England squad selected for autumn internationals: Stuart Lancaster turns to his next men in the middle

Injuries mean Joel Tomkins, Luther Burrell and Henry Trinder come into England squad for autumn ties

There has not quite been a cast of thousands in the England midfield since Will Greenwood and Mike Tindall teamed up in the World Cup-winning side a decade ago, but there have been comfortably enough red-rose centres to populate a Cecil B DeMille crowd scene. Today, three more arrived on set: Joel Tomkins of Saracens, Luther Burrell of Northampton and Henry Trinder of Gloucester. Uncle Tom Cobleigh would surely have joined them, had he been fit.

TO SEE THE SQUAD IN FULL, CLICK HERE OR 'VIEW GALLERY' TO LAUNCH OUR GUIDE OF THE 34-MAN SQUAD

Stuart Lancaster's decision to throw open the selectorial doors to a fresh intake of candidates is the direct consequence of the injury problems currently incapacitating last season's first-choice pairing of Brad Barritt and Manu Tuilagi, neither of whom will feature in the forthcoming Twickenham meetings with Australia, Argentina and New Zealand.

The newcomers, all uncapped, join Billy Twelvetrees of Gloucester and Kyle Eastmond of Bath in the senior squad. Twelvetrees and Eastmond are scarcely more experienced, having made the grand total of nine Test appearances between them – two-thirds of them off the bench.

"One man's injury is another's opportunity," said the unfailingly optimistic Lancaster in confirming his 34-strong party for next month's business with the southern hemisphere tourists. If truth be told, the head coach would rather it had been otherwise. The home World Cup is less than two years away and, as Lancaster acknowledged, the time is fast approaching when new contenders should be thinking in terms of the 2019 global gathering, not the 2015 version.

Lancaster would give his eye teeth for a settled midfield partnership capable of taking England through the extraordinarily challenging months ahead – months in which his side must play five Tests against the All Blacks, three of them in the Land of the Long White Shroud, where centres as good as Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith tend to play like the world-beaters they are. Unfortunately, the word "settled" rarely applies in this particular area of the team. The last time an England coach really knew where he was going with his centres, his name was Clive Woodward.

"The way the game is being played now, you need an attacking threat in your back division," Lancaster said, no doubt thinking back to the last World Cup in 2011, when the England midfield looked about as threatening as a dead halibut. "You need to go into Test matches with the intent to play. That has to be our mindset."

Whether England manage to make good on that assertion next month will be one of the principal fascinations of the series, particularly as they will not have Tuilagi, the human bowling ball, to roll through opposition defences from any and every area of the field. Of the newcomers, Trinder is the edge-of-the-seat talent – the man with the cleverest footwork and the broadest vision. But it is the strong-running, hard-tackling, off-loading Tomkins, a cross-coder from rugby league land, who is the most likely starter against the Wallabies a fortnight on Saturday. Does he have the capacity to break down the barricades at the top level? It is a big question, and one that requires answering sooner rather than later.

"Trinder and Tomkins are different players," said Andy Farrell, the backs coach. "Henry has a big box of tricks and while there were times last season when he wanted to show them all in every game, he's more selective now. Joel is big, difficult for opponents to handle and he knows what he's about. He's still learning but he's finally forgotten that he once played league. His understanding of the union game has grown more instinctive."

Twelvetrees is the hot favourite to perform the inside-centre role and Lancaster will be praying he comes through. The idea of Twelvetrees is enticing indeed: the man from Chichester is big enough to get through the midfield crunch and put his team on the front foot; he has an unusually potent kicking game; his running pass has a Juan Martin Hernandez quality to it; his off-loading skills are highly developed.

What Lancaster needs to see is the vision made flesh. If Twelvetrees is still in place this time next year, England will be closer to a midfield that really works than at any point since that night of nights in Sydney in 2003.

"This series is a great opportunity for Billy," the coach agreed. "I'm really pleased with the way he's stepped up with Gloucester this season, particularly in the leadership sense. It isn't easy for a player to move to outside-half at short notice in a big Heineken Cup match, as he did last weekend, and make a success of it. I think there's a lot more control in his game now."

Should Twelvetrees falter over the autumn series, the coach will have three choices. He could turn to Eastmond, a former rugby league professional like Tomkins, and back him to bring his tap-dancing footwork and sleight of hand to bear on the opposition. Alternatively, he could opt for the bigger, more direct Burrell – a man brought into the squad as an unexpected add-on because Trinder is currently struggling with a hamstring problem.

Finally, Lancaster could ask one of his outside-halves – Owen Farrell or Toby Flood – to move out one position and play as a second five-eighth, as the All Blacks would term it. This is by some distance the most outlandish scenario.

Whatever the upshot, it cannot come soon enough. The clock is ticking ever more rapidly.

Lions hero Corbisiero is doubtful for Wallaby Test after new blow

Alex Corbisiero has a long and worrying history of knee injuries, so the news that he was hobbling once again was precisely what Stuart Lancaster and his fellow England coaches did not want to hear.

The Northampton loose-head prop, a top-of-the-bill act for the Lions in their series triumph over Australia last summer, has not been ruled out of the game against the Wallabies on 2 November, but his chances of making the cut are a long way short of great.

"He's had some fluid drained from the knee and needs to be off his feet for a while," Lancaster said. "We'll do what's right for him. We'll give him plenty of time, but if he's not fit he's not fit. I think we're pretty strong in this position. We have some good options."

Should Corbisiero miss out, Mako Vunipola of Saracens can expect to beat Joe Marler of Harlequins to the starting place in the front row. Vunipola, whose brother Billy is also in Lancaster's squad, started the second Lions Test against the Wallabies in Melbourne, but did not have the happiest time of it at the set-piece – one of the major contributing factors to the Wallaby victory that night.

Corbisiero, on the other hand, had the Australian scrum in all manner of strife the following week. He scored the opening try in a hugely impressive performance, and his absence next month would be a bitter blow.

Corbisiero will go into camp with England in Leeds next week, despite his injury. So will the Exeter flanker Tom Johnson, who is recalled to the elite party after a series of energetic, accomplished displays at club level. Johnson replaces the injured Leicester flanker Tom Croft.

Chris Hewett

News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck stars as prime suspect Nick Dunne in the film adaptation of Gone Girl
filmBen Affleck and Rosamund Pike excel in David Fincher's film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
News
people
News
i100
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Sport
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
football
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene
tv
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 crime series
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
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
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
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