Lancaster ushers in new era

YOUTH over experience is expected to be the order of the day when England head coach Stuart Lancaster names his 32-man elite player squad for the upcoming Six Nations today.

Senior figures such as World Cup vice-captain Mike Tindall, Harlequins No8 and wing Mark Cueto are tipped to be axed in Lancaster’s first squad since taking over on an interim basis from Martin Johnson.

That is likely to mean call-ups for men such as Scarlets No8 Ben Morgan, Saracens back Owen Farrell and a recall for his team-mate, veteran fly-half Charlie Hodgson.

Lancaster, who will be in charge at least for the Six Nations, must also decide on who should replace Lewis Moody as captain, following the flanker’s retirement from Test duty in the wake of last autumn’s disappointing World Cup campaign.

It looks a straight shoot-out between Northampton flanker Tom Wood (right) and Harlequins’ Chris Robshaw, who has been inspirational in the south Londoners’ rise to the summit of the Premiership this season.

However, Wood’s international experience is expected to see him given the edge over Robshaw, whose solitary cap came in a shadow team during a tour to Argentina in the summer of 2010.

Lancaster will name his squad at lunchtime today at the national team’s new base in Leeds, although the announcement of who will take the armband could be delayed until later this month.

Farrell, meanwhile, has been compared to World Cup winning fly-half Jonny Wilkinson, who retired from Test duty last month, by former England and Lions flanker Richard Hill, now a coach at Saracens.

The son of former dual-code international Andy Farrell, who works with Hill at the Premiership champions and is part of Lancaster’s backroom team, could directly benefit from Wilkinson’s absence, being able to play both at centre and No10.

“There are definitely the same characteristics. Both are self-driven with a strong desire to be the best, they are not prepared to accept other peoples’ perception of where they could get to,” said Hill.

“You are dealing with a kid who is very, very determined. He has a great work ethic, constantly wanting to improve his analysis and understanding of the game.

“He has the ability to play 10 and 12. He will tailor his game and improve his game constantly. He is one of these characters who is almost obsessed, in the most positive way, with being a better player.”