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Lancaster planning for Aussie hat-trick


Stuart Lancaster has virtually a fully fit side to choose from

Stuart Lancaster has virtually a fully fit side to choose from

Stuart Lancaster has virtually a fully fit side to choose from

Stuart Lancaster will on Thursday morning confirm the starting line-up that will spearhead England's bid for a third consecutive victory over Australia.

England have not enjoyed that run of success against Australia since 2002-03 and they will be favourites to retain the Cook Cup, with the Wallabies arriving at Twickenham in a state of disarray.

Australia coach Robbie Deans is down to just two specialist locks after Rob Simmons was suspended for eight weeks for a tip tackle on France flanker Yannick Nyanga. The Wallabies are already without David Pocock and Pat McCabe while key players like James O'Connor, Quade Cooper and Will Genia have not toured as they recuperate from injury.

Lancaster, in contrast, is selecting from a position of relative strength and he has not felt the pressure to rush Alex Corbisiero or Jonathan Joseph back into the squad.

Chris Ashton's return from suspension, in place of Ugo Monye, is the only change Lancaster has made to the 23-man squad that beat Fiji by a record 54-12 scoreline last weekend.

Ashton is England's most potent attacking threat, as Australia discovered in this fixture two years ago, and the Saracens wing is certain to start.

Charlie Sharples marked his full home debut with two tries against Fiji and he is likely to switch to the left wing in order to accommodate Ashton's return.

Lancaster spent time this week considering changes in all three rows of the scrum but decided Corbisiero needed another game for London Irish as he returns to action from a knee injury.

Joseph is training again after overcoming an ankle knock but he too will be available for the Exiles as England stick by Manu Tuilagi, assuming he has overcome a foot problem, and Brad Barritt.

The Wasps lock Joe Launchbury made an eye-catching debut off the bench against Fiji and he is pushing for a start in the second row alongside Geoff Parling. With Thomas Waldrom at number eight, Lancaster's only other decision is whether to promote Tom Wood to start at blindside flanker or retain Tom Johnson in the position.