Lancaster: Farrell must shine
Stuart Lancaster insists Owen Farrell must excel during the World Cup warm-up matches if he is to displace George Ford as England's fly-half.
Ford took advantage of Farrell's injury-enforced absence during the 2015 RBS 6 Nations by bringing a new dimension to the Red Rose attacking game and remains the incumbent in the position.
When the two faced off for Bath and Saracens in the Aviva Premiership final two months later, it was Farrell who emerged as the outstanding playmaker in a one-sided afternoon at Twickenham.
Opinions are divided over who should be England's fly-half with the creative spark offered Ford offset by the reliability and temperament of Farrell, while Danny Cipriani is an outsider in the race at 10.
Lancaster will use the trio of warm-up games, which start against France on August 15, to clarify his thinking but suggests that it is Ford who is in the driving seat.
"George was exceptional for us during the Six Nations and for Bath beyond that, so Owen's going to have to go over and beyond that to get the shirt back off him. But knowing Owen as I do...." head coach Lancaster said.
"Danny obviously has to then get himself above those two to get his opportunity. I'll create opportunities for all of them and that will help dictate.
"George is in a strong position at the moment, but he needs to play well because he's competing against good players."
Of the four centres Lancaster will take to England 2015, Brad Barritt and Jonathan Joseph are certainties, leaving Sam Burgess, Henry Slade, Luther Burrell, Kyle Eastmond and Billy Twelvetrees as the remaining contenders.
The 45-strong squad that returned to Pennyhill Park on Sunday will be reduced by eight or nine players on Friday, with Eastmond and Twelvetrees among those expected to be sent home.
Lancaster has been impressed by the uncapped Slade in training, but insists it is the two warm-up matches against France - England travel to Paris on September 22 - that will prove decisive.
"Slade's going to be in the mix, but it's going to be a tight call. The centre position will take a while to play out. We will use the games to make the decisions," Lancaster said.
Jonny May is in pole position to fill the final wing spot behind Anthony Watson and Jack Nowell after excelling in the World Cup training camp to date.
"Jonny has been the stand-out performer in the squad so far. He's been really excellent. He's really got the bit between his teeth," Lancaster said.
Lancaster expects the majority of the side picked against France at Twickenham will be present in his final 31-man World Cup squad, and will make "big changes" for the trip to Paris, before settling on his strongest 23 to face Ireland at home on September 5.