Lancaster: Ford to start at ten
England head coach Stuart Lancaster has confirmed he will retain George Ford at fly-half for Saturday's QBE International against Australia, but Owen Farrell's place is now under pressure.
Ford is to be rewarded for his assured full debut in the 28-9 victory over Samoa at Twickenham by continuing in the number 10 jersey worn by Farrell for most of Lancaster's reign.
And the experiment of moving Farrell to inside centre may be abandoned after just one match with Lancaster giving serious consideration to selecting Billy Twelvetrees in the position he last called his own in the second Test of the summer tour to New Zealand.
Twelvetrees impressed as a second-half replacement against Samoa and is locked in a two-way duel with Farrell to face the Wallabies in the climax to England's autumn campaign.
"George has earned the right to start again. He's played well enough for that," Lancaster said.
"Billy Twelvetrees impressed me from the bench. He did well and brought good energy to the team.
"He's worked hard on the feedback we gave him when he came back into camp and he's a genuine prospect for us at 12."
Lancaster insists Ford's first start was made easier by the presence of a second playmaker at inside centre, a role that both Farrell and Twelvetrees can fulfil.
"Owen helped George out a lot in terms of his on-field communication. George benefited from having someone like Owen alongside him," Lancaster said.
"Owen provided that extra voice and obviously having (scrum-half) Ben Youngs inside him helped as well. It's an option we wanted to look at and obviously we have a decision to make now.
"It didn't go all our own way in terms of execution in the backline, but that's something we need to look at as a backline in general."
Ford kicked intelligently, threatened the line and withstood some ferocious hits. His ongoing presence at fly-half is a cause for genuine excitement for England fans and Lancaster insists his shift was every bit as impressive upon review.
"At the time I felt it was a good performance and a good first start for England, and after looking at it again it definitely was," Lancaster said.
"We've talked a little bit about some of the options we took towards the end of the first half where we could have got a little more field position, but his execution when we decided to kick was excellent.
"He put the ball behind Samoa well. His goalkicking was good and defensively he was strong.
"Also he took his chance well in terms of creating opportunities and line breaks. He did well in his tackles as well, so it was a really good start for him."
Lancaster is "cautiously optimistic" that lock Courtney Lawes will be available for Saturday after hyper-extending his knee against Samoa, while number eight Billy Vunipola has been ruled out of contention after being concussed on club duty for Saracens.
Scrum-half Danny Care, wing Semesa Rokoduguni and centre Kyle Eastmond have been released from England's training camp in order to prepare for Friday night's Aviva Premiership match between Bath and Harlequins at the Recreation Ground.