England drop Palmer as Tigers' trio prove fitness

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The Independent Online

Tom Palmer, the Paris-based lock who cemented a place in the England engine room before last year's World Cup, has been dropped from the squad for this weekend's Six Nations match against Wales at Twickenham. He is not the only casualty of Stuart Lancaster's first selectorial tinkerings since taking over as caretaker coach. Two Harlequins, the full-back Mike Brown and the centre Jordan Turner-Hall, have also been cut from the party.

Palmer misses out because of the coaching team's growing interest in the Leicester line-out specialist Geoff Parling, whose skill-set bears more than a passing resemblance to that of the former captain Steve Borthwick, and the return from injury of the Northampton enforcer Courtney Lawes. Brown and Turner-Hall are ditched for Manu Tuilagi and Toby Flood, two more Leicester players who have proved their fitness.

Lancaster described his deliberations as "difficult" and praised the attitude of the disappointed men. Palmer, in his final season at Stade Français before a move to Wasps, has had a long run in the side. He pays the price for some scruffy line-out displays, allied to quiet spells in the loose against Scotland and Italy.

The coach will confirm his starting line-up tomorrow. His big decisions are at No 8, where Ben Morgan is pressing Phil Dowson, and at scrum-half, where Lee Dickson may replace the out-of-form Ben Youngs. Tuilagi is a popular choice to start in midfield ahead of Brad Barritt, but Lancaster must balance the latter's excellent defensive performances against the Samoan-born centre's explosive attacking game.