Scrum-half headache for Lancaster
Published 30/10/2013 | 15:57
England name their team for the opening QBE International against Australia on Thursday morning with scrum-half providing the greatest area of debate.
Ben Youngs' experience is likely to see him start in the number nine jersey, but Lee Dickson has been in better form so far this season and could be the preferred option.
Until Geoff Parling was ruled out against the Wallabies with mild concussion on Tuesday night, a fierce battle for the second row was nearing its climax.
Courtney Lawes is viewed as a definite starter, thereby leaving Parling and Joe Launchbury to compete for the one remaining vacancy.
Unless head coach Stuart Lancaster springs a surprise by picking Dave Attwood, who only returned from a rib injury last week, to partner Lawes it will be Launchbury who features in the XV.
England were outmuscled by Wales as they crashed to a 30-3 defeat in their season-defining Grand Slam match in Cardiff and have recognised the need for more of the type of physicality Lawes can provide.
"I've been very impressed with the consistency in his game and so have his club," forwards coach Graham Rowntree said.
"He's really come on, he's developing into a lineout leader and he's maturing well."
Rowntree, however, refuses to cast Lawes in the role of enforcer and outlines what he expects from his tight five.
"I want the opposition to know they're on the field. We want our guys doing a simple job dynamically and aggressively," Rowntree said.
"I don't want anybody in the sin bin or anybody fighting when someone else is making their tackles - you can't do that these days - but I want guys to impose themselves physically on the opposition."
Alex Corbisiero's knee injury means Mako Vunipola, who struggled against Australia's scrum in the second Test for the British and Irish Lions, will be picked at loosehead prop.
Joel Tomkins will make his Test debut alongside Billy Twelvetrees in the midfield, with Chris Ashton and Marland Yarde on the wings and Mike Brown at full-back.