Farrell is fast-tracked into England's élite

He is expected to turn out with the men in black in one or both of their pre-season friendlies, at Bedford on 20 August and against Harlequins at Harpenden Rugby Club a week later when he will appear in the threequarter line.

With Twickenham sharing the burden of the player's salary with Saracens, it is no surprise that Farrell is in the 45-man squad, but the omission of a couple of players has raised eyebrows. Henry Paul, a League convert who does have a grasp of Union, has been left out, as has Alex King of Wasps. Considering there are just two recognised fly-halves in the squad - Jonny Wilkinson and Charlie Hodgson - it looks a little light in that department.

Another troubled area is at scrum-half. With Matt Dawson and Andy Gomarsall getting a trifle worn in the gumshield, the England head coach Andy Robinson has turned to Gloucester's Peter Richards.

Richards, whowent on the "tour to hell" in 1998 before disappearing off the radar, will be first choice following Gomarsall's departure to Worcester.

At hooker, England appear to be following in Gulliver's footsteps. In Steve Thompson they have just about the tallest hooker in either hemisphere, but the three back-ups, Sale's Andy Titterell, Lee Mears of Bath and George Chuter of Leicester, are Lilliputian by comparison. But they all offer big games to Robinson.

The back row looks over-subscribed. Even without Lawrence Dallaglio and Neil Back, who have retired, and Richard Hill, who is still recovering from a knee injury, there remains plenty of talents jostling for position. James Forrester, the Gloucester No 8, is a free-running (and free-scoring) player possessed of a good rugby brain and excellent hands.

Bath's Andy Beattie is no slouch either, his work-rate invariably goes off the scale for the West Country club.

The inclusion of the Wasps winger Paul Sackey is reward for his excellent performances in the Churchill Cup for England in the summer.

l The Wales back row Ryan Jones, one of the few successes of the Lions tour, has rejected a move to Wasps, who saw him as a natural successor to Lawrence Dallaglio. Jones, 24, is staying with Ospreys.

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