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Stuart Lancaster ready for defining period of his England career

Stuart Lancaster accepts the visit of Wales and Australia to Twickenham over the next two weekends will define his stewardship as England's World Cup enters a critical phase.

The magnitude of Saturday's Pool A showdown with Warren Gatland's men was vast even before Lancaster dropped the selection bombshell of demoting George Ford at fly-half in favour of Owen Farrell and picking Sam Burges at inside centre.

But the radical overhaul of England's midfield after Jonathan Joseph was stricken by a chest injury, including the fielding of the 14th centre pairing of Lancaster's reign in Burgess and Brad Barritt, has added a new dimension to a match already billed as the biggest in the old rivals' long history.

Lancaster has been accused of gambling and abandoning his attacking philosophy shaped around the vision of Ford at a decisive moment in his three and a half year reign and while he denies the claims, he is aware his reputation is on the line.

When asked if the evaluation of his tenure hinged on the outcome against Wales, he replied: "It was always going to be the case for this game and the one against Australia.

"Clearly the selection has heightened it. If we win the game it will be judged a success. If we lose the game regardless of what selection I made, I'd be questioned I made in selection in the first place.

"It will come down ultimately to the next two games. I understand the consequences and the stakes because it's the World Cup."

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