“There will be World Cup places up for grabs, everything on the line. If you don’t play well, you’re going home,” said stand-in captain Tom Wood ahead of England’s Rugby World Cup warm-up match against France this Saturday.
Such are the stakes for those on the outskirts of the Red Rose's World Cup squad, with Stuart Lancaster required to trim his squad from its current size of 39 to 31 by 31 August. Here, we break down the selection status of England’s current crop:
Five props will go to the tournament, but with six currently in England’s squad, someone is set for some disappointing news before September.
Joe Marler, Mako Vunipola and Dan Cole are likely inclusions leaving David Wilson, Kieran Brookes and Alex Corbisiero with a twitchy few weeks ahead.
Six Nations pairing George Kruis and Dave Attwood could be broken up as Courtney Lawes, a fully fit Joe Launchbury and the much more experienced Geoff Parling look to have cemented their place.
Calum Clark (Source: Getty)
Five back row players will be included in the World Cup squad meaning Lancaster has two players to break bad news to between now and August. No8 Nick Easter and uncapped flanker Calum Clark - making his debut against France - look least likely to make the cut.
Lancaster has said he will take three scrum-halves so Danny Care, Ben Youngs and Richard Wigglesworth all look safe.
But a question still to be asked is who will join George Ford as a No10? Owen Farrell has long been seen as a favourite of Lancaster but Danny Cipriani could be a wild-card choice.
Code-switching Sam Burgess is set for his England debut at centre against France - despite the fact he was primarily deployed as a flanker in his first season in rugby union at Bath.
Could Burgess be the explosive, big-game ball-carrier to replace Manu Tuilagi? Will Lancaster have enough time to definitively find out? The former rugby league player will duke it out with Luther Burrell, Billy Twelvetrees and Henry Slade for a place in the squad alongside shoo-ins Jonathan Joseph and Brad Barritt.
Injury aside, Mike Brown is certain to start at full-back. Against France, fly-half Cipriani will be given the chance to show his versatility in the role but specialist full-back Alex Goode would be the safer choice.
As the only wingers left in the 39 man squad, Jonny May, Anthony Watson and Jack Nowell - who also offers cover at centre and full-back - look likely to keep their place.