ANXIOUS England players waiting to learn their Rugby World Cup fate will be put be out of their misery when head coach Stuart Lancaster names his 31-man squad for the tournament on Thursday.
Lancaster, who must cut eight players from those on duty in England’s two warm-up clashes with France, will unveil his squad at 1.45pm at the team’s Pennyhill Park training base.
England’s lacklustre showing during their 25-20 defeat to France in Paris on Saturday has intensified the selection headache facing Lancaster, with Danny Cipriani a principal quandary.
Cipriani, along with forwards Nick Easter and Dave Attwood, impressed from the bench against Les Bleus, although the competition at fly-half and full-back makes his selection awkward.
Rugby league convert Sam Burgess is set to make the cut as one of an expected four centres, with Exeter’s Henry Slade the favourite to be omitted, after both made their senior debuts in the 19-14 victory over France at Twickenham earlier this month.
England play their final warm-up clash on Saturday 5 September against Ireland in a QBE International at Twickenham.
Scotland head coach Vern Cotter, meanwhile, has released seven players from his extended World Cup training squad. Wings Dougie Fife and Damien Hoyland, prop Allan Dell, lock Ben Toolis and back-row forward Hamish Watson have all returned to club side Edinburgh.
Glasgow pair Mike Cusack and Rory Hughes have also been released, while Cotter has confirmed that South Africa-born forward Josh Strauss is back with Glasgow in a bid to gain more game-time before a final decision on World Cup selection is made.
Italy revealed their hand after naming their 31-man squad yesterday. The most notable absentee was veteran lock Marco Bortolami, the country’s joint most-capped player with 112 appearances. Versatile flanker Mauro Bergamasco is set to play in his fifth World Cup.