Lancaster makes three changes


Published: Tuesday 18th November 2014 by The News Editor

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England have dropped Billy Vunipola, Danny Care and Kyle Eastmond from their matchday squad for Saturday’s QBE International against Samoa at Twickenham.

The trio make way for James Haskell, Richard Wigglesworth and Billy Twelvetrees as head coach Stuart Lancaster reacts to the narrow defeats by New Zealand and South Africa.

“We always wanted to use these four games to look at options in our squad and Billy, Richard and James have been in great form for their clubs and pressing hard in training,” Lancaster said.

Vunipola has paid the price for an error-strewn display in the 31-28 loss to South Africa last Saturday and is likely to be replaced as starting number eight by Ben Morgan.

Tom Wood survives another week despite an underwhelming autumn, but he could be demoted to the role of offering back row cover from the bench with 51-cap international Haskell picked at blindside flanker.

Care’s collapse in form has resulted in his omission from the 23, leaving Wigglesworth and Ben Youngs to battle it out for the scrum-half duties.

Eastmond was concussed against South Africa and has been unable to train this week, so England have called in Twelvetrees, who has recovered from an ankle problem.

Lancaster, who names his starting XV on Wednesday afternoon, has hinted that he would opt for George Ford at fly-half with Owen Farrell moving to inside centre, a selection that would force Twelvetrees to settle for a spot among the replacements.

Flanker Calum Clark and centre Luther Burrell have been overlooked and will return to their club Northampton.

“Kyle has not been able to train due to the graduated return to play protocol. Hopefully he will be available for his club this weekend along with the other released players,” Lancaster said.

Haskell won the last of his 51 caps in the first Test of the summer tour to New Zealand, acquitting himself well only to be dropped for the second and third games of the 3-0 series defeat.

It is hoped the Wasps captain’s inclusion will shake up an under-performing back row as England seek to end a run of five successive defeats, albeit all of them to New Zealand or South Africa.

“I have been involved with England when we were getting beaten heavily by these sides and when a narrow loss would have been acceptable,” Haskell said.

“But this side has now developed to a point where we have beaten the world champions and where we ultimately should be beating these teams and be right up there.

“It’s very easy to see us as plucky runners-up, but not one person in this entire environment has ever said that is the case.

“No one is satisfied to only be pushing those teams close. We realise we want to be beating them, we should be beating them and we are doing all the things in our power to make that happen.

“As players we are our own biggest critics. I don’t really read the papers because I know what I have done wrong. I don’t need a mark out of 10 to tell me I have done something wrong.”

New Zealand and South Africa have stormed Twickenham on successive weekends and now there are just 10 months left until next year’s home World Cup.

Losing to the sport’s dominant forces at the venue where all but three of the knockout games will be staged would appear to be a significant setback, but Haskell disagrees.

“There’s so much rugby to be played, so yes these games are important and it would be great to have those wins in the bank, but my view is they don’t have any bearing,” Haskell said.

“Just because we lost on Saturday doesn’t mean we’re going to lose at the World Cup.

“We’re aware that we have to develop and we’re working hard to do that. I have every confidence we’ll push those teams and get the results.”

Published: Tuesday 18th November 2014 by The News Editor

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