and Brad Barritt of Saracens in midfield, the most pressing of England's problem areas.
Elsewhere, the men who performed so resourcefully in chiselling out a 14-14 draw against the Springboks in Port Elizabeth in June deserve to hold their places -- notably full-back Alex Goode, scrum-half Danny Care and blind-side flanker Tom Johnson, who all face stiff competition for their places.
If Tom Palmer has recovered fully from a minor calf strain, he should start ahead of Launchbury, his second-row partner at Wasps.
Launchbury may be a man in a hurry, but he is quite happy to bide his time at the London club, who are slowly recovering from a difficult few years. Yesterday, he agreed a contract extension through to 2015. (© Independent News Service)