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Players await England squad announcement

Four stars of England's triumph against New Zealand in December are set to be rewarded with official promotions into an expanded senior squad for the RBS 6 Nations.

Head coach Stuart Lancaster will name his 33-man squad on Wednesday and it is expected to include Wasps lock Joe Launchbury, Leicester hooker Tom Youngs, Gloucester fly-half Freddie Burns and Saracens prop Mako Vunipola.

There is also likely to be a place in Lancaster's squad for the uncapped Gloucester centre Billy Twelvetrees and possibly a return for Saracens wing David Strettle.

Launchbury and Youngs both started in England's record 38-21 victory over the All Blacks and Burns kicked two late penalties in an eye-catching cameo off the bench.

Vunipola, who ended the All Blacks game in the sin-bin, is also set for inclusion after making an impressive transition to Test rugby during the autumn. All four players were initially called into the England squad as injury cover for the QBE internationals but took their chances.

Youngs will replace Rob Webber, the Bath hooker who has not played since damaging his shoulder in March last year, while Launchbury is likely to come in for Tom Palmer.

Vunipola would be an additional selection with the elite squad being increased to 33 players, reflecting the move to 23-man match-day squads. Burns is set to replace Harlequins centre Jordan Turner-Hall and he would be one of three fly-halves in the squad, alongside Owen Farrell and Toby Flood.

However, England were waiting on Flood's availability for the Six Nations after he was cited for an alleged tip tackle on Worcester fly-half Andy Goode.

Twelvetrees is expected to come in for Leicester centre Anthony Allen while Lancaster's search for a left wing could take him back to Strettle, who has been in impressive form for Saracens. Gloucester's Charlie Sharples would appear the most vulnerable.

Tom Croft has returned to action after eight months out with a neck injury and while he may not be ready for the Six Nations, Lancaster could decide to keep him in the senior squad with the summer tour of Argentina in mind. Wasps number eight Billy Vunipola has also caught the eye this season and could win a call-up into the Saxons.


From Belfast Telegraph