Stuart Lancaster is excited by the possibility of selecting three uncapped players for England’s Six Nations Championship opener against France in Paris.
Uncapped trio Jack Nowell, of Exeter Chiefs, Anthony Watson and Luther Burrell could start in the back line named for Saturday’s showdown at the Stade de France.
Jonny May has only one Test appearance under his belt and is challenging Nowell and Watson for a place on the wings. Lancaster insists that, if he believes they are ready for one of the Six Nations’ biggest fixtures, they will be thrown into battle.
“I’ve never shied away from giving people without much experience opportunities. At some point you have to do it,” Lancaster said.
“I’ve never been afraid of giving people opportunities – this time two years ago I selected seven players with no caps for Scotland away.
“There is a balance to strike, but I’ve always been reasonably confident to pick inexperienced players if I feel they’re ready.
“For me it’s exciting to give young players opportunities, particularly if they’ve been performing well and showing it consistently at their clubs.
“At some point you have to make the step. There will be some people with less experience in the France game.”
Team selection will be finalised after training today and announced on Thursday morning, before England depart for Paris hours later.
“You can watch as many games as you like, but it’s only when you coach the players and talk to them one on one that you get a feel for whether they have the temperament to play in a game like this,” Lancaster said.
“I trust my instincts in that regard. Last week was great to have that time with the players. Today and tomorrow we’ll finalise it.”
Billy Twelvetrees is aiming to turn England’s midfield into the creative hub of the team as he looks to nail down his own position in the centre.
An under-whelming autumn saw the selection of Joel Tomkins at 13 in an England midfield which has been unsettled since the World Cup-winning axis of Will Greenwood and Mike Tindall were last together in 2004.
Twelvetrees is set to start against France in Paris alongside either Brad Barritt or Luther Burrell due to Manu Tuilagi’s chest injury, and the Gloucester playmaker is eager to make the latest reincarnation in the centres succeed.
“You get scrutinised in whatever position you play. We’ve got huge ambition,” Twelvetrees said. “Personally I have massive ambition to play in the centre for England and do as well as I can, creating things so we can score tries.
“Week-in, week-out in the Premiership the boys are scoring tries and creating opportunities, it’s just about getting the balance right and doing it in an England shirt.”
A poor match against Australia in the autumn which brought his defence under the spotlight was met with a swift vote of confidence from Lancaster. Retained to play against Argentina and New Zealand, the 25-year-old marked his seventh and eighth caps by producing in patches the ball-playing skills that England’s management rate so highly.
England Saxons have added four players to the group preparing to face Scotland A on Friday, with Exeter Chiefs centre Sam Hill and scrum-half Dave Lewis making way.
Hill was an early casualty during the Saxons’ 14-8 loss to Ireland Wolfhounds last Saturday, injuring his hamstring in the 29th minute, while Lewis is replaced by Gloucester’s Dan Robson.
Also coming into coach Jon Callard’s squad are Leicester wing Adam Thompstone, Newcastle prop Kieran Brookes and Bath wing Semesa Rokoduguni. Chiefs duo Henry Slade and Dave Ewers have retained their places in the squad travelling to Glasgow.
England Saxons squad @(to play Scotland A, Glasgow, Friday): Forwards: Brookes (Newcastle), Catt (Bath), Clark (Northampton), S Dickinson (Northampton), Ewers (Exeter Chiefs), George (Saracens), Kruis (Saracens), Matthews (Harlequins), Stooke (Gloucester), Wallace (Harlequins), Waller (Northampton), Ward (Harlequins), Wilson (Newcastle). Backs: Burns (Gloucester), Daly (Wasps), Miller (Sale), Robson (Gloucester) ,Rokoduguni (Bath), Sharples (Gloucester), Simpson (Wasps), Slade (Exeter Chiefs), Thompstone (Leicester).