Changing of the red-rose guard

It looks like the end of the road for Tindall and Co as Stuart Lancaster launches new era for English rugby by calling up exciting and energised young guns

It has been obvious for weeks – pretty much since a badly behaved and wholly discredited England party returned to these shores following the World Cup trauma in New Zealand – that there would be some very heavy fallers on the personnel front ahead of the Six Nations Championship, but there was still one hell of a thud when they finally hit the ground yesterday. If Mark Cueto, Nick Easter, Shontayne Hape and the pantomime villain Mike Tindall already knew their international futures were behind them, they must have been wounded all over again by the formal confirmation. As for Delon Armitage, who did not foresee his omission... he may well leave the country because of it.

Stuart Lancaster, the caretaker coach charged with steering the national side through what promises to be an exceptionally testing tournament – the first game, against Scotland in Edinburgh on 4 February, is a real brute – has emerged as his own man since being appointed by a new generation of Twickenham grandees before Christmas. By making 15 changes to the 32-man elite squad named by his predecessor Martin Johnson last August, the vast majority of them unenforced by retirement or long-term injury, he emphasised the point.

"This is a new era for English rugby," said the straight-talking Cumbrian, who is not naturally given to grand statements but could not quite help himself on this occasion. "It was right that we went to the World Cup with the group we did, but I always felt January 2012 would be a defining moment. Tough decisions have been made – some of them were very hard indeed – but we want to give an opportunity to people who have been on the cusp for some time and we want players who are going to be proud, excited and energised. The important thing for us is to see everyone channelling that energy in the right way. As a group of coaches, we're pretty down to earth. We expect to work with a down-to-earth squad."

It was the nearest Lancaster came to addressing the issues that undermined the World Cup campaign – the excessive drinking, the nightclub canoodling and all the rest of it – yet he still managed to make it abundantly clear that nothing of the sort would be tolerated under this new regime. Tindall, the long-serving centre and occasional red-rose captain who did more than anyone to set the hares of controversy running all over New Zealand's South Island during the early part of the tournament, has known his fate for some time and there will be no way back.

"I don't think it's my decision to retire players from international rugby," Lancaster said. "A decision like that is for the player himself to make. But I've chosen this moment to bring in some exciting midfield talent – Brad Barritt, Jordan Turner-Hall, Henry Trinder – and I explained that to him. We met for an hour and a half and talked about all sorts of things. It was one discussion among many."

Some of those other discussions were equally awkward, not least the one involving Armitage, the London Irish full-back who spends much of his rugby life looking like a high-calibre attacking back and the rest of it wrestling with a self-destructive streak that, pretty much on its own, keeps the governing body's disciplinary class gainfully employed. Four bans last year, a visit to the sin bin this month – Armitage's temperament is a major problem and it lies at the heart of his ejection from the senior squad. He is now thought to be considering a move to France and could link up with his equally disaffected brother Steffon at Toulon.

"We met face to face but we didn't speak about him moving away," Lancaster reported. "Again, it's a decision for Delon, although we've said that we want to see our best talent playing in England. The decision to drop him to the Saxons squad was not necessarily driven by the discipline aspect: it's just that we need to see people playing regularly and he hasn't had much game time." And why would that be? Because he spends so much of his rugby life under suspension.

Armitage was not the only World Cup back to receive a nasty shock: the Bath wing Matt Banahan was also dumped. But if Lancaster has taken away from certain individuals with one hand, he has used the other to bestow the gift of selection on a number of intriguing newcomers, most of whom are uncapped. The Gloucester finisher Charlie Sharples, the brilliant Saracens midfield prospect Owen Farrell, the youngster's South African-born centre partner Barritt, the heart-and-soul Northampton scrum-half Lee Dickson and a couple of contrastingly-shaped Harlequins in Turner-Hall and Mike Brown – taken together, they represent an ambitious changing of the guard.

Lancaster might have been even more adventurous: if he has been cautious anywhere, it is in his refusal to include the Leicester midfielder Billy Twelvetrees and the Saracens flanker Andy Saull in his Six Nations party. As a consequence, England will prepare for the Calcutta Cup trip to Scotland top-heavy with hard-tackling, non-kicking, ultra-direct inside centres and Jack-of-all-trade flankers who are best suited to the blind-side role but are required to flirt with life on the open side. "Six and a halves," they are called in the trade and their number was increased by the call-up for Calum Clark, the uncapped Northampton forward. John Barclay, the ball-winning Glasgow breakaway with a canine streak as wide as Loch Ness, must be licking his lips at the prospect.

The coaches fought their corner on both Twelvetrees and Saull, although the forwards strategist, Graham Rowntree, did admit that the latter's performances at second-string Saxons level over the next three weeks or so would be watched very closely. "We know we don't have an out-and-out open-side poacher, a groundhog flanker, and it's our job to develop one," said the sole survivor of the World Cup back-room team. As he went to the global gathering, the importance of playing top-level Tests with a specialist breakaway clearly registered with him.

Thanks to the Byzantine mysteries of the RFU's player access agreement with the Premiership clubs, Lancaster and Rowntree – not to mention the backs coach Andy Farrell, who will join England from Saracens on a part-time basis when the Six Nations build-up begins in earnest – do not have an entirely free hand in selection, hence their decision to retain some injured players ahead of the summer tour of South Africa. The Bath hooker Lee Mears and the Leicester lock Louis Deacon, neither of whom are likely to play a part in the forthcoming tournament, fall into this category.

Other walking wounded include the first-choice No 10 Toby Flood, who may yet be fit for the Murrayfield date, and the Northampton forward Courtney Lawes. Their incapacitation has persuaded Lancaster to call four players out of the Saxons and into the senior party: the Bath lock Dave Attwood, the Leicester second-rower Geoff Parling, the Saracens back Alex Goode and the Gloucester centre Trinder, who was within a gnat's crotchet of making the Six Nations 32 as of right.

A miss is as good as a mile at this level of rugby, but it could have been worse for Trinder. As Tindall, his clubmate, will no doubt confirm.

England's Six Nations squad



Mouritz Botha (Saracens) 29/1

Calum Clark (Northampton) 22/0

Alex Corbisiero (London Irish) 23/10

Dan Cole (Leicester) 24/23

Tom Croft (Leicester) 26/31

Louis Deacon (Leicester) 31/29

Phil Dowson (Northampton) 30/0

Dylan Hartley (Northampton) /25 /34

Courtney Lawes (Northampton) 22/13

Joe Marler (Harlequins) 21/0

Lee Mears (Bath Rugby) 32/38

Ben Morgan (Scarlets) 22/0

Tom Palmer (Stade Français)/32/33

Chris Robshaw (Harlequins) 25/1

Matt Stevens (Saracens) 29/39

Rob Webber (Wasps) 25/0

David Wilson (Bath) 26/19

Tom Wood (Northampton) 25/9


Chris Ashton (Northampton) 24/18

Brad Barritt (Saracens) 25/0

Mike Brown (Harlequins) 26/3

Lee Dickson (Northampton) 26/0

Owen Farrell (Saracens) 20/0

Toby Flood (Leicester) 26/46

Ben Foden (Northampton) 26/22

Charlie Hodgson (Saracens) 31/36

Joe Simpson (Wasps) 32/1

Charlie Sharples (Gloucester) 22/1

David Strettle (Saracens) 28/7

Manu Tuilagi (Leicester) 20/7

Jordan Turner-Hall (Harlequins) 24/0

Ben Youngs (Leicester) 22/17

England's fixtures

4 Feb Scotland (a); 11 Feb Italy (a); 25 Feb Wales (h); 11 Mar France (a); 17 Mar Ireland (h)

Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Esteban Cambiasso makes it 3-3
premier league
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
The Etihad Stadium, home of Manchester City
premier leaguePlus updates from Everton vs Palace
people'I hated him during those times'
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleFirst memoir extracts show she 'felt pressured' into going out with the Sex Pistols manager
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late
Lewis Hamilton in action during the Singapore Grand Prix
Formula OneNico Rosberg retires after 14 laps
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: 'Time Heist' sees a darker side to Peter Capaldi's Doctor
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam