Lancaster welcomes trio back as pacesetters build on Cardiff coup

Ross McLean
Follow Ross
Jonathan Joseph scored England’s second try in their 21-16 victory over Wales on Friday
ENGLAND head coach Stuart Lancaster has been handed a selection headache ahead of his side’s bid to maintain their perfect start to the Six Nations against Italy at Twickenham on Saturday.

Centres Brad Barritt and Kyle Eastmond as well as second row Geoff Parling have recovered from injury and were included in England’s 32-man squad which reported to their Pennyhill Park training base last night.

Lancaster has also welcomed powerhouse Manu Tuilagi and forwards Courtney Lawes, Tom Wood and David Wilson back into camp as the quartet continue their recovery from injury.

Barritt and Parling both missed the Red Rose’s momentous 21-16 victory over Wales at the Millennium Stadium on Friday evening with medial knee ligament strains, while Eastmond was ruled out with a shoulder problem.

England not only exorcised the ghost of their harrowing 30-3 loss there in 2013 but potentially landed a psychological blow ahead of their World Cup meeting with the Red Dragons at Twickenham in September.

Barritt had been expected to start against Warren Gatland’s side until injury struck, although he and Eastmond are now likely to face a battle to force their way into the starting XV.

England’s midfield has proven problematic for Lancaster since taking the reins from Martin Johnson in 2012, although alongside fly-half George Ford, the untested centre pairing of Luther Burrell and Jonathan Joseph thrived.

Burrell and Joseph represented England’s ninth centre partnership in three years, while the duo came up against the most experienced axis currently operating in Test rugby in Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies. Joseph crossed the line on his championship debut as England posted 13 unanswered points and recorded their first ever victory in Cardiff after trailing at the break.