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Lancaster to reduce England squad

England's training squad will be whittled down once again on Friday evening as head coach Stuart Lancaster closes in on the final 31 who will carry the nation's hopes at the home World Cup.

Eight players will be sent home from the team's training camp at Pennyhill Park, leaving the remaining 38 to play warm-up Tests against France at Twickenham on August 15 and in Paris a week later.

The 31-man squad who will challenge for the Webb Ellis Cup must be named by August 31 before England step up their preparations by fielding a full-strength team against Ireland on September 5. They open the tournament against Fiji 13 days later.

Centre and wing are the positions likely to see the biggest cull, with Billy Twelvetrees and Kyle Eastmond potential midfield casualties.

Brad Barritt and Jonathan Joseph are certainties for England 2015 and Lancaster wants to take a closer look at uncapped pair Sam Burgess and Henry Slade against France, while Luther Burrell is set to avoid the axe.

First-choice wings Jack Nowell and Anthony Watson will survive and with Lancaster naming Jonny May as the stand-out performer in camp this summer, two from Chris Ashton, Semesa Rokoduguni and Marland Yarde may go.

Among the half-backs, Lee Dickson appears the most likely to lose out with Ben Youngs, Danny Care and Richard Wigglesworth remaining as the nines.

Greater headaches are located in the front row, particularly at loosehead where either Alex Corbisiero or Matt Mullan could be dropped, although the trio of tightheads are expected to remain.

One of the four hookers are set to learn their World Cup dream is over, with the uncapped pair of Luke Cowan-Dickie and Jamie George jostling with Rob Webber, who was out of form last season, to supply back-up to first choice Tom Youngs.

Second row is likely to remain intact but there could be casualties in the back row, with Matt Kvesic's ongoing presence in doubt while Calum Clark and Nick Easter may also miss out.

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