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Lancaster welcomes fight for places

Stuart Lancaster warned Toby Flood he cannot expect to walk straight back into the England team for Saturday's RBS 6 Nations clash with Italy.

The reality is that he may well do, as England monitor the shoulder injury which forced Charlie Hodgson to leave the field early in Saturday's 13-6 Calcutta Cup victory over Scotland.

However, Lancaster said: "I want to make sure people have to work hard to get into the team."

Hodgson had scored the decisive try on his first Test start in four years as England launched their "new era" and their RBS 6 Nations campaign on Saturday with a tenacious win.

The England medics will keep tabs on Hodgson while Flood returns to the squad after making his comeback from a knee ligament injury with a 30-minute appearance for Leicester at the weekend.

Flood will have until Tuesday evening, when England's 32-man squad is trimmed down ahead of the team selection, to convince interim head coach Lancaster of his match fitness.

"I think there has to be real competition for the shirt and you have to prize it when you get it - and not let go of it," Lancaster added.

England will definitely be without Lee Dickson in Rome after the debutant scrum-half broke a bone in his left hand against Scotland, and Lancaster's scrum-half options are running short with Richard Wigglesworth injured and Danny Care serving a suspension following his arrest for drink driving.

Dickson has been replaced in the England squad by his elder brother Karl, Care's understudy at Harlequins who on Sunday made his first club start since mid-November.

Manu Tuilagi, Courtney Lawes and Tom Wood will also be unavailable to England for their trip to Rome's Olympic Stadium but Brad Barritt is expected to be fit after suffering a dead leg.


From Belfast Telegraph