Head coach Stuart Lancaster has thrown down the gauntlet to rugby league convert Sam Burgess to prove he is worthy of a place in England’s World Cup squad after naming him in the side to face France at Twickenham on Saturday.
Former Rabbitohs star Burgess is set to make his Test bow against Les Bleus, in the first of three preparatory QBE internationals, at No12 alongside fellow debutant Henry Slade at No13, as the battle to secure the remaining centre slots intensifies.
“It’s an option for us to look at and it’ll be an interesting insight to see whether it goes well at the weekend or not,” said Lancaster. “It’s about what’s right for the team. We’ll see if he can translate what he does in training and see how it goes.”
Flanker Tom Wood, who led England on their two-Test tour of Argentina in 2013, will captain a team which largely consists of players still fighting for a place in Lancaster’s plans and those without much Test rugby this year.
“Tom is one of several leaders in the squad and he captained the team well in Argentina when Chris Robshaw was rested so this is an ideal opportunity to take the armband at Twickenham against what will be a quality French team,” added Lancaster.
No8 Ben Morgan is set for a return to Test rugby having last played for England against Australia in the final autumn international in November. The 26-year-old broke his leg playing for club side Gloucester at the beginning of the year.
Morgan is set to be joined in the back-row by Northampton’s Calum Clark, who is poised to make his first England appearance, while Saracens’ Owen Farrell has been named at fly-half. England must submit their final 31-man squad on 31 August.