Rugby league convert Sam Burgess is the surprise inclusion in England head coach Stuart Lancaster’s squad for the Rugby World Cup, it was confirmed today.
Burgess, 26, switched codes less than a year ago and only made his senior England debut earlier this month, earning mixed reviews in a 19-14 win against France at Twickenham.
His selection represents a major gamble for the meticulous Lancaster, who has chosen to use Burgess at centre despite his club Bath picking him at flanker, ahead of a home tournament that will likely define his tenure.
The other centres in the squad are Jonathan Joseph, Brad Barritt and Henry Slade – the latter having edged out Luther Burrell in an 11th hour decision.
Maverick fly-half Danny Cipriani is the highest-profile omission, as Lancaster has stayed loyal to George Ford and Owen Farrell at No 10 as expected. England have opted for the tried and trusted Mike Brown and Alex Goode at full-back, where Cipriani can also operate.
Veteran Nick Easter misses out at the age of 37, with Ben Morgan chosen at No8 despite having played just 40 minutes of rugby since January due to injury.
"Selection wasn’t easy and it is tough to leave anyone out but it’s important to stress that the players not in this group are still part of our wider squad and could come in at any point," said Lancaster.
“After 10 weeks in camp we have made our final selection of players and we believe we have a great group to take us into the tournament. With three weeks to go before we play Fiji we believe we are in good shape as we head into next Saturday’s game against Ireland.
"As the excitement builds around the tournament we are looking forward to the country getting behind England and we know this group of players will represent the nation with pride.”
England host Ireland on 5 September in their final pre-tournament fixture. The Rugby World Cup begins on 18 September when Lancaster’s men take on Fiji at Twickenham.
England Rugby World Cup squad
Kieran Brookes (Northampton Saints, 10 caps)
Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers, 51 caps)
Joe Marler (Harlequins, 32 caps)
Mako Vunipola (Saracens, 22 caps)
David Wilson (Bath Rugby, 43 caps)
Jamie George (Saracens, 1 cap)
Rob Webber (Bath Rugby, 13 caps)
Tom Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 23 caps)
George Kruis (Saracens, 8 caps)
Joe Launchbury (Wasps, 23 caps)
Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, 39 caps)
Geoff Parling (Exeter Chiefs, 24 caps)
James Haskell (Wasps, 60 caps)
Ben Morgan (Gloucester Rugby, 28 caps)
Chris Robshaw (capt, Harlequins, 38 caps)
Billy Vunipola (Saracens, 18 caps)
Tom Wood (Northampton Saints, 37 caps)
Danny Care (Harlequins, 52 caps)
Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens, 22 caps)
Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 48 caps)
Owen Farrell (Saracens, 30 caps)
George Ford (Bath Rugby, 12 caps)
Brad Barritt (Saracens, 22 caps)
Sam Burgess (Bath Rugby, 1 cap)
Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby, 12 caps)
Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs, 1 cap)
Mike Brown (Harlequins, 38 caps)
Alex Goode (Saracens, 18 caps)
Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby, 15 caps)
Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs, 9 caps)
Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby, 10 caps)