Sunday 19 November 2017

Easter leads English charge of veterans for Welsh test

Dan Cole will anchor the England scrum
Dan Cole will anchor the England scrum

Mick Cleary

England's veteran cavalry has been summoned to defend the line at the Millennium Stadium with Stuart Lancaster putting his faith in experienced forwards such as Dan Cole, Tom Croft and Nick Easter despite playing little or no international rugby in recent years.

Cole will anchor the England scrum despite having not played Test rugby for 12 months as he recuperated from a neck injury that ruled him out for eight months and has been rushed back into the fray after a further six weeks on the sidelines for Leicester with a foot injury.

Croft's return to Test action is so unexpected that he had the surprise when packing his bag in a rush to find his player's pass from his last England appearance, the 30-3 drubbing at the Millennium Stadium in 2013, which he promptly threw in the dog basket to be chewed.

Croft has spent almost two years out of the game with neck and knee issues but he takes his place on the bench.

"It was a massive shock to get the call," he said.

Alongside him among the England replacements will be Harlequins No 8 Easter, whose last memory of red rose action was the 2011 World Cup quarter-final defeat.

Easter, at least, has been fighting fit and he has earned his spurs through consistent and accomplished performances for his club.

Forced

There is little doubt that Lancaster's hand was forced by injury in choosing all three players but England need steady minds out on the field and these three certainly provide that.

"Experience swayed selection in the end," Lancaster said. "Dan has not played much rugby (eight games for Leicester) but he has been there and done it in big games. It brings a level of experience to the forward pack we didn't have in the November Tests."

Cole (27) has been a stalwart of the tighthead scene since winning his first cap five years ago. He has no worries about going in at the deep end. "Yes, I'm confident, I wouldn't be here if I weren't," Cole said.

The recall for Easter (36) was less of a surprise and his value has been felt in training as much as it will be on the day.

Meanwhile, scrum-half Rory Kockott will make his first start for France in Saturday's clash against Scotland in Paris.

The South African-born player, who earned three caps off the bench for Philippe Saint-Andre's men in the autumn internationals, comes in for the injured Sebastien Tillous-Borde.

Les Bleus have made seven changes to the side that lost 18-13 to South Africa in Paris in November.

Irish Independent

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