Joel Tomkins set to benefit from Anthony Allen's ill-timed leg injury

England need an outside specialist and size matters to this coach

What is it about centres these days? They are going down like ninepins, the poor petals. Brad Barritt and Manu Tuilagi, the first-choice England pairing last season, will play no part in the forthcoming autumn internationals – Barritt is limping around in an orthopaedic boot; Tuilagi has a torn muscle in his chest – and it now transpires that another midfielder with international experience, Anthony Allen of Leicester, is suffering from a leg injury that will incapacitate him for the rest of the year.

Allen, one of the smaller centres in the second-string Saxons squad selected by the national coach, Stuart Lancaster, back in the summer, would have struggled to nail a promotion, despite his stratospheric level of reliability in Premiership rugby. For one thing, Lancaster needs an outside back rather than an inside specialist; for another, size matters to this red-rose boss, although he is nowhere near as obsessed by the tale of the tape as his predecessor Martin Johnson.

Two uncapped midfielders of the tough-nut variety, Joel Tomkins of Saracens – brother of the New Zealand-bound rugby league maestro Sam – and Luther Burrell of Northampton are the front-runners for a call-up when Lancaster confirms a 33-man squad for next month's meetings with Australia, Argentina and a scary-looking bunch of All Blacks. The more nuanced Jonathan Joseph of Bath, who rather looked the part in South Africa 16 months ago, would count himself among the contenders, but having been dropped from the elite group before the start of the season, he may not have made sufficient progress to force the coach into a reappraisal.

All things considered, Tomkins is best positioned to take the field against the Wallabies a fortnight on Saturday, probably in a unit featuring his clubmate Owen Farrell and the Gloucester centre Billy Twelvetrees, whose Heineken Cup performance against Perpignan four days ago – as a stand-in at No 10 for the stricken Freddie Burns – was widely admired.

Lancaster has one other hole to fill, thanks to the long-term injury suffered by the Lions flanker Tom Croft in the opening game of the domestic campaign. There is God's amount of back-row talent in the Saxons, some climbing up the mountain face – Will Fraser of Saracens, Luke Wallace of Harlequins, Calum Clark of Northampton – and some, like Thomas Waldrom of Leicester and James Haskell of Wasps, reluctantly beginning their descent. Unless he engages in a little selectorial jiggery-pokery, Lancaster can summon only one.

On current form, Tom Johnson of Exeter – a flanker who somehow seems to be going up and down at the same time – is worthy of a call, but it may be that Lancaster considers him just a little lightweight for business at the very top level. This much is certain: if the two hottest performers at No 8 were easily pickable, either Sam Dickinson of Northampton or another Exeter man, Dave Ewers, would be at the head of the queue. Unfortunately for them, the Elite Player Squad format agreed between Twickenham and the Premiership clubs is not favourable to bolts from the blue.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
tech
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
life
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions