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Tough decisions ahead for Lancaster

Chris Ashton and England's other resting stars have been assured of their places in Stuart Lancaster's squad for the autumn internationals.

Lancaster made that vow to Ashton, Chris Robshaw, Brad Barritt, Danny Care and Toby Flood before the tour of Argentina and he will stick by it, despite the emergence of a new generation of exciting talent.

Wasps wing Christian Wade and Gloucester flanker Matt Kvesic both enjoyed impressive debuts when they took over from Ashton and Robshaw for the first Test win against Argentina. Billy Twelvetrees has been called up by the British and Irish Lions ahead of Barritt and the England management have been raving about the potential of Kyle Eastmond.

One of Lancaster's chief objectives on this tour was to create more strength in depth and he will have some tough selection decisions to make when he compiles his senior and Saxons squads for the new season. Some of those capped in Argentina could well find themselves named as Saxons but Lancaster will insist they do not see it as a demotion.

"The way I sell it is that it is a 66-man squad and the point I make to them is that if they are playing well enough we will find a way to get them into the (senior) squad and give them an opportunity. It makes it challenging," Lancaster said.

"I can't think of a time when I have not been able to promote a Saxon to the senior side when the autumn internationals come around. There's always an injury and there's always a way. For example, if Kyle was in the Saxons and he was on fire, built on the back of his tour and deserved to be playing then we would find a way."

While the senior quintet are sure of places in England's elite squad, there are no guarantees over spots in the England starting XV for the Tests against Australia, Argentina and New Zealand.

The same applies to the captaincy, which Tom Wood has assumed from Robshaw, because competition for places in certain positions will be fierce. The back row is a prime example. Wood and Tom Croft will be vying for the blindside flanker jersey, Robshaw and Kvesic on the openside with Ben Morgan and Billy Vunipola the options at number eight.

"It is a great thing for me and for English rugby. That is what we want," Wood said.

Lancaster officially has to name the elite squads in July, before the Lions tour has even finished, but the Rugby Football Union is in negotiations to delay the announcement until August.


From Belfast Telegraph