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Lancaster won't rush centre call

Published 19/08/2015

Luther Burrell, pictured right, can make his case to join Jonathan Joseph, left, in Stuart Lancaster's England squad
Luther Burrell, pictured right, can make his case to join Jonathan Joseph, left, in Stuart Lancaster's England squad

England head coach Stuart Lancaster is close to choosing his preferred quartet of centres for the World Cup but will leave it as late as possible to make a final decision.

Luther Burrell and Jonathan Joseph will start Saturday's warm-up match against France in Paris with Billy Twelvetrees set to make a second-half appearance from the bench.

Of the three, only Joseph is certain to be involved at the World Cup with Brad Barritt, who has a calf problem, also guaranteed a place in the 31-man squad that must be named by August 31.

Slugging it out for the two remaining spots are Burrell, Twelvetrees, Sam Burgess and Henry Slade.

Lancaster has demanded a big performance from Burrell, who will play himself into the final 31-man squad if he delivers at the Stade de France in the second of England's three warm-up games, while outsider Twelvetrees has been given another chance off the bench.

The debutants in Saturday's 19-14 victory over Les Bleus are experiencing mixed fortunes, however, with Lancaster appearing to endorse Burgess' claim while hinting this World Cup may have come too early for Slade.

Both players acquitted themselves well at Twickenham, Burgess proving destructive in defence and Slade bringing a spark of creativity, but the former now seems the more likely pick for England 2015.

"That particular decision around the centre combination will go down to the wire. Sam's been impressive. What he did on Saturday is only what he's been doing in training," Lancaster said.

"I thought Henry did very well. There were one or two areas I thought he could have improved on, which he agreed with.

"I set out the context of this selection but also where I see life after the World Cup as well.

"For people like Slade it's also about the next two weeks, the two months and the next two years as well."

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