Size matters in top-level rugby these days, but England are clearly hoping there is still a place for a little straight-line speed and some fabulously fancy footwork.
Christian Wade, the 5ft 10in Wasps wing who could easily have a “try of the season” competition all to himself, is expected to make his first international appearance on home soil against Argentina on Saturday, having forced his way into the red rose mix through sheer quality of performance.
Wade, who made his Test debut against the same opposition in Salta last June, is preparing to replace Chris Ashton of Saracens in the No 14 shirt, with another of the new generation of outside backs, Marland Yarde of London Irish, retaining his place at No 11. However, Yarde did not take part in the heavy double training session on Tuesday because of hip problems and if he is still struggling this evening, the head coach Stuart Lancaster will be forced to adjust his plans.
There may also be significant tinkerings at the sharp end of the line-up, with the coach considering a wholesale switch in the front-row department. Mako Vunipola’s knee injury means there will definitely be a change at loose-head prop, with Alex Corbisiero of Northampton and Joe Marler of Harlequins both under consideration.
Lancaster is keen to reintroduce Corbisiero as his senior No 1 now the Test Lion has recovered from his latest bout of orthopaedic trauma, but Marler has caught the eye since the squad gathered together in camp and made a strong case for inclusion.
Dylan Hartley, another Northampton front-rower, is a hot tip to replace Tom Youngs at hooker – partly because Youngs is about to become a father; partly because the gap between the two players has narrowed to fag-paper width – while David Wilson of Bath, in the best form of his career, is challenging Dan Cole of Leicester on the tight head of the scrum. Cole has played God’s amount of hard rugby over the last year and it will be no surprise if he is spared the rigours of trial by Puma.
Billy Twelvetrees, the Gloucester inside centre bombarded with criticism after last weekend’s victory over Australia, will have another chance to make some headway in the most pressing of England’s problem positions. Lancaster is also likely to keep faith with the Lee Dickson of Northampton at scrum-half.