Injuries leave Lancaster with plenty to ponder

England coach still unsure about his team for the Six Nations game against Scotland

Suddenly, selection is not quite like falling off a log for the England head coach, Stuart Lancaster. A week shy of the opening Six Nations match of the season – an awkward Calcutta Cup encounter with Scotland, who have gone mighty close to winning each of their last four games against their nearest and dearest without quite finding a way across the line – the red-rose boss admitted yesterday that there was more than one personnel decision to be made.

Prior to this week's training camp in Leeds, where a good 6,000 spectators watched yesterday's open session at Headingley, the general assumption was that Lancaster had only one big call on his agenda: whether to stick with Tom Youngs, the new hooker from Leicester who worked himself up to international speed so quickly during the autumn Test series, or recall the vastly more experienced Dylan Hartley, who had started the campaign as England's undisputed first choice but had picked up an injury at the wrong time.

The contest between the two No 2s is extremely hot, as Lancaster acknowledged during a break in proceedings in Yorkshire. But the coach also volunteered the information that the deals at full-back, scrum-half and loose-head prop were far from sealed. Much will depend on how the contenders shape up in Monday's "unit session" at the team base in Surrey.

The full-back position is intriguing. Lancaster has yet to decide whether to attend tomorrow's Saracens-Cardiff Blues match, where Alex Goode, the regular Test choice during the four recent outings against southern hemisphere tourists, resumes for the home side after weeks of shoulder trouble. "Whether or not I watch the game live, I'll certainly catch it one way or another," he said. "The whole point of us releasing Alex back to Saracens this weekend is to see how he goes in a competitive fixture."

If Goode fails to do enough in the 50 minutes or so he is expected to play, either Mike Brown of Harlequins or Ben Foden of Northampton will wear the No 15 shirt against the Scots. The one who misses out will probably find himself on the left wing, although another Saracens back, the specialist wide man David Strettle, is said by the England coaches to be in very decent nick.

Like the propping contest between Joe Marler and Mako Vunipola, the scrum-half issue is a straight shoot-out: this time between Ben Youngs of Leicester, the incumbent, and Danny Care of Quins, who feels he is mighty close to regaining his starting place. On balance, Youngs has the advantage – he did, after all, play the lion's share of the momentous game against New Zealand at the start of last month – but Care is on his case.

"I believe I've improved my all-round game over the last year and I think I'm playing well," he said. "I'd love to be in for Scotland, who will come to London with some big forwards and bring a lot of physicality with them. They don't really like us very much, do they? That's what makes this fixture something to enjoy."

With Manu Tuilagi back in Leicester for further treatment on his troublesome ankle, there was no clear indication yesterday of the amount of midfield surgery Lancaster might perform to cover for his absence, which is growing likelier by the hour. Two other first-choice players, the Northampton flanker Tom Wood and the Gloucester No 8 Ben Morgan, also sat out the Headingley session, but neither is in danger of missing the Calcutta Cup date.

Meanwhile, Wales have called the 6ft 7in, 19 stone Harlequins lock Olly Kohn – as outsized as he is uncapped – into their Six Nations squad.

A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
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

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home