ENGLAND head coach Stuart Lancaster has challenged fly-halves Stephen Myler and George Ford to stake a claim for a place in next year’s World Cup squad following their inclusion in the 35-man party to prepare for the Six Nations.
No10 Toby Flood’s international career is virtually over after Lancaster, who has a policy of not capping those who play overseas, failed to convince the 28-year-old to reconsider an end of season move to France.
Ford, 20, has been rewarded for a strong campaign with Bath by taking Flood’s place in the elite player squad, with Lancaster impressed by his “incredible maturity and great leadership”. Meanwhile, Myler, 29, has the chance to add to his solitary Red Rose cap with his inclusion among the Six Nations contingent.
And Lancaster hopes his newcomers can grasp the opportunity presented by Flood’s exclusion.
“To lose a player of [Flood’s] calibre, that experience, from our squad is disappointing,” said Lancaster.
“I tried to encourage him to stay at Leicester, but it’s a great opportunity for George to come in.
“I would rather make the decision now at this point, 20 months out from a World Cup, to give someone like George Ford or Stephen Myler the chance to show what they can do.”
With several member of the elite player squad injured and unlikely to play in the Six Nations, which begins on 1 February, eight of the England Saxons have earned promotion to the senior squad. Uncapped quartet Anthony Watson, Jack Nowell, Luther Burrell and Ed Slater are joined by Tom Johnson, Jonny May, Matt Mullan and Henry Thomas.
SIX NATIONS SQUAD
■ D Attwood, D Cole, D Hartley, M Kvesic, T Johnson, J Launchbury, C Lawes, J Marler, B Morgan, M Mullan, C Robshaw, E Slater, H Thomas, B Vunipola, M Vunipola, R Webber, T Wood, T Youngs
■ C Ashton, B Barritt, M Brown, L Burrell, D Care, L Dickson, K Eastmond, O Farrell, G Ford, A Goode, J May, S Myler, J Nowell, B Twelvetrees, B Youngs, A Watson, R Wigglesworth