Lancaster sends message to Farrell
Stuart Lancaster has sent out a strong message that Owen Farrell is not guaranteed to be England's fly-half for this summer's three-Test series against South Africa.
Farrell shone when he stepped into the number 10 jersey for England's last three RBS 6 Nations matches, keeping out Toby Flood and Charlie Hodgson as he guided the team to victories over France and Ireland, but Lancaster has decided to move Farrell back to inside centre and start Hodgson at fly-half in Sunday's non-cap game against the Barbarians.
"This is an opportunity for Charlie to put a marker down but there is an opportunity for Owen to move to fly-half in the second half," Lancaster said. "It is a likely scenario that Owen will be seen in that 10 role. He finished the Six Nations in that position. It is up to the others to prove they should be wearing it."
Farrell is expected to get some game-time in the pivotal role during the second-half but Lancaster's move indicates a desire to keep his three fly-halves competitive.
England expect Flood to be fit to travel with the squad after he was named on the bench for Leicester's Aviva Premiership final against Harlequins.
Lancaster added: "They all offer different things. Charlie can play flat to the line, Toby engages defenders and brings huge experience and Owen has a good core skill set and his temperament is excellent.
"Charlie had one of his most enjoyable seasons with Saracens, he loved being involved with England in the Six Nations and he is desperate to start for England in South Africa.
"I want to fuel that motivation. If you define the squad early, you potentially shut the door on a lot of players. I will make clear when I meet the players where I see them in the pecking order - but I am open minded."
Hodgson will be 34 by the time England host the World Cup in 2015, which leaves him at the upper end of the age bracket for selection. But whether Hodgson remains in the England set-up for the next three years or not, Lancaster highlighted the value of his role in the building of that World Cup team.
Saracens recruited Hodgson last year to help bring on young players like Farrell - and he is performing the same role for England.